Met Betspend – Where’s The Balance?

Greyville pools take a hammering

Behind the scenes of the glamour and pomp ‘n sparkle of Sun Met day, the racing gods were keeping an eagle eye on the all important component of betting turnover.

Does it work having three local racemeetings on a day that one would think the average punter was surely only interested in what was happening at Kenilworth?

Pondering the imponderables (Pic – Chase Liebenberg Photography)

With the sun having set on the Cape’s flagship raceday, the post-mortems have centred around the highlights of a superb performance by a 3yo filly, the historic stamp of approval from the Hong Kong Jockey Club, and the ever lingering cloud of local betting turnovers under pressure.

The exploits of Street Cry’s daughter Oh Susanna and the winning Snaith team have been extensively covered by the media. Beyond the champion performances on the day, it is remarkable that event actually stood up bravely to one of its most testing build-ups in recent memory.

Vee Moodley – innovating

“Tough economic conditions, with junk status the newest buzz-word and the devastating drought that is crippling the Western Cape formed an ominous backdrop to the 2018 Sun Met. We expected it to be tough and it was thus a tremendous boost and privilege to have the Hong Kong involvement,” Phumelela Sports Betting Executive, Vee Moodley, told the Sporting Post.

The Hong Kong Jockey Club simulcast only the major meetings from around the world and the announcement that the betting-crazy racing jurisdiction were to take six races from Kenilworth was a coup for Saftote – even though local punters don’t benefit directly.

There is no question that the Mayfair Speculators implosion in early December was an albatross around the neck of the Met build-up. Two of the fancied runners in the race carried the silks of South Africa’s champion owners and the uncertainty around their participation, coupled with the mass political outcry, only abated 24 hours before the off. And even then, there was no certainty as to what Saturday would bring.

Oh Susanna and Grant Van Niekerk are home! (Pic – Chase Liebenberg Photography)

While attendance figures have not been published, the general consensus is that Oh Susanna’s great victory was witnessed by one of the smallest crowds in living memory. And that is taking cognisance of the fact that most of the spectators these days are housed under cover.

The betting turnovers didn’t emerge unscathed. Down about 10% year-on-year, the Hong Kong simulcast was to become an unlikely game saver.

Unlike commingling, where the overseas players gamble into our local pools, simulcasting entails the sale of the television picture and the payment of royalties. While no sums have been published, we are aware that the Mauritius agreement with SA racing involves a 3% royalty. There is talk that we could get commingling from Hong Kong on the 2019 Met. Their Met win pool was R4 million on Saturday. So that is an exciting proposition!

The Hong Kong players ploughed R176 million into their menu of six races, while our punters could only find R64 odd million for 30 local races.  Turffontein is traditionally our strongest Saturday drawcard for punters, but why run three local meetings?

“It worked last year but we will revisit our programming for 2019,” Gold Circle Racing Executive Raf Sheik told the Sporting Post. The Greyville Saturday meeting bore the brunt of the Sun Met shadow, with ‘embarrassing pools’  – trying as it was, in terms of its later scheduling, to compete into the teeth of the quartet of Gr1’s at Kenilworth.

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“Next season, I believe we will only race on Friday evening and Sunday afternoon,” adds Raf Sheik, who says that ‘what works one year, doesn’t necessarily apply the next year’.

Who knows what the future holds?

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