Vermaak – ‘Why We Didn’t Race Two Days In A Row’

Plenty of thought has gone into the decisions

The highest winter rainfall in 47 years has obliged Cape Racing to take proactive action to remedy a patch at the 600m marker that recently arose as a result of a rising water table at Hollywoodbets Durbanville.

With restaurants and cars being washed away in coastal towns as a result of spring tide storms and unpredented rainfall figures, it’s been a quite a few weeks of hectic weather for South Africa, and the Cape in particular.

The bottom line is that the Western Cape is the most disaster-prone province in South Africa, and is particularly vulnerable to climate change and the effects of climate-related hazards because of its coastal location, with rising sea temperatures expected to influence regional weather patterns.

The Western Cape government expects that the natural variability in the weather patterns of the Western Cape is likely to intensify because of climate change, bringing both flooding and droughts.

And with racing fans asking questions as to why the postponed Hollywoodbets Durbanville Saturday racemeeting was not run on Monday, with good going and a pen reading of 22 at lunch-time, we approached Cape Racing for answers.

The simple answer is that with racing set to continue into November at the country course, as a result of extensive work at Hollywoodbets Kenilworth, it was decided collectively with the input of track management and the jockeys, that it would be sensible to not ‘assault’ the track’s identified weak patch, by having 19 races on two consecutive days.

The 600m patch has apparently been an issue with a rebuild of the track some seven years ago, and the bandage was nastily ripped off with the heavy rains in recent months.

Cape Racing’s Justin Vermaak told the Sporting Post that although Cape Racing was privy to some of the historical ‘shortcomings’ of the Hollywoodbets Durbanville surface, the record levels of rainfall have well and truly exposed all the weak points inherited within the track.

“The track was renovated, redesigned and resurfaced approximately seven years ago. Since then, the course has performed very well, but if anything, it has been on the firm side. It is a course that drains very quickly and thus dries out very quickly, leading to firmness on top. This season’s unprecedented rainfall has led to raising the water table to such high levels that new, never-before-seen areas of dampness on the track have arisen at approximately the 600-metre mark. This particular trouble area unfortunately runs the entire width of the track,” he said.

Vermaak confirmed that they believe that they have identified the source of the problem – an underground stream very deep below the surface, that has developed or gained in strength with the abundant rainfall.

He said that the digging of large trenches parallel to the track to redirect the stream’s flow and stop the water from flowing under the track had been implemented and they have secured engineers and consultants to evaluate and devise a permanent solution for the years ahead.

In addressing the current levels of rainfall and dealing with the waterlogging issue at the 600m mark, he added that Cape Racing has taken proactive steps, including postponing or canceling meetings as early as appropriately possible – thus minimizing inconvenience and expense to trainers, jockeys, grooms and owners.

He added that they were also working with the National Horseracing Authority to devise a false rail strategy to protect the problem strip as much as possible.

“Thus false rails could well be moved halfway through the meeting to redirect runners from one portion of the strip to the unraced portion.”

Vermaak continued that jockey involvement and communication throughout all decision making processes was also important.

On the perennial debate of a possible polytrack, this has previously been vetoed as a potential solution by Cape Racing management as there are environmentally sensitive constraints on the inside of both Cape racecourses, and no space on the outside – and they don’t want to rip up the turf.

Statistics show that the number and spread of lost racemeetings this winter are unprecedented – in line with the rainfall.

For six of the past seventeen years, no Western Cape racemeetings were lost, and an average of two are lost every year. That hardly justifies a polytrack, even if climate change is likely to mean a gradual worsening of the stats in the decades to come.

“We should all be good to go for Tuesday’s Hollywoodbets Durbanville racemeeting,” concluded Vermaak.

  • The meeting starts at 12h40.

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