What A Winner

Hats off to Mick Goss. The Emperors Palace Ready To Run concept is without question one of the most professionally marketed events in horseracing in this country. While names like Igugu and Pierre Jourdan do it no harm, Mick has just somehow got the knack of doing things properly and getting a wholesale buy-in across the board from the people that matter.  And that in itself is a lesson for the rest of us.

The R2 million Emperors Palace Ready To Run Cup will be run this Saturday at Turffontein with the Ready To Run Sale taking place at the TBA Sales Complex at Germiston on Sunday. But we all know that anyway, as it has been properly exposed and marketed. From the organisation and quality of the judging panel at the gallops two weeks ago, right down to the race and finer details going into this weekend, everything will run like clockwork.

Summerhill Stud are not the record breaking South African Champion breeders for a record seventh  successive year purely because of their superior  stallion band and their outstanding horseflesh. The reality is that their boss has long conceded that people and communication are two of the most integral components of any successful business. Mick knows what the market wants, and his choice of the product quality and the wrapping is always out of the top drawer.

If you have never had the feeling you are being ignored, I have the antidote for that. Drop a racing person a line via email and ask them for a comment on an issue. Any issue. You are likely to be ignored 90% of the time. But that is just one of the aspects that separates the men from the boys and makes Mick Goss a different league marketer and businessman.

I dropped in on the Scotfreeracingwebsite on Monday and read a post by knowledgeable and passionate racing man, Rob Faux. In a thread entitled ‘Ready To Run Stakes’, he questions the final field selection of the Emperors Palace Ready To Run Cup and suggests that maybe it is the ‘right owners’ as opposed to the ‘right horses’ that are being favoured in certain instances. Faux was making a reference here to the inevitable debate around the final 16 horse field. It appears that an element of subjectivity rests with the selection panel in their quest to attract the most competitively suitable field for the specific race, rather than simply the sixteen highest rated sale graduates at the time.

I quote from Faux’s post:

“ Clinton Binda has a one-time winner,Blazing Sunset, rated officially at 81 ,and has been eliminated in favour of:
a)Americano,a maiden, owned by Fred Crabbia who has not run to more than a 72,at best.
b)Red Barrel,owned by Markus Jooste, with an official MR of 80 ( beat Americano 4,25 lengths in maidens)

Clinton has been told that his nominee lost out because it is a sprinter.His sire, Cataloochee, has already produced winners over a mile and there is every reason to believe the dam line would produce progeny effective to at least 1400m,which in most countries is regarded as an extended sprint,anyway…”

Within an hour of despatching my email to the Summerhill Public Relations Department(one of the few functioning in this industry) I received an email from Robyn Kelly saying that Mr Goss would be contacting me to respond to my requests for comments. And so he promptly did.

My first question to Mick was how Scott Brothers were crowned KZN Champion Breeders ahead of Summerhill at the recent KZN racing awards held at the Durban Country Club?!:  “ I really am very happy for Robin Scott. While he was a true gentleman and jokingly questioned it in his acceptance speech, they beat us fair and square on the award criteria. The stakes are credited only on KZN –breds and their performances in races in KwaZulu-Natal.  And they produced a couple of really nice horses, including Gavin Van Zyl’s, The Apache, which did their aspirations no harm. I feel it is very healthy for an award to be won by somebody else for a change,” he said.

I put the debate around the final field for the Cup, which will be announced on Tuesday after this goes to print, to Mick: “ Let’s be realistic. When there is R2 million riding on any game, there will be plenty of opinions, debate and speculation – and also the good and bad luck sentiment. I personally have no say in the final field, which is by invitation. I sincerely believe the panel is a balanced one and is made up of three knowledgeable and capable men, each being a representative of the NHRA, Phumelela and Gold Circle. Those entities originally nominated Roger Smith, Patrick Davis and Graeme Hawkins respectively- and I have every faith in their good judgement,” he said.

I asked  Mick about the criteria for selection: “ The criteria is simple. A horse that will be running over 1400m at Turffontein on the first Saturday of November! “  He went on to explain that the panel have updated the log regularly and are guided by the merit ratings as well as the individual horse’s suitability and likely competitiveness over the course and distance: “ We can all get it wrong. Sometimes even the Handicappers can get it right or wrong. I really don’t believe it is accurate to suggest that owners as opposed to the horses carry any weight in the decision making processes. My whole business is built around catering for the small guy. And I am only too happy when the really good buys come out and show their colours. We mustn’t forget that relatively smaller trainers in Mark Dixon and Mike Miller won the first two runnings of the Cup- so the Ready To Run is a genuine opportunity for everybody and anybody to get into the big money and the history books.”


Scott Free Off Air

A dynamic platform for debate and a champion of freedom of speech and expression for the voiceless punting fraternity for the past few years, the  Scotfreeracingwebsite will definitely be closing its doors, according to this statement issued by proprietor Steve Reid:

“ The closure of the forum is not debatable, it will close 31/12/2011.
Whilst there will be glee in certain quarters about the closure, I have no qualms about the decision. You see, quite simply, I have given up on the sport that has dominated my life for close on 30 years. I see no future in South African racing for the typical smaller owner, and have invested my time and money in other avenues. I will hand in my colours within the next 12 months barring some miraculous improvement in form in the two remaining donkeys I own. I have reached the stage where poor runs are treated as confirmation of my decision to withdraw, and clearly this is not the situation you want to encourage when you are supposedly supporting a “hobby”. A high pressure work environment has not helped matters. The me, myself, I speech includes my partners as they are not prepared to take over the running of the forum due to work pressures and personal circumstances. Under these circumstances, the decision to close was easy.

Let those that are decimating racing continue their fine work.”

While we still have the African Betting Clan, Reid’s site has become an integral part of the everyday routine of the sport and the closure signals a sad day for South African horseracing.


Nico Kritsiotis

Phumelela race-caller and Tellytrack presenter Nico Kritsiotis has suffered from ill health at times over the past few years and Mick Goss informs me that he is scheduled for surgery on Wednesday 2 November.

Our thoughts are with Nico and we look forward to him getting back behind the mic, sooner rather than later.

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