The lack of support for Workriders races in the Cape has led to a local trainer urging his colleagues to reconsider their stance toward these important events and to consider the real benefits to the participants – that being all stakeholders, including owners, grooms and themselves.
Milnerton conditioner Dan Katz, who has been in the racing game for 34 years, spoke to the Sporting Post after a Workriders race scheduled for Kenilworth on Saturday was abandoned due to only four acceptors being received.
“Given the current negative publicity and simmering unhappiness amongst our Grooms, surely it makes more sense than ever for Trainers – and Owners – to actively support these races, which only come up around once a month? I cannot understand the near apathy that exists – we are keen to talk about what we do to uplift our staff, but then we steer clear of supporting Workriders Maiden races,” said Katz, who added that running horses in these races was a small tangible gesture of doing the right thing and that stakes were the same for professional races.
He explained how, besides the financial spin-offs for the winning rider, the vibe and excitement levels amongst the stable staff rises in advance of these races.
“A lot of the guys cannot sleep for a week before the race. It means a lot to them. There is so much enthusiasm. The morale rises. Then yesterday I have to tell my guys who were looking forward to riding that the race has been abandoned due to an effective lack of support. It is demotivating. Something is wrong.”
He recalled a recent finish between his charge Country Rock and Vaughan Marshall’s Spy at Kenilworth that had turned into the most exciting race of the afternoon.
“It was a ding-dong tussle all the way to the line. What a thriller and it had the people on-course cheering. That was a Workriders Race!”
Katz said that there were easily eight very good Workriders in the Cape, with plenty of up-and-coming riders. But Trainers somehow appeared to be reluctant to support the events.
“We get plenty of interest for a regular Fillies Maiden. The horse population in the Cape must have at least six ordinary maiden fillies that could have run on Saturday. I obviously don’t expect trainers to run their star prospects. But the reward or remuneration for owner and trainer is exactly the same – and even a third stringer could be earning.”
He added that the fine work being done at the Western Province Groom School by Riding Master Craig du Plooy and his team was also being undermined and being wasted by the abandonment of a race. “This is the pinnacle for the Grooms who work hard to get their qualifications. Studying while working is not a walk in the park.”
“We need to drum up enthusiasm. Support the Grooms. Boost the field sizes. Let the weaker horses run if need be. We cannot afford to talk without action. Then we look like hypocrites. There are trainers who are willing. But we really need more action and support to make it work,”said Katz.