Zimbawe TBA Closes Its Doors

Council Explains Reasons For Decision

Ipi Tombe

Over the years Zimbabwe produced hundreds of good racehorses, but Ipi Tombe proved they were good enough to take on the world and win.

The announcement that the Zimbabwe TBA is closing its doors has brought a chapter of racing and Zimbabwean history to a quiet end. Jackie Cocksedge, who has been involved with the Zimbabwe TBA for 41 years, was kind enough to explain the reasons for the decision.

“Our Turf Club is, like most businesses in Zimbabwe, suffering financially. The only option is to sell off assets, and re-think how we operate. The administration block is for sale. This will result in the relocation of staff, personnel, jockeys’ weighing room, sweat box etc. into the grandstand area. Our small TBA office, which is in the grandstand at the moment, will be required and we will have had to relocate, we are informed, by 1 October.”

Asked when their last day is, she says, “The TBA shutdown has already happened. I’m busy packing. We thought we might as well sell the furniture off, pack up the books and trophies, put them all on ice and store them for the time being and see what happens. When I say ‘see what happens’, I mean see if there’s space to display them, not reinstate the breeding industry. That won’t happen in my lifetime.”

A Lifetime’s Work

“Zimbabwe has been breeding Thoroughbreds for a long time and the TBA was formally inaugurated in 1971. I’ve been in the horsey game a long time,” she explains. I was previously married to a jockey and before that I did a lot of riding and show-jumping. I started working for Peter Lovemore and Robin Bruss at the then Rhodesia Bloodstock Agency. When Peter went to run sales in Johannesburg and then on to America, the TBA wanted to formalise and took over the Rhodesia Bloodstock Agency and became the Rhodesia TBA and then the Zimbabwe TBA. Robin left to form Northfields Bloodstock in South Africa, but I stayed on and I’ve been with them ever since. I used to run the TBA and administer all the sales and pedigrees. In the good days we had 5 Sales annually and were offering over 400 yearlings on the premier National Sales. We attracted buyers from South Africa and Kenya too – quite an achievement for a small country. I’m on the TBA Council now, it’s a very small committee, Kevin Fallon, John Binda and Boaz Pilosoff – just the four of us.”

Geoff & Ann Armitage

Geoff & Ann Armitage

Jackie explains that there has been no activity on the breeding scene for a number of years now and that it’s all been slowly declining. “Once the farms were taken and the people who were breeding horses for a living or a side line were evicted, that was the death knell People like Geoff Armitage, Robin Horsman, Sally Hale, Martin and Carole Doggrell, Nicky Atkinson and many more – they were all breeders and lost their farms; that was the end of a viable breeding industry and it’s dwindled since then.”

So what is left? “As far as stallions go I think I can count only 4 left standing. Some of the old stalwarts passed away. Colin Bird relocated Fencing Master (IRE) to South Africa. Century Stand (AUS) went to South Africa. Remaining are Soar With Eagles (USA) and Andronicusofrhodes (IRE), and Tamburlaine (IRE) and Gharir (IRE) at Golden Acres. Argonaut is re-patriating to South Africa.”

“Peter Moor at Golden Acres has still got mares and weanlings, but they’re not breeding anymore – at least not commercially. I understand they are going to now breed for the polo and polocrosse market. Christopher Peech at Rumbavu Park still has a few mares that he is breeding with, and there are a few little pockets of people with one or two mares, but it’s not enough to sustain an industry.”

“There’s really nothing we can do, unfortunately. We don’t have a choice. We haven’t even been ticking along. I used to keep an eye on the office and see to any queries that need to be answered, although that’s come to an end too. It’s very sad to see a half century of one’s life’s work and passion reduced to a few packing boxes.”

Sheldene Chant posted a notice on the Mashonaland Owners & Trainers Facebook page over the weekend which generated over 40,000 hits and comments. “It’s amazing that it’s created so much awareness,” says Jackie. “Our industry has been improving our horses for 50 odd years and now that’s totally wiped out. It’s a herd – how do you restore all those years of improving bloodlines?” she says sadly.

“People like the Armitage’s were leading breeders for almost 19 years. They kept all their best daughters that proved themselves on the track. They spent years and years of selecting the best, breeding the best, bringing in stallions. Once you take something like that away, it’s very hard to rebuild. But maybe one day in the future.”

Turning off the lights

“I go in with my domestic staff and we pack a bit away at a time. There’s a disused Tote room at the bottom of the Turf Club where we have been storing museum memorabilia we’ve collected over the years. The TBA stuff and trophies will be stored there. I have been told that provision is being made for a dedicated museum/library room once the grandstand is redesigned.  Once the furniture is sold, all that remains is to close the banking account and disconnect the phone lines and that will be it.”

The Future Of Zimbabwean Racing

Racing still continues

Asked what will happen to their racing, Jackie says, “The MTC appointed a committee about 2 years ago to try and see our way forward and carry on racing. I must say they are doing their very best and everybody is trying. The Turf Club have come up with a plan to do a development around the course in certain areas. Quite a few people are interested and the hope is that they can successfully negotiate a deal to keep a certain portion as an investment to keep racing going. But like anything, it takes a lot of time. Nothing happens overnight.”

“We think it will come to fruition, but it just hasn’t done so yet and it’s the ‘hanging on’ period that’s causing little bit of a problem in terms of cash turnover. We’re coming up to our annual racing break too and everyone’s thinking ‘oh dear, no racing.’ Everybody’s waiting and sitting back to see what’s going to happen. Once there’s a positive, I think it will be big relief and a big injection of confidence.”

“We have a shortage of cash and that’s not helping matters at all. We still race every second week, generally on a Sunday, but we’re experiencing very small fields, mainly because we don’t have the horse population.  We would normally have our first baby race in December and I don’t think we had our first one till closer to February this year. It’s been very sparse. There are just not enough horses coming through the system and we’re down to 4 and 5 horse fields. It’s tough,” she says simply.


“Our stakes are not bad. Our Club features pay US$8000 for a 5 or 6 horse field, and our minor races US$5600, which is not bad at all under the circumstances. We’ve managed to keep that going, so we’re hopeful. We just hope we can get through this crisis period of no cash and no money. I think we will. With a bit of luck, we will. We are close, it just takes time, like anything.”

“The bulk of our horses are coming in from South Africa and there is still a little bit of buying. The guys here like the Durban sale, the Ready To Run sale and the August 2YO sale. We also get quite a lot of slightly older horses – mostly from Joburg – that are in their place. Dennis and Gael Evans of Newbury Racing and Colin Bird are good supporters, and John Koumides is a staunch supporter and puts horses with every trainer. But we need more horses and more owners.”

The difficulty in getting cash is adding significantly to the challenge. “There is a huge shortage of cash. You cannot get hard currency – everything is done on a card swipe. People are reluctant to spend any money at the moment because of the situation, so expecting people to go down south and invest R20k/R30k/R40k in forex in horse, is a big ask.”

“We benefitted enormously when Corne Spies came up. He sent up a large string, but when he left in July last year, we lost 30/40 horses which was a big dent. We could do with another yard or two coming in with horses, but with all the uncertainty at the moment, I can’t see it happening. If things pan out as everyone hopes / expects, it will be a different ball game, but right now there’s a lot of uncertainty.”

“It’s another awkward time in our history. I’m sure like everything else this too will pass, but it’s just the waiting for it to pass. And we’ve had an awful lot of ‘this too will pass’ in this country in the last 30 years. We’ve had the devaluation where our money was zeroed away to nothing, we’ve had the so-called land reforms and redistribution, we’ve had no money, bread queues, petrol queues, and we’ve always got through it somehow.”

“If you asked anyone 10 years ago, they’d have said racing can’t carry on, but it’s still carrying on. We’re down on numbers and trainers and owners, but it’s amazing how it just ticks over and keeps going. Hopefully we’ll be here this time next year. And the year after. If we can just get this development at the Turf Club going – and there’s been a lot of work done – I think things will turn around in a big way.”

Have Your Say - *Please Use Your Name & Surname

Comments Policy
The Sporting Post encourages readers to comment in the spirit of enlightening the topic being discussed, to add opinions or correct errors. All posts are accepted on the condition that the Sporting Post can at any time alter, correct or remove comments, either partially or entirely.

All posters are required to post under their actual name and surname – no anonymous posts or use of pseudonyms will be accepted. You can adjust your display name on your account page or to send corrections privately to the EditorThe Sporting Post will not publish comments submitted anonymously or under pseudonyms.

Please note that the views that are published are not necessarily those of the Sporting Post.

Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments



Popular Posts