The SA horseracing industry has unveiled its battle plan for the year ahead, but it all depends on the lockdown starting to ease from the start of May.
There is one big caveat to this reshuffled arrangement – that racing can get started again on 1 May when the current lockdown period ends. If the action cannot resume, the plan will have to change.
On Monday night, the assembled leaders of the horse racing industry issued a statement revealing outcomes of their discussions about the future of the game in South Africa in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Given that we will have effectively lost five weeks of racing, the racing operators have agreed to push the National Feature Race Programme back around a month, which will mean that the Vodacom Durban July will take place on the last Saturday in July (with the Gold Cup meeting pushed out to the end of August),” read a key part of the statement.
“This will allow the Highveld to move a slightly revamped Champions Day (featuring the Champions Challenge and six other major races) to the last Saturday in May and stage the Horse Chestnut Stakes (Grade 1), SA Derby (Grade 1) and SA Oaks (Grade 2) on Saturday 2 May,” it added.
All the above-mentioned races are important in the build up to the KwaZulu-Natal winter season, so officials have been considering the structure of the game as well as the vast amounts of lost money they need to recoup to keep things running.
The worthies deliberating on the future are office bearers of the Racing Association, Phumelela, Gold Circle, Kenilworth Racing, the Thoroughbred Horseracing Trust and The National Horseracing Authority.
In their discussions, most of these senior officials agreed to cut their own salaries by “up to 50%” for the time being.
The money situation is obviously dire, with the industry having been in a spot of financial bother even before disease struck.
If and when racing does resume – obviously behind closed doors to start with – the prize money on offer to horse owners will be slashed.
The minimum stake thresholds for feature races are now:
Minor races stakes will be run at reduced levels in all regions with a single stake for all minor race categories per region as follows:
The statement reads: “On the assumption that the extended national lockdown is lifted AND that racing is permitted to resume with adequate betting revenues flowing to the racing operators, the plan is to recommence racing on Friday 1 May.
“To this end, the National Horseracing Authority is in the process of making a co-ordinated representation to government on behalf of the South African horseracing industry to enable such resumption after lockdown is lifted, under whatever government restrictions are implemented.”
In the Western Cape, racing is due to resume on Saturday 2 May (alongside a meeting at Turffontein on the Highveld), with the first legs of the three-year-old Winter Series (Variety Club Mile and Sweet Chestnut Stakes), together with the Klawervlei Farm two-year-old sales race.
In KwaZulu-Natal, the scheduled Friday 1 May Workers’ Day fixture moves to Sunday 3 May. There will be no night racing at Greyville in the usual May-July period, with those meetings rescheduled.
In Eastern Cape, the lost East Cape Nursery (Listed) will be resuscitated on 1 May, and the second and third legs of the World Sports Betting Poly Challenge on 8 and 25 May respectively.
A decision on racing at Kimberley’s Flamingo Park will only be taken once the government’s directives post-lockdown are known – because of the unique logistical arrangements at that venue.
On the question of racing’s thousands of workers, the statement had this to say: “In line with government guidance and directives, staff who are either not required or unable to work during the lockdown period, will be placed on annual leave as appropriate.”
The statement, issued by Phumelela chief executive Vee Moodley concluded with a caution:
“PLEASE NOTE that as this situation is extremely fluid, the industry stakeholders will continue to meet on a regular basis and, if there are any material changes to the above, we will keep everybody informed.”
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