South African racing fans can be forgiven for thinking they are living in the movie Groundhog Day, or maybe Back to the Future. It’s déjà vu all over again, as they say in the classics.
Just days after the government delivered a firm “nyet!” to the racing industry’s pleas to be allowed to resume behind-closed-doors action, we hear rumours of an impending U-turn in the corridors of power.
Vee Moodley, CEO of the National Horseracing Association and the game’s lobbyist-in-chief, said on Thursday (14 May) he was optimistic of being blessed by a ministerial green light in the very near future.
This has sparked speculation that we might get racing within the next fortnight after an eight-week hiatus due to the coronavirus lockdown.
And it comes on the heels of this week’s resumption of racing in France and Friday night’s at Santa Anita in California. Germany is due to restart any day now and Britain is heading in the same direction.
Australia, Hong Kong, Japan and Sweden have all not missed any racing – with no crowds on course – and have had very few, if any, cases of viral infection.
After being brushed off by Pretoria officialdom last week, the admirable Moodley went straight back in with renewed argumentative vigour. That, coupled with some mainstream media coverage about the looming mass euthanasia of thoroughbreds, might have achieved the apparently impossible – a change of political mind.
Who wants to go down in history as the person who consigned thousands of beautiful creatures to death?
There are other signs that the responsible politico, Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel, has newfound flexibility. On Thursday he dropped his infamous ban on e-commerce.
On the same day, racing operator Gold Circle and sponsor Vodacom declared their firm intention to stage the 2020 Durban July – on its rescheduled date of 25 July. Their statement was imbued with such confidence one couldn’t help suspecting some quiet assurances had been given behind the scenes.
“Hope springs eternal in the human breast,” wrote the poet Alexander Pope in 1732. He could have been commenting on racing and Covid-19 in 2020.
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