May 1, 2020

Resumption of Racing in UK & South Africa 

Link to the relevant article

Either click the above link or read on to see David’s response to today’s Sporting Post Article regarding the South African Racing Lockdown Debate.

Allan BloodlinesThe moral argument that you cite is the crux of how the restart is being approached in UK. The result remains to be seen but there is a well of opinion inside and outside “Racing” that “Racing” must not appear to be “entitled” and above all must not charge the fence.

Unlike some tweets I have been reading (by people involved in SA Racing), there was a poll the other day that indicated that the majority of the UK population is against peremptory lifting of some or all lockdown regulations and, by implication, resumption of sporting events “too soon”. Of course we want it gone, but not if – as reported in Germany – such a move immediately generates a new spike in COVID 19 cases.

The scale of death and devastation per million people in the Western European countries and some other Northern Hemisphere (which constitute some of the world’s biggest economies) is different to many others either because “others” have been brilliant due to their dreadful experiences with SARS (Korea, Taiwan) or because “others” have been afflicted by relatively tiny COVID19 numbers by happenstance or by their skill. SA’s numbers look miraculous, yet a very slow rise to a “peak” is predicted.

Football in the UK has colossal social influence through 92 professional clubs and a multitude below. In our locality (near Aldershot, HQ of the British Army) even the little National League team ranked 100+ and striving to get back into the Football League leaves a social gap every other Saturday.

You would think that Football would be “entitled” as a mega sport to push for a restart, with hundreds of millions of pounds at stake. But no. Football is taking it very gently. Liverpool v Atletico Madrid was heavily criticised as was Cheltenham when regulations were “only” recommendations.

Both Football and Racing shut themselves down. If either is seen to be trying to restart to soon (Football is “maybe June” while Racing is “maybe later in May once our 7th May lockdown review has sunk in”) it would bring down opprobrium on both sports from within and without. Cricket just yesterday postponed the start of the new “100 Overs” competition for a year after much team selection, contracting and razzamatazz earlier.

If the unthinkable were to happen – (COVID19 cases amongst players, families and worst of all attending medics) – Football would be in the dog house big time and would shut down for ages.

Ascot has long since confirmed that they will try the Royal Meeting on mid June schedule but definitely behind closed doors. But the groundswell is to restart racing across the board and not worry so much about the Pattern (of Group racing). No way would top – or any – owners want their horses at Ascot without a run or two. Therefore, perhaps the St James Palace, Queen Anne, Kings Stand et al plus Guineas, Derby, Oaks need a big asterisk beside them for 2020 insofar as their influence on the Stud Book and progeny values will have come from a different angle. So be it.

Broodmares in catalogues were forgiven two years of non-production in the 2002 Kentucky weevil plague. A 2004 Royal Ascot winner did it on flat York not on-the-collar Ascot. We’re not daft.

Each country is different and not only in COVID19 context. Levels of government support are different. Demographics are very different. We are regularly told “This is how we do it in South Africa” in a bloodstock/racing context – often wonderful often out of step with the global thoroughbred – but yesterday’s situation of having 3 x Grade 1 races fully scheduled 48 hours after a national lockdown announcement, then 24 hours, was/is startling whatever the immediate outcome. Running without a run would have been interesting to say the least – and may yet be, if the SA government gets to Racing on its list this afternoon. Ask the the participants in a UK Zoom meeting in which I have just participated. They expressed concerns (for me, bless ’em) due to the SA brinkmanship, angst and bad PR. That’s how it comes over.

I am perhaps a fool to my optimism about the bloodstock future in South Africa, but am both emotional about it and remain invested in it. The production numbers do not lie. They indicate opportunities, albeit with other hurdles to clear. What is lacking domestically and internationally, in “PR” and perhaps in diplomacy, is a level-headed representation – neither over-the-top proudly South African “marketing” nor (wrongly) portraying inferiority, but presenting the case with all its positives and attractions with realistic recognition of the overview. (SAEHP has been doing it beautifully in a narrow but mega important and intellectually taxing context since January 2017, with some international influence therein).

Let’s keep those thumbs held. Aching to get back on the track!


David Allan

1400 hours 1st May 2020

“Well said David!” – Editor, Sporting Post