Accentuate the positive in a sales week – Turf Talk: 24 February 2020

BUYERS will be spoilt for choice at Mistico this Friday.
BUYERS will be spoilt for choice at Mistico this Friday.

SO here we are at the beginning of another sales week in South Africa.

At the races on Saturday, I was by and large minding my own business, saying hello and reading through the encyclopaedia that is Computaform. I looked at the prawns-driven throng – on a racecourse for reasons of seafood not bloodstock, but ON A RACECOURSE!

The signs outside and on the approach roads referred to prawns, not the Cape Derby Grade 1 horse race, but hey… get ‘em in, even if many were gone by Race 8.

I wondered if there might be a few friendly hosts or hostesses with sashes or badges wandering around the tables and the food queues offering a simple race card, or picture of a horse and jockey pointing out what’s what, or a “how to” have a small bet or a “how to” watch them going down. Or a food voucher in the Pocket Power Lounge for their next visit to Kenilworth within x weeks. Stuff like that.

Hoping to create racehorse ownership that way would not be a valid target, but the lifeblood of racing comes from the fans – whether punters or for the sight of the horses or following a jockey or all of the above. And boy do we need some more of them.

For some racegoers around the world, betting is not even legal yet racing fans go racing. In others, not everyone who goes racing has a bet. They just love watching horses race and, a bit like cricket, get immersed in the detail. Of course many do have a bet, nearly all for fun in the ebb and flow of humanity that looks in the parade ring, watches them go down, queues to bet then grabs a spot in the stands or on the lawns.

In UK, fun betting is mostly plain vanilla. To win or each-way. A forecast/exacta, sure, and groups have fun with jackpots and placepots. South Africa, on the other hand, is surely the world leader in “exotics” with all sorts of permutation bets that would (and do) baffle your average British racing fan. My gaming industry friends tell me that there is no market in the UK for exotics, but that they look to South Africa to develop such bets on British, French or any other racing for which they can sell images. Fair enough.

It does stand to reason, though, that existing SA racing folk spend more time studying form and composing bets than many overseas racegoers who love the day out picking one winner per race, but give absolutely no thought to what might finish 4th.

The goal is to get them onto the racecourse to have a great day out, with help in picking a winner and having a bet usually available.

Exactly the same thinking applies to South Africans who don’t know horse racing but might become fans. Complex betting formula would leave them cold, but picking a winner is the starting point.

People get hooked by the complexity of the sport itself. The horses themselves, their condition, preferred distances, ages, allotted weights, perceived ability, parentage – and to take it further, their detailed families accurate to 1793, the role of their trainers and carers and the pleasure to be seen and the glory to be reflected in the Winner’s Enclosure.

Of course, there is a passionate racing population here and some very good horses by anyone’s standards, plus all those worthy colts, geldings and fillies that do their best at whatever level they can achieve on behalf of their colours. Those who “get it” are mostly busy people with a more than full time job inside or outside “racing”. They can’t drop everything and start a PR campaign, or even if they could, how or why should they fund it?

It can be argued that a sale such as at Mistico on a Friday doesn’t merit a blaze of publicity whether at home or abroad. Why courier catalogues overseas? Why highlight Moody’s?

Moody’s?? Well 26th, 27th February are two very important dates for South Africa, and Mistico is the day after. The budget is on 26th. Of the three global rating agencies, Fitch and Standard&Poors already rate South Africa “junk”. Moody’s doesn’t, yet, but depending on what they think of arrangements for Eskom and the rest, they might downgrade to join the others.

PRAWNS bring them racing, OK?
PRAWNS bring them racing, OK?

UK horseplayers have different betting habits
UK horseplayers have different betting habits

MISTICO is a lovely sales venue on Friday
MISTICO is a lovely sales venue on Friday

GBP-ZAR-60-day-exchange-rate-history.
GBP-ZAR-60-day-exchange-rate-history.

Lives wouldn’t change overnight but the cost of borrowing for the country will, and gazillions of rand in investment funds would immediately be sold off because fund managers have bottom line triggers in what they declare to their investors.

The simple effect on the morning of Friday 28th would – if as above – be a run on the Rand. It is already 19.44 to the Pound Sterling £ as I write, and the equivalent figure for € and $, but correct me if I’m wrong, it hasn’t been 20-something other than when Mr Zuma had three different Finance Ministers in a single weekend.

In days of yore, AllanBloodlines advertised to our overseas supporters the price of SA yearlings together with a graphic of the rand value and a link to our partner foreign exchange broker whose London staff include South Africans who watch the rand closely. The combination has worked for yearlings, especially at the Nationals and the Equimark Vintage Yearling Sale.

The Vintage was IMHO a really good sale. As many readers know, it was a breakaway from the TBA/ BSA to which Odessa Stud, The Alchemy and Arc En Ciel sent large drafts with an array of others making up the numbers.

At Durbanville in mid-March, it was an attractive affair with usually a couple of tables of UK visitors, courtesy of Weatherbys travel department, clubbing together for some fun. The Vintage had a vibrancy all of its own.

It was killed off by the first Cape Premier Yearling Sale (run by BSA for what became CTS). But when CTS put in their own “Book 2” first at Kenilworth, then at Durbanville, we applauded and believed that it could become a very important event.

I still do. March works. Europeans can still come. More yearlings can be prepped in time. If back at Durbanville, there are restaurants and guest houses a-plenty, a Wine Route and 30 minutes to the V&A Waterfront. Be all that as it may, there will be some very nice horses indeed at Mistico on Friday available for prices that for now continue to spoil buyers for choice.—tt.

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