Talk of Good News then Fake or Old News – Turf Talk: 17 December 2019
SOMETIMES you just want to scream!
How many times has this column called for positive images of racing and breeding in South Africa to be published internationally? By an official body, I mean, not the unofficial efforts of a few of us. And not tub-thumping, flag waving, but balanced, reasoned commentary on our SA industry and sport.
Such boosts are at their most necessary when heads are down and, beyond the dedicated few, international opinion is vaguely negative or non-existent.
Yet much is made locally of overseas racing ownership being important. Quite right. Non-domestic ownership is crucially important to Britain, Ireland and France as well.
Do we think it “just happens”? Overseas people arrive on holiday and by some form of osmosis are overtaken by the desire to own a racehorse? Overseas people on the way home from football or rugby are suddenly distracted by the notion that they should have a racehorse in South Africa? Hardly.
Even when not selecting from a multitude of easily accessible sporting pursuits and “Days Out”, there is nothing in their life that so much as introduces the idea.
No. The overseas people who are involved in SA were already keen to have a racehorse. AND already had an affinity with South Africa. It needs both. So if it is felt that such a population will expand all by itself rather than shrink, who needs to bother – the argument would be – with any form of positive PR?
What we do see is a lot of advertising to ourselves, within the confines of the South Africa industry and sport. Nothing wrong with that per se, but even domestically we barely go beyond the walls of racing with happy news. Insularity doesn’t work. Thoroughbred pedigrees are global, without borders.
In Western Europe, the South African buyer at multinational sales has, for now, gone the way of the dodo, aside from one or two who own overseas farms which is a different league. It’s a far cry from our AllanBloodlines/TBA “Missions” to Tattersalls Mare Sales where for a couple of years we got Tatts to add the Rand to the currencies displayed on the bidding screen.
The SA buyer may come back with a better domestic market, but on the opposite tack, recent sales show how important is overseas buying in SA. If domestic breeders cannot refresh the gene pool, maybe overseas players in SA can. So we must tell them, as well as racing owners, about the magic.
With freedom of movement on the cards (see below), there are myriad possibilities. Countries with dodgy politics and socio-economic difficulties are not excluded from successful business. Use the out-sourcing manufacturing model that applies in many businesses. Grow racehorses in South Africa where they are grown so well.
The work of the SAEHP is admired internationally by a narrow field of experts. It is not the job of the SAEHP to be a PR agency. Governments and relevant authorities would not appreciate being second-guessed in public. But if SAEHP can be formed and focussed, why not an SA version of GBRI or ITM – provided that it knows how to express itself multi-nationally and its way around the world?
After the industrial unrest in June 2018 and the widely publicised Mike de Kock standpoint, this column (2nd July 2018) reacted like this https://bit.ly/2Eiq0Bj
Then – just four days ago – there came a flurry of messages following another (rare) article about South Africa in the Racing Post.
We can’t give a link to that article as it is in the Members Section (but widely read – hence the calls) but you might get to it on Racing Post under News/Insight. The journalist rehashes the June 2018 unrest, requoting Mike de Kock about death threats to his family and cutting back, adding material about his potential move in part to Australia.
The article moves to recent labour issues and rubber bullets, whilst including comment from Geoff Woodruff including on the sale/closure of six racecourses. Stakes reductions come into it as do Phumelela’s and Gold Circle’s views on dropping to one racecourse per region.
As a tale of woes dating back, it’s a macabre recap – not without foundation but why suddenly now?
Arrestingly, shockingly, alarmingly (sorry – I’m being melodramatic but I nearly fell off my chair) it states: “…. a political dispute between the EU and the South African government over chicken imports means there will be no EU audit, a prerequisite for any relaxation of the export and import regulations, of South African horses for the foreseeable future. It is a hammer blow to an already beleaguered industry”. Dateline 11th December 2019. My expletive deleted.
Ye Gods Above! When were these “facts” gathered? The most globally switched on caller to me asked for confirmation that it is wrong, knowing that the EU had recently announced that it would give a date on which the delayed audit would take place. “Fake News”, we would all cry, with or without a fake tan to go with it, but actually it’s “Old News” published as current news.
CTS marketers would go through the roof with this sudden digest of 2018/19 publicity in a widely read organ of the bloodstock industry. About the EU, CTS wrote recently that clearance could be “early next year”.
One’s sense of governmental procedures for an audit would surely suggest mean maybe more “mid year” and less “early year” but either way it’s a potential huge Hurrah. Of course, subject to passing the audit. SAEHP could be doing no more, and is confident, but the mantra must be don’t count chickens publicly.
From a CTS perspective, a decision in just a few months would – for me – be a strong marketing factor anyway. If betting on lifting the EU ban on direct imports and paving the way for other direct trade agreements, the January 2020 Cape Premier Yearling Sale could be presented as potentially the last opportunity to buy-buy-buy at today’s prices. That’s how we are presenting it, anyway. Before the Revolution.
Here’s an example of what we need. Simple, calm, and written by a foreigner! Tom Thornbury of Keeneland knows a thing or two.
After his 2016 tour inspecting yearlings he wrote in the TDN: “The people and the horses there are exceptional. You will find that no matter how much of this exciting, beautiful country that you see, it won’t be enough. You will return home, already planning your next trip, and that won’t be enough, either”. Amen to that. – tt.