Jun 14, 2020

Yes. Really! In some easily identifiable respects. We just need to accentuate the positive with more overseas players.

In the coming weeks, we shall be conveying to overseas markets the positives of SA Racing at the beginning of a campaign to get ahead of, and be ready for, the New Normal of South African Racing.

The doom and gloom merchants have much justification based on what has befallen our SA industry and sport and we don’t need to go through it all again here, hard as it is for many of us to sustain business in South African bloodstock.

But the positive point with regard to overseas patronage on which to fasten is that insofar as not many people overseas know much about South African racing, they may not know all the positives but they don’t know much about the recent bad stuff either.

Aside from professionals who keep an eye and a few specialists, the name Jooste was known only because he was the latest in a long line of Coolmore racing partners; Phumelela is a name known in wagering circles but barely beyond; who knew about the bank-enforced sale of 650 horses? Who even sees the sales results?

Mike de Kock is of course high profile; an internationally known presence even if widely quoted on industrial action and winding down in South Africa. Nevertheless, the esteem in which he is held and his net effect is very positive. Professionals well up the totem pole have remarked to me that it is good to see Mike de Kock involved in future industry organisation. Quite right.

A Newmarket based BBA lorry heads out of town as a string walks down Warren Hill

A Newmarket based BBA lorry heads out of town as a string walks down Warren Hill

What are the two biggest pains in the you-know-what for UK owners? The vet and transport.

Today’s focus is on transport. Simply put, owners pay an arm and a leg to send their horses racing in UK and pay nothing in South Africa. Of course they pay if good enough to go into another province, but – exciting 2 year olds aside – there is usually something in the piggy bank before travelling.

The Table shows the quoted cost – converted to rand at 21.3 to the £ – of being carried from a Newmarket training yard to a selection of twenty racecourses at which we race and like to race more than others.

Plenty of trainers have their own box or boxes, and charge reasonably but not cheaply, but with seven days racing, multiple meetings per day and every racecourse accessible to every training centre, one of many independent carriers often gets the business.

Transport charges from/to Newmarket training yard in Rand equivalent

converted at 21.3 (correct as at 14.6.20)

Excludes relief drivers and overnight expenses

Transport charges in Rand equivalent converted at 21.3 (correct as at 14.6.20) Excludes relief drivers and overnight expenses

The wry remark made about training in Newmarket is that it is nowhere near any racecourses except Newmarket.  As you can see, it costs something just to go down the road just as it does to go to one of the three veterinary hospitals and back – or in the breeding business to go from umpteen studs surrounding Newmarket to be covered by Darley or Juddmonte or  Cheveley Park stallions.

Goodwood, as you can see, is farther than Doncaster and a difficult drive around the M25 with a mandatory  overnight after racing (other than under COVID19 regulations). Both are Grade 1 tracks, one a huge (nearly) flat expanse with a long, kind bend and a very fair straight mile or less. The other is as quirky, albeit beautiful, as anyone could dream up: down, down, then uphill far side, swooping right hander downhill, tight, into the straight and a camber in the straight that takes some riding. “Jockeys can cause a Stewards Enquiry at Goodwood in a three runner race”. We’ve won at Goodwood a few times – their trophies for even ordinary races are nice to have. Less than an hour each way for us, through beautiful countryside, but so many things must go right. We love winning at Doncaster, the home of the St Leger  – a 6 hour round trip in the car for us from Surrey base if we time it right, but a fair bit less for the horse from Newmarket.

Please have a look at the costs to Ayr on the lovely Ayrshire coast of Scotland, handy for Royal Troon if you know your Open golf courses. In our next issue, we’ll tell you about three visits: including going there in desperation to get a win into a well bred filly (we won) and on another occasion into a 2 year old going to the sales (we didn’t win – but the story includes leaning out of the door of the little plane a few thousand feet up, and crash landing).

“The authorities pay for your horse to go racing in South Africa, so that’s a thousand quid in a month of two races you don’t have to pay!”. You’ll get the listener’s attention on that point, and several others.