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Posted 2024-05-11 13:53:44  
From Chaos To Reform: What Is Sa Racing's Path Forward?

WhatsApp forums, e-mails and racing websites have been abuzz since last Saturday’s TC02 testing fiasco at Hollywoodbets Greyville. Owners, trainers and racing fans are gravely concerned about the state of our industry following the cancellation of the meeting as a result of a public protest against the scratching of Main Defender.

South African racing's notorious rumour mill immediately went into overdrive, with reports circulating about NHA officials being assaulted, protesters inebriated and armed, and punters shouting obscenities at officials. Amidst the chaos, NHA CEO Vee Moodley was reportedly on the brink of a physical altercation and had to be led away. The accusations of misconduct against trainer Tony Peter and his family flared up all of Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning. Gold Circle issued a press release promising sanctions against those responsible for the protest.

On Sunday, however, the focus shifted in an unexpected way when a runner trained by Justin Snaith received an above-the-limit pre-race TC02 test at HWB Kenilworth. A second Snaith scratching followed. If ever a cat was set among pigeons, this was it. The sample taken from Summer Lily was still warm when a meme making fun of Snaith was distributed, possibly to every racing fan with a functioning smart phone.

On Sunday evening, Snaith came out in support of the NHA’s TC02 testing procedures. Moodley, commenting in an article entitled, ‘A Bad Day for SA Racing’, said, “The rules are rules. To the contrary, the levelling of the playing fields is good for horseracing.” This confirmed Moodley’s firm stance on rules relayed in our article last week, ‘The TC02 Testing Conundrum’, when he said, “alkalization of a horse on a race day is a IFHA prohibited practice regardless of causation.”

The rules appeared to be a tad more flexible on Tuesday when Turf Talk reported that the NHA had agreed to a ‘concession’, that despite an international norm of a 36.0 mmol/L threshold level for TCO2, in SA the threshold would be raised one point to 37.0 mmol/L. Tony Peter, meanwhile, issued a statement in which he categorically denied involvement in any doping or unlawful activities and suggested that the stable had been become a target due to jealousy in within the industry.

Also on Tuesday, trainer Vaughan Marshall said that he found it hard to describe the stress resulting from victimisation from the NHA in a baseless case brought against him. The inquiry, he said, was “an embarrassment for the NHA” and attorney Robert Bloomberg wrote: “The mission statement of the NHA ‘is maintaining the integrity of the sport of horseracing’, but where was the integrity in prosecuting a vindictive, vexatious, meritless and spurious case against an obviously innocent party?”

 

Above: Leaked Peter video (pic: Youtube)

On Tuesday evening a video pertaining to the Tony Peter Summer Cup Day case was leaked on the Youtube social forum and went viral as fast as a sneeze in a pepper factory. This video, filmed by an NHA-mandated official on Summer Cup Day, 25 November 2023, lies at the base of the NHA’s 11 charges against the Peter family. The matter, postponed from January 2024, was brought before an inquiry board on Wednesday and Thursday and, following two days of reportedly heated discussions and questioning of witnesses, was remanded to 21 June. By that time, almost seven months would have elapsed from the time of the reported incidents.

The tone and content of the many messages and phone calls received revealed something intriguing: fans and industry workers expressed strong, perhaps even peculiar, sentiments of glee, akin to a gallery of taunters throwing peanuts at monkeys. The TC02 debacle, along with the recent array of controversies around ‘doping,’ has seemingly transformed into a form of entertainment. There is a growing sense that these issues, along with other unresolved matters plaguing our industry, will reach a tipping point. The circus-like atmosphere will dissipate, exposing the clowns, and decisive resolutions will become inevitable. The bottom line: We’re at a turning point now. Things have boiled over. We need answers to problems, and we need action. How will this happen?

I asked prominent individuals in the industry and some racing fans what they would do if they had a chance to make a quick and telling difference to SA racing, and some insightful and thought-provoking answers were received. How do we get racing back to where it belongs?

Alistair Cohen, senior manager, broadcast and commentary, Cape Racing:
“I'd put every single role player on a polygraph and ask pertinent questions. I’ll take the polygraph too. Everything found will be confidential and every single slate will be wiped clean. From there, no bias, everything above board and on a level playing field. And I'd also start a punters union, which is long overdue.”

Ash Maharaj, sahorseracing.com
“The fragmentation of leadership can lead to conflicting agendas, hindering progress. It's crucial for the industry to come together, supported by strong independent horseracing media, to hold leaders accountable and ensure transparency. Having one elected leader to represent South Africa's racing interests could indeed streamline the industry and provide a unified voice. It is also key that qualified individuals should be appointed to positions based on their expertise to address the gaps in knowledge and competence. This is a huge problem currently. This concerted effort can reposition South African horse racing on the sporting landscape.”

Candice Bass-Robinson, trainer
“We need more cohesion and communication within racing bodies, and more transparency from governing bodies.”

Colin Gordon, COO Of 4Racing
“I’d like to see a percentage of every bet struck on horseracing, come back to horseracing!”

Etienne Louw, former racing editor
“I’d focus on increasing the horse population so that, for example, we can race again regularly on Mondays, with good fields. There should be a drive towards new sponsors – maybe small companies should be targeted for sponsoring minor races. A government tax incentive for racehorse owners will make a significant difference.”

Fundi Sithebe, CEO of 4Racing
“I would like to open up this beautiful sport of horseracing to more people to enjoy, not just once or twice in the year, but a lot more regularly. Our courses are beautiful venues and I would like to see more people attending racing, and us being more inclusive!”

Thanks to Charl Pretorius and 4Racing for this Off The Record article. Read more here

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