Snaith: Gold Challenge is losing its Glitz

JUSTIN SNAITH was crowned National Champion Trainer for the third time at the end of last season, scoring a personal best 208 winners in the process, and this week he spoke about two issues which he believed were having a negative effect on racing, firstly the date on which the weights are set for the Vodacom Durban July and secondly the African Horse Sickness control measures instituted by national veterinarians which are having a severe impact on the Western Cape equine fraternity.

Snaith said, “The Grade 1 wfa Hollywoodbets Gold Challenge is losing a little of its glitz because a lot of horses are just using it as a preparation and other horses are not running in order to protect their merit rating for the Vodacom Durban July. In the past the Gold Challenge result had no effect on the July weights. An example was Flaming Rock, who won the Challenge (he won the Schweppes Challenge on June 15, three weeks before the July) and was still able to get into the July carrying 52.5kg. I realise this point is debateable because it could make a certain horse a shoe-in at the weights in the July. However, being a racing purist I regard the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate as by far the superior Grade 1 weight for age mile in the country because everybody goes for it, they don’t go in using it as a prep, and the winner is usually fancied to go on and win the Met. On the other hand I don’t run my well weighted July runners in the Gold Challenge, or at least I have to choose which of the two races to target.”

The July weights used to be set before the Gold Challenge and Gold Circle should consider re-instituting that regulation.

When it was in place the Gold Challenge was attracting exceptional fields, which were in fact generally better than the Queen’s Plate fields for the simple reason that three-year-olds are mature enough by the June of any racing season to be lively contenders.

In 2007, for example, the season’s champion three-year-old Jay Peg ran in the Gold Challenge alongside contemporaries Kildonan, Biarritz and Dynamite Mike and they took on the like of Pocket Power, Succesful Bidder (the winner), Hunting Tower, Jagged Ice, National Spirit and other top older horses. There was not a single three-year-old in the Queen’s Plate that season, although it was run that year on December 30, a week before the Cape Guineas.

A three-year-old did win the Queen’s Plate this year, the Snaith-trained Jet Dark, but he was only the second sophomore to have won it since Yataghan in 1973, the other one being Gimmethegreenlight in 2012.

Horses who avoided this year’s Gold Challenge to protect their July weight included Do It Again and Got The Greenlight, while Belgarion avoided it last year and went on to win the July with the minimum weight for a male of 53kg.

The three-year-olds Kommetdieding, Linebacker and Rascallion, might also have been considered as Gold Challenge entries this year as an alternative to the Daily News 2000 but it would have been madness to take on Rainbow Bridge and risk a big merit rating raise.

The Daily News 2000 took place a fortnight before the Gold Challenge, so the three-year-olds could feasibly have run in both races, although this would have been unlikely due to the closeness in time and the drop in trip before stepping up again for the July.

Snaith went on to speak about the immense obstacles created by the movement restrictions imposed on horses in and out of the Western Cape by state veterinarians due to African Horse Sickness control.

He said the irony was the only region that did not have AHS i.e the Western Cape, had become the “whipping boys”.

He spoke on behalf of all members of the Western Cape equine fraternity, including showjumpers, polo players, warmblood breeders and endurance racers.

He said, “I would love to see the export protocols being changed and hope they do, but it is coming at a huge cost for us in the Western Cape while the rest of the country is not effected at all. After ten years it had become costly and after 15 years we are now asking when is the end? If it is going to be ongoing they must come up with a better solution so equine practice can resume as normal. Otherwise I can see there being an uprising in the Western Cape. It is killing equine sports down here. I think it is one of the major influences on the drop in horse population in the Western Cape and they have got to give us some leeway.”

He reiterated, “It not that we don’t want exports. We are just starting to question the practicality of some of the measures being taken when we are not getting any further in export. There are a lot of excuses, some I am sure are valid, I just hope there is some light at the end of the tunnel because it is costing the industry millions.”

Snaith’s purchases from the National Two-year-old sale are currently sitting in quarantine “in the middle of nowhere” waiting to come home to the Western Cape.

He provided another example, pointing out he was unable to move horses from May through July into the Western Cape. Furthermore, once his KZN string was decided upon he was unable to run any of them in any Eastern Cape feature unless he was prepared to quarantine the horse somewhere “in the middle of nowhere”.

Snaith acknowledged the racing operators had enough of their own concerns but said he was nevertheless disappointed by the lack of support from them in looking for ways to circumvent the restrictions placed on racehorse movement.

Gold Circle

© 2009 All rights reserved.