Three days ahead of the 2018 Vodacom Durban July at Greyville Racecourse, the discontent among horse grooms at the North Rand Training in Johannesburg has spread to KwaZulu-Natal with protest action having started at Summerveld in Shongweni and Ashburton near Pietermaritzburg.
A group of about 600 grooms and others attached to the Summerveld centre assembled near the main gate at 2am on Wednesday, demanding mainly wage increases.
Trainers and jockeys were initially prevented from entering their stable yards, but trainers were later allowed in to feed and water their horses.
A meeting with grooms’ representatives at Summerveld was scheduled for Thursday afternoon, while Ashburton trainers met a deputation of grooms on Wednesday morning and another meeting was scheduled for mid-afternoon.
KwaZulu-Natal trainer Paul Lafferty said: "Grooms at Summerveld are being paid at least the minimum wage required by law, but there are a few other grievances we need to address."
While the leaders of the grooms in KZN have threatened to stop trucks from carrying horses to Greyville, a bumper crowd of 50,000 is expected at the track on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Bloodstock SA’s Kwazulu-Natal Yearling Sale starts at Sibaya on Thursday and continues on Friday.
A race meeting is also scheduled for the Vaal on Thursday.
Horse players will be looking to take doubles from the Vaal races into the Durban July on Saturday and runners such as Limestone Mass (race 1) Rock Sensation (race 3) and Jamra (race 8), may well be the ones to suit that purpose.
There have already been a number of betting moves in the big race, including strong support for Abashiri, the former Triple Crown winner.
Piere Strydom’s mount has shortened from 17-1 into 10-1 with bookmakers.
Odds for trainer Brett Crawford’s three-year-old White River have been trimmed from 16-1 to 9-1.
In the face of the money for outsiders, the favourite African Night Sky has drifted from 16-10 to 22-10 but remains a popular choice among punters.
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