A decidedly brighter future in store for horse racing post-Joostegate
It is probably in racing’s favour as it heads into 2019 that it has taken the sport less time to get over Joostegate than Watergate.
Turn the clock back to June 1972 when five men broke into the Democratic Party headquarters in the Watergate Building Complex to place bugs. For the next two years, the scandal dominated the news ending with the resignation of president Richard Nixon in August 1974.
A year ago, the Markus Jooste saga was the only talking point in racing, but 12 months on it is not dinner chit-chat any more and the optimists that believe the sport is getting back on an even keel appear to outweigh the pessimists.
The “winds of change” have certainly blown through racing in the past three months with new appointments getting the thumbs up from some unexpected quarters.
We will see by this time next year whether the following appointments have resulted in racing being on a firmer footing.
John Stuart is the new CEO of Phumelela, taking over after the resignation of Rian Du Plessis. Was the Sporting Post — racing’s own newspaper yet banned in TAB outlets in Gauteng — offering an olive branch when stating: “Talk is rife in the corridors of power that Stuart is a very different approachable character and a breath of fresh air where it is desperately needed?”
● Rob Scott, former head of Tellytrack, takes over as Phumelela Betting executive from Vee Moodley and — with the family having been in racing for decades — he knows the pitfalls that can occur and, most importantly, how to fix them.
Vee Moodley is back at the National Horseracing Authority, this time as CEO. Anyone who has met Moodley simply has to admire his energy. He goes the extra mile for his employers.
Unhappiness has been the name of the game at the NHRA headquarters, yet Moodley taking over from Lyndon Barends suggests that controversial matters will be dealt with swiftly and with no favour.
Colleen Goodman: After 22 years with Multichoice, Phumelela may have had to make a Premier League-type offer to lure her to Rivonia.
Although she’s said she needs to learn the ropes of racing, she’s obviously been a major cog at Multichoice and there’s every reason to believe she’ll be up to her new role.
● As reported on Tuesday, Mike de Kock and Charles Savage have been elected to the board of the Racing Association and owners, who the RA represent, will expect both to make a difference in double-quick time.
The new appointments have not been greeted with total enthusiasm. Steve Reid posted on Sporting Post: “The movement of racing’s musical chairs does not equate to new brooms in my opinion. It is the same tired lot — all part of the underperforming establishment previously merely doing new jobs.”
Of course, it is the jockeys and horses which keep racing in the public eye and there is plenty to look forward to in both camps in the New Year.
It has been a memorable year for Lyle Hewitson with the youngster claiming the jockeys championship while still an apprentice. He missed the start of the new season which sees him 30 winners adrift of Muzi Yeni who looks well on the way to claiming his first title. Bookies are betting on the outcome and surprisingly make Anton Marcus, who is as unlikely to chase winners in PE and Kimberley, as Jose Mourinho agreeing to manage a minor club.
The horse sector is equally exciting with racing fans divided as to the next big star — possibly Rainbow Bridge or one of two De Kock inmates, Soqrator Monday’s impressive Turffontein winner Buffalo Bill Cody.
The Queen’s Plate — sched -uled for Kenilworth on January 5 — will throw some light on that issue and the sponsors, L’Ormarins, will be hoping they get the same nail-biting finish as the recent Green Point Stakes.
So much to play for in 2019 in the sport of racing. Provided it is not hampered by government interference, the future appears more positive than negative.
Gauteng bookmaker Lance Michael has priced up Legal Eagle as favourite for the L’Ormarins Queen’s Plate.
In one of the most keenly awaited races of the season, Michael quotes promising fouryear-old Rainbow Ridge as the 33-10 second favourite with Buffalo Bill Cody and Undercover Agent priced at 4-1.