Picture: 123RF/LUKAS GOJDA
Picture: 123RF/LUKAS GOJDA

It is the sort of nightmare on Gold Circle’s big day that no-one could have foreseen — the scratching at the start of the hot favourite Hawwaam cost the company in the region of R10m.

This was confirmed on Monday by Gold Circle’s events promoter Graeme Hawkins.

He told Business Day: “The dramatic late scratching of the favourite Hawwaam at the start of the Vodacom Durban July proved to be a financial disaster for Gold Circle as more than R10m had to be refunded to punters, which obviously led to a serious decline in the day’s tote turnover.

“As a consequence, Gold Circle’s handle for the day fell well below expectations. But  the decision by the course veterinary surgeon was absolutely the right one as the welfare of both horse and rider are our premier consideration.

“The big screens allowed the huge crowd an upclose view of the unfolding drama when Hawwaam charged the starting stalls, injuring himself in the process. The expression on the vet’s face was there for all to see, leaving no-one in any doubt that the favourite was about to be withdrawn.”

While it was a bitter pill for Gold Circle to swallow, Gauteng bookmaker Lance Michael, who supplies big-race betting for Business Day, said on Monday that he had “won a bundle on ante-post bets struck on the favourite”.

“However, in my group, the scratching meant that R400,000 in field money came out, which killed the race. I did like the winner so we managed to win, but the scratching hurt us. I would say that this year’s July was busier than days gone by.

“My entire group of 17 outlets had a good turnover day and was up on previous years,” Michael said.

One man who will have contributed to those profits is trainer Tobie Spies who had a red-letter day at Hollywood-bets Greyville (Gold Circle has formed a partnership with the KZN-based bookmaker), saddling three winners on the 12-race card.

It is believed it is a R1m deal per year over three years between the bookmaker and Gold Circle, an interesting development given the legal battles which JSE-listed Phumelela Gaming & Leisure have been in for some time with the country’s bookmakers.

Spies struck early with Basilius in the second race and, while the three-year-old son of Potala Palace had his supporters, the stable’s next winner, Cockney Pride, started at 25-1 and caused a mass exit from the Pick 6.

Ridden by Craig Zackey, Cockney Pride had only won a maiden race at Scottsville, but the daughter of Querari rose to the big occasion to beat her stablemate What You Are and Gabor. Both the tote favourite True To Life and Cavivar were well beaten.

Spies’s third winner, Van Halen, came in the 11th race with the Oratorio gelding holding off the late charge of Sean Tarry’s runner Mythical Bolt.

It was still a highly successful meeting for Tarry who captured three feature races — the Golden Horseshoe (grade2) with Eden Roc, the Betting World 2,200 with Shenanigans and the Jonsson Workwear Garden Province Stakes with Celtic Sea.

Oh Susanna was sent off favourite in this grade1 race but the Aussie-bred filly was just under a length behind Celtic Sea at the line with stablemate Snowdance a close third.