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

Snaith Racing, one of SA’s biggest training establishments, has come to the defence of the Racing Association (RA) after its decision to exclude KwaZulu-Natal owners from a grant due to Covid-19.

In a media statement last week, RA chair Brian Riley announced that a grant of R500 per horse would be paid to owners in Gauteng, the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Northern Cape to cover the first half of May.

If racing has not resumed by May 16, this amount would increase by R500 to cover the whole month.

The money would be paid to trainers to assist with the welfare of the horse on the owners’ behalf.

This resulted in vigorous debate on social media — notably the Sporting Post website. One poster stated: “It’s so unfair when you pick and choose — all owners should be treated alike.”

Another said: “I’ve got to think whether I want to be in this game of discrimination.”

Snaith Racing was quick to post on the same website that they considered the RA had not only acted correctly but also felt “the new RA team have done a superb job under the circumstances in a short time with the high ball they have been thrown”.

“This grant is funded by the Racing Association through nominations and declarations received by owners in Phumelela country all year round. The amount is substantial — over R14m annually.

“The nominations and declarations in KZN go directly to Gold Circle. On the RA members application form there is only options for Northern Cape, Eastern Cape, Western Cape or Gauteng membership — you can view this on their website. KZN has never been included.”

The website made the right move in approaching Brian Riley for comment. The sport does not need further turbulence with no decision yet from the government when racing might resume. It resulted in planned meetings at Turffontein on Saturday and Greyville on Sunday being cancelled.

The share price of Phumelela Gaming & Leisure lost 37% on Thursday to close at 80c.

“Gold Circle did something similar for their owners. This was because our income is generated mainly from the nominations and declarations from races operated by Phumelela as well as a small amount from membership fees,” Riley said.

“We receive nothing from the membership fees or nominations and declarations in KZN as that goes directly to Gold Circle. Therefore — as with the stakes support — our grant has been directed at the same owners.”

Paul Lafferty, a trainer and Gold Circle director, said Riley “has covered it very well and any help our beleaguered owners get is greatly appreciated. Here in KZN, we are continuously looking at ways to assist all participants in the industry,” he said.

“Tony Rivalland [a board member of Gold Circle] is currently working with the chair, Neil Butcher, and CEO Michel Nairac to find a new methodology of assisting owners during these tough times.”

Though owners will agree with that, the R500 grant will be viewed as paltry even given the R13.1m boost for stakes announced by the RA a few weeks ago.

Owners in Singapore are receiving R15,950 per horse while Canadian owners are receiving R19,742. The Canadian payment is subsidised by Ontario Lottery & Gaming Corporation.

When announcing the injection of R13.1m for stakes, Riley said that the RA has “some cash reserves but they are insufficient to render this kind of support for an extended period”.

Germany is not faring any better than SA regarding the resumption of racing with the postponement of Monday’s meeting at Dortmund. An eight-race card had been planned but it has not received government approval.

“Unfortunately — in consultation with the city of Dortmund — there is no short-term chance of ensuring legally compliant implementation,” a spokesperson said.

The next meeting in Germany is scheduled for Hanover on Thursday.

Ireland is another racing country in a quandary. Hopes were high for a resumption — behind closed doors — on May 18. This now looks unlikely as the government has indicated there would be no behind closed-door sports until June 29 at the earliest.

The industry contributes €2bn to the economy and provides 15,000 jobs.