Picture: GALLO IMAGES/PETER HEEGER
Picture: GALLO IMAGES/PETER HEEGER

As horse racing does its best to steer itself out of choppy waters, the announcement of a five-strong racing restructuring task team has been generally received as a positive step.

The quintet — most of whom have immense business experience — are Brian Riley, David Abery, Charles Savage, Wehaan Smith and Mike de Kock.

One of the first responders to this news was American Patrick Cummings, the CEO of the US-based Thoroughbred Idea Foundation.

Cummings has kept tabs on SA racing for a number of years and immediately had some advice for the task team.

“My suggestion for the restructuring committee is that they over-communicate everything and be as transparent as possible. That will restore confidence and instil respect,” he told Turf Talk.

A few weeks ago Cummings said: “The biggest beneficiaries of today’s model are technology providers within the sport but not ‘racing’. The greatest revenue shift in the business has been the enrichment of these entities gaining larger pieces of a quickly shrinking industry pie.

“This is an untenable situation for horse owners and it has been incredibly detrimental to horse players who deal with rising takeout from all the technical ‘middle men’ who take increasing fees as a result.”

One does not need to be Sherlock Holmes to realise Cummings has got his finger on the pulse of the industry. He was lured from the US to take up a senior position at the Hong Kong Jockey Club but then decided to return to his home country.

Increasing team

This writer had the pleasure of enjoying his company when attending big races in Hong Kong — he is a guy who likes his Jack Daniels but loves his racing. One year he hosted a memorable “Preakness” party in his hotel room.

As Cummings is CEO of a foundation whose name includes the word “Idea”, would it not be the right move to tap his talent in our crisis? It surely would not be a problem to increase the task team to six.

Similar to a new detective bringing fresh eyes to a “cold crime case”, Cummings would be able to survey our problems from a neutral perspective and — added to the expertise of the other five members — suggest measures that can be implemented immediately.

Perhaps when travel restrictions have been lifted and if he is able to take time off from his current job, Cummings could be offered a two-month contract here. Of course, he would require decent remuneration but that should not be a problem given what this newspaper described on Monday as “racing’s lifeboat launched by the Oppenheimers”.

It is food for thought for the task team, but they will surely appreciate assistance from any quarter — even from overseas.

Pippa Mickleburgh of Avontuur Stud said she had been hoping for a “Pied Piper to lead racing out of its misery, but I’ve been reserved recently with all the things going on. The [task team] has given me, and others, new hope.”

Favourites beaten

Meanwhile, racing resumed in France on Monday and bookmakers globally must have been cursing that many betting outlets are closed as two hot favourites were beaten at Longchamp in Paris.

Victor Ludorum went into the Prix de Fontainebleau with an unbeaten record, having won his three starts last season in impressive style. However, jockey Mickael Barzalona was unable to overcome a wide draw and victory went to the 25-1 chance The Summit.

Bookmakers’ reaction was to push Victor Ludorum’s price for the French 2000 Guineas out to 7-2 from 7-4. The Summit’s price for the same race was clipped to 8-1.

If online backers thought they could recover their losses on Sottsass in the Prix d’Harcourt, they were in for a rude awakening. Last season’s French Derby and Arc de Triomphe third never mounted a serious challenge as victory went to Shaman, who beat home Way To Paris and Simona.

Bookmakers Ladbrokes, Coral and Paddy Power all pushed out Sottsass’s price for the Arc de Triomphe in October to 20-1.