We've got news for you.

Register on BusinessLIVE at no cost to receive newsletters, read exclusive articles & more.
Register now

According to the record books, the fastest knockout in boxing came in Minneapolis in 1947 when Mike Collins downed Pat Brownson in 4sec. In contrast, the fight between the National Horse Racing Authority (NHA) and the SA Trainers Association (Santa) looks like its going the distance.

Racing and legal guru Robert Bloomberg is leading Santa’s demand for owners and trainers to have representation on the NHA’s board. His latest media release demonstrates the depth of the unhappiness that has resulted in more than 330 owners and trainers signing a petition for change. 

For her part, NHA chair Susan Rowett hasn’t been afraid to put on the gloves. She told Business Day recently that while the NHA always had the best interests of racing at heart it was not in favour of any change to or scrapping the role of the Racing Control Executive.

The article headline in Business Day “NHA circle the wagons against Santa” is therefore highly  appropriate.

Since then, Rowett has sent out another memorandum to NHA members and her actions received a mixed response on social media.

One Sporting Post blogger in her corner said:  “The chairperson has articulated very clearly the role and responsibility of the NHA in no uncertain [terms]! She made it very clear that trainers, jockeys, operators and owners must know their place and stay in their lane.”

A shortened version of the media release from Bloomberg, titled “SA National Horseracing Authority flagrant disregard of IFHA Zilpaterol recommendation”, says: 

Every major racing jurisdiction interprets and implements the strict liability rule on the basis that if the trainer can prove that he did not administer, or cause to be administered, a prohibited substance detected, and had taken all reasonable precautions to prevent the administration of such prohibited substance, that no action or finding will be made against the trainer in their personal capacity.

In SA, a developing countries country and by association racing jurisdiction, which is difficult to argue against what with our economic junk status, the NHA continue to persecute, prosecute and convict innocent trainers on the basis of an archaic, and believed unconstitutional and unlawful rule based on automatic guilt. 

A further perfect example of the vindictive nature of the NHA and its racing control executive (RCE), Arnold Hyde, has once again surfaced following a number of Zilpaterol ‘positives’ involving eight KwaZulu-Natal trainers with collectively 10 ‘positives’.

Zilpaterol is a beta-2 adrenergic agonist that is approved in certain countries as a cattle feed additive to increase size. It is particularly prevalent in SA and as such can easily be inadvertently transferred in microgram amounts from livestock industry sources to horse feed. Zilpaterol is usually found in molasses which feed companies use as a binding agent and to make feed more palatable.

While seven of the eight trainers have legal representation, the unrepresented trainer, Gavin van Zyl, decided to proceed with his inquiry ahead of all. Despite the fact that the NHA is well aware that this is feed contamination emanating from the same feed company — our independent tests of sample feed conducted at FDA laboratories has confirmed this — and while Van Zyl understandably pleaded ‘not guilty’, the NHA constituted inquiry board found him ‘guilty’ of being the trainer responsible for two  ‘positives’ of Zilpaterol detected in two different horses.

The issuing of a penalty of a ‘warning’ is preposterous in the extreme as no trainer of sound mind would intentionally purchase Zilpaterol-contaminated feed. The trainer concerned, however, now has a conviction on his record of a Class 1 forbidden substance, the most serious of any drug related offence in SA horse racing and a second offence carries an opening level fine of R287,000.  

Most importantly, in the US, Hong Kong, Mauritius, France and the UK, where Zilpaterol was detected in feed, the relevant racing authorities recognised the innocence of all and as a consequence declined to take any regulatory action against the trainers concerned.

What is therefore so shockingly inappropriate is that following these international cluster events involving Zilpaterol, and in and during October 2020, the said IFHA, in conjunction with the European horse racing scientific liaison committee, where the NHA has its laboratory director, Schalk de Kock, as a representative, made a joint recommendation that NO REGULATORY ACTION SHOULD BE TAKEN against any screening findings FOR ZILPATEROL where it can be demonstrated that the horse was LIKELY FED CONTAMINATED FEED.

The question must, therefore, be posed as to whether this is a deliberate snub and insult from the NHA, as why else would you ignore a recommendation from an internationally acclaimed organisation of which you are a full member and signatory, mere incompetence, or just a decided lack of understanding from people who are possibly out of their depth and who should now be replaced? It is little wonder that so many of these contamination matters end up being legally challenged at great cost to all.”


1st race: (4) Flinders Range (3) Angel Of War (7) Let's Twist Again (1) Winter With Jo

2nd race: (1) Look Yourself (5) Crown Plaza (6) Gilda Gray (4) Country Flame

3rd race: (2) Full Velocity (4) Captain Morisco (5) Bowie (1) Riverstown

4th race: (7) Meteoric (10) Warship (3) Beaded Gown (8) Saint Anastasia

5th race: (8) Magic Dancer (5) Connection (9) Eastern Belle (1) Lazy Guy

6th race: (3) Alesian Chief (5) Jet Cat (4) Successful Secret (2) Marengo

7th race: (8) Sound Of Summer (4) Promiseofamaster (6) KIngsley's Heart (3) Orpheus

8th race: (8) Funky Music (3) Supreme Dance (11) Humble Tune (1) Imperial Master


Would you like to comment on this article?
Register (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

Commenting is subject to our house rules.