CHRIS Van Niekerk, in his acceptance speech for winning the Champion Owner Of The Year at the 2019 Equus Banquet on Tuesday, called for a positive spirit among all players in the industry in turbulent times for racing.
Van Niekerk, whose runners won 72 races earning R15,3-million in 2018/19, called for unity in SA racing now, more than ever, and used the analogy of a group of people crossing a crocodile-infested river vs one person crossing alone – the group will make it, the single adventurer won’t!
“Things are never as bad as they seem,” said Van Niekerk. “We all have to stay positive in this time and work together. There should be no negativity. We should never be negative.”
Van Niekerk concluded by asking for “common sense” to prevail, suggesting that doses of this would lie at the heart of problem-solving. “The problem with common sense, however, is that it is not common!”
Never truer words spoken.
With Van Niekerk’s “unity” speech barely over, he received a standing ovation, but sadly only from his own table of 10-odd guests and a few brave individuals scattered across the Emperors Banquet Hall.
People were looking at each other, deciding whether or not to lift their arses a few inches off their seats and give the man a deserved ovation for his achievements and for his calm voice in this raging storm.
Perhaps most were too pissed to stand up. They decided against it. Clear camps remain evident in racing. We always have to take sides against each other. This ego-driven bunch would not put their rivalry and their stupid territorialism aside to speak (and applaud) as one. “I’m in this camp, you are in that one!” (In the beautiful language of The Oppressor: “Jy in jou klein hoekie, en ek in myn!”).
Quietly as usual, racing’s latest malicious rumours were being discussed at each of the tables, theories for success and personal preferences were branded about. “X is a ****, Y is an even bigger ***”. A should be fired, B is the biggest problem in racing but has too many friends high up!” Blah de Blah, boys and girls, we’re going to talk each other straight into the shithouse if we don’t stop and join hands now! Chris VN is right, and we all know it.
On to the rest of the function. The evening’s roving Diva was large, as divas are supposed to be, we reckon. The tables were wide apart and she did her thing between the serving of a beet and goat’s cheese starter and the main course of Beef Wellington. The band was really good, and the food too, but not as good as it was last year. Dessert was served too late, there were guests who had already left. We loved 2018’s risqué pole-dancing extravaganza, but of course a few self-serving moral guardians had to have their say about that, and the RA had no choice but to calm things down this year. Nothing wrong with a bit of lively Big-Band Glen Miller, but those pole babes did raise the energy in the room, and we needed a raise this year.
Some of the speeches may have been to long, on a traditionally long evening. The RA should consider a bit of music to start playing over boring diatribe, when things drag on, like at the Oscars. Winners should say their say, and get the heck off the stage.
Do It Again cleaned up, awards-wise, though some comments were made about his receiving the award for Champion Middle Distance Horse. One observer commented: “It’s an absolute disgrace that Do It Again won champion middle-distance horse (1800 – 2200m). He won one Gr1 race, being the Durban July which is a handicap/conditions race. Rainbow Bridge won two Gr1 races being the Met and a WFA contest where he beat Do It Again and the Champions Cup, in which he beat a top field. It is a disgrace that a top horse like Rainbow Bridge couldn’t get an award at this ceremony.”
To our minds, Do It Again was this season’s “People’s Horse”. The son of Twice Over is a true champion, a star loved by all and a horse that brought feet to the track. But that Rainbow Bridge should’ve gotten the Middle-Distance award makes common sense, the type that Van Niekerk was calling for in his address.
We should all make an effort to reconcile, to set differences aside, and we should also try to eliminate mistakes as a general rule of thumb. This won’t be too hard if we actually try. Check, double check, and make things work. Lead by example. Employ the right people. Fire the ones that shouldn’t have been there to start.
But let’s do all this without too much cursing of each other, each other’s mothers, and the respective heritages we hail from. Togetherness now. It’s cuddly-cuddly time. Or this party will be over sooner than we think!