BARRY IRWIN, the controversial CEO of Team Valor International, a long-time supporter of South African horseracing (photo, right), has decided to exit the local industry and will be selling his racing and breeding stock at training centres and stud farms throughout the country.
Irwin wrote in a letter to his friends, associates, business partners, members of the South African racing media and attorney Robert Bloomberg: “It is with sadness and regret that I have taken a decision to leave South African racing and breeding. I will come up with a plan to liquidate my racing and breeding stock. Some of the stock will be moved to different countries. It will be an orderly process so as to disrupt as few people’s lives as possible.
“As some of you may or may not know, I have over the past few months put in an effort to make heads or tails (and even tales!) out of the export protocol strategies. No matter what you hear or read, progress is considerably less rosy than it has been portrayed.
“I sent one of the world’s leading equine immunologist (Dr Rob Holland) to South Africa on a fact-finding mission. He reported that the scientific progress as being directed by Dr. (Allan) Guthrie and his associates in the Western Cape has been impressive.
“From what I have been told by my contacts, however, the business end of affairs is not up to the same standard of the scientists involved. I have learned that as long as Chris van Niekerk continues to be involved in the effort that the initiative is likely to continue to be slow-track because the international community wants nothing to do with Markus Jooste or anybody tainted by him.
“I don’t know Mr. van Niekerk. For all I know he is a wonderful fellow. But the cooties he collected from being involved with Markus Jooste is something he cannot easily shed. For the greater good of the industry, he should agree to step aside so that the effort can present a better front.
“Furthermore the initiative in South Africa has as presented by the export group led by Adrian Todd leads outsiders to believe that the commercial and self-serving aspects of the effort far outweigh the beneficial nature of the progress a viable export protocol can have on the entire South African racing and breeding community.
“I personally tried to cause a change, but I must sadly report that not enough support was received, so it’s business as usual–except it will toddle on without my involvement. I love my South African horses, friends and horsemen and women, but I can no longer stand by and be involved with people that simply are unable to help themselves.”
Robert Bloomberg, responding on behalf of Adrian Todd and Mike de Kock, directors of the SAEHP (SA Equine Health & Protocols), wrote to Irwin in response: “…Chris has driven this process since inception and has invested both considerable time and money in this effort. I am further told that the government contacts in SA are his and that for him to now remove himself from the equation would severely retard what is already in place.
“Both Mike and Adrian back Chris to the hilt and neither believe his “resignation” is in the interests of what we are trying to achieve. As previously explained, I have an exceedingly good relationship with both Mike and Adrian.
“Certainly, from my own personal experience, I have found Chris to be a man of integrity and honour who wants the game to be “cleaned up” and for our “horse borders” to the outside world to be opened, as we all do.”
Approached at the National Sale, Van Niekerk said in reference to Irwin’s comments: “Rather to be thought a fool than open your mouth to remove all possible doubts!” Adrian Todd, Managing Director of SAEHP, said that he was disappointed and surprised by Irwin’s remarks.
Todd said: “SAEHP, as the implementation arm of the Import/Export Task Team has a widely representative board of directors including myself, Mike de Kock, Chris van Niekerk, Lee Scribante and Marc Greene of the TBA, Dr John Grewar, Mick Goss and Brian Finch. Gary Grant of the Equine Group assists on the accounting side. The board represents all sectors of our industry and carries its interests with urgency, honour and commitment.
“To date the SAEHP has created successful partnerships with government. A number of regulatory tasks have been delegated to us by government. We also have successful ongoing interaction with foreign governments.”
“SAEHP is a non-profit organisation with our sole focus being the establishment of long-term sustainable imports.”
Photo: Summerhill Stud.