JOHN Stuart, recently appointed CEO of Phumelela Gaming and Leisure, yesterday undertook to commission a full review of the current track management processes after the meeting on the Vaal Classic track was called off owing to an “uneven and inconsistent track”.
According to Stuart, track management and maintenance needs to be aligned to the racing calendar to avoid a repeat of these types of incidents in future.
It was also decided yesterday to close down the Vaal Classic course for immediate scarification. It will only reopen at the end of November.
As a result, all race meetings scheduled for that track will be moved to alternative courses.
On Tuesday, a track inspection had also been made, after which the track manager, trainers, Phumelela officials, the chief stipendiary Steward and a senior jockey had concurred that the track was in racing condition.
The senior jockey concerned was Deon Sampson, who, along with former jockey Andrew Fortune, worked the horses on Tuesday morning.
“When I walked the course on Tuesday morning I thought there is no way we could race on Thursday and I expressed my view to Andrew. I found mole holes on the course and reported those to the track manager so they would sort them out.
“Andrew also looked at the track and said he was considering scratching his runners because he saw lots of divots in the parts of the course where most of his horses were drawn.
“However, Andrew and I then took two horses and raced them over different parts of the track and the course held up well. At no stage did either horse stumble and mine felt safe under me.”
The decision was then taken to stage the meeting at the course.
“Obviously it is embarrassing that we got it so wrong but it was a bad judgment call from all parties,” said Sampson. “Unfortunately, our tracks have taken a pounding this winter and we don’t have many options. I have helped out about 50 times on these issues and it is the first time I have got it wrong. The fact that Andrew did not scratch any of his horses tells you he was quite happy to race.”
Yesterday’s meeting was called off after the running of three races.
Next Thursday’s meeting will be moved to the Inside track at Turffontein but as the card has already been printed it will still show Vaal on the cover.
According to Thomas Rasasamola, Phumelela’s senior track manager, the Vaal Inside and Outside track, on which the Grand Heritage will be raced, is coming along nicely. “I am confident that the track will be ready,” he said. – Jack Milner/TAB News.