IN April 1986, the Ronnie Napier committee – appointed by the then Race Clubs in the old Transvaal – drew up their “Ten Commandments” – in a five-year plan to boost the image and professional efficiency of Highveld Racing.

We look back at the Napier report, and we’ll leave it to you to decide whether all, or a few, or none of these proposed image-boosters will still have value in the industry as it stands today.

Napier’s “Ten Commandments”

  1. Highly efficient Racing Management
  2. Excellent functional, aesthetically pleasing Training Facilities
  3. Realistic Stakes
  4. The highest credibility and control over racing
  5. The majority of the country’s top owners, trainers, horses and jockeys to be predominantly in one centre for extended periods, especially during the Transvaal racing season
  6. Excellent Racing Surfaces and supporting facilities all year round
  7. Prestigious Graded races
  8. Prestigious Race Courses
  9. Acquire a reputation for co-operation with the rest of SA racing
  10. Develop a stable Labour Force

Racing Digest reported at the time: “The fourth ‘commandment” is the most ambitious and most contentious of all. Napier is acutely aware of the Jockey Club’s public image, and of the need for the club to be seen as actively exerting control and willing to in
form.

“Napier was not in agreement with recommendation of the ‘Whiter Paper’ and specifically with Commissioner Tony Christie’s conclusions. Christie, and the Transvaal Provincial Administration (TPA) itself came out very much in favour of a totally professional approach to the control of racing.

“They advocated a Stipendiary Board excluding Race Club Stewards, and comprising solely of professional stipes, arguing that they are the only truly impartial people on a racecourse.

“Napier countered that ‘Race club stewards understand what integrity is all about. They are highly successful businessmen, and have the peers to judge them. If they are involved in any decision in which they may have a material interest, they simply recuse themselves.’ ”

Napier said about the proposed abolition of bookmakers: “Personally I feel that on-course bookmakers provide a valuable service – particularly to big punters. I don’t believe the offcourse bookmakers contribute enough. To me the ideal would be a combination of on-course bookmakers and an off-course tote.”

About drug detection, he commented: “The club needs to spend money the whole time to stay ahead. This is a vital aspect. We need to continually improve the Jockey Club Laboratory.”

A criticism of the Jockey Club in the policy document was the perception that the penalties that were meted out to offenders seemed inconsistent.

Said Napier: “You have to distinguish between therapeutic drugs and the procaine penicillins – which may have been used for injury, in the belief that it would be out of the horse’s system by race day – and the hardline narcotic analgesics.”

The SA Racehorse commented: “All well and good, but what concerns us is that, historically, the elements that make racing have rarely been able to reach consensus – even the racing clubs find it hard to agree on the most trivial matters. (The industry has) a transparent death wish never to agree on anything. Examples are legion.”

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