SOUTH Africa is yet another step closer to unburdened bloodstock exports, the game-changer our industry has been waiting for.

The European Union (EU) confirmed on Tuesday that an audit of South African export protocols will be conducted in the months of April/May 2020. This follows a meeting between the EU, the South African Department of Agriculture’s Director of Animal Health, Dr Mpho Maja and Niki Kruger, Chief Director of Trade Negotiations, International Trade and Economic Development Division (ITED).

When it was announced midway through November that the EU had finally agreed to an audit, the South African Equine Health & Protocols (SAEHP) media release was met with the usual negativity from a proportion of the South African racing fans’ talk forum galleries, though one commentator, Alistair Brown, put the matter in perspective quite succinctly: “I find it strange that in so many of the posts about the much anticipated opening of direct exports to Europe, there are always those who seem to think that this is something that is only going to benefit the ‘big’ (“rich”) players (owners) in the sport!

“Good horses – as all of us who have been in the game for years (or decades) know – come from any where… the number of cheaply bought yearlings who have become top performers for small owners and trainers are too numerous to detail here.

“That R30,000 yearling (for instance) that goes on to win his debut and next couple of starts for a lucky (‘small time’) owner IS going to be sought-after by overseas buyers if they know that they can export quickly and reasonably without losing almost an entire season of a young horse’s racing career (as is currently the case).

“More international owners will be attracted to South African racing with the knowledge that if they do ‘hit the jackpot’ with a top horse, that they will be able to campaign it overseas without the restrictive hurdles and delays currently in place.”

While the audit is now officially still a few months away, buyers should take heed of Turf Talk columnist David Allan’s views expressed yesterday.

He wrote: “… the January 2020 Cape Premier Yearling Sale (and potentially BSA’s National Yearling Sale) could be presented as potentially the last opportunity to buy-buy-buy at today’s prices!”

Vendors at CPYS will be hoping that the positive sentiment surrounding open exports will lead to an early influx of powerful overseas buyers to Cape Town on 16 January, and it will be interesting to see what transpires.

Adrian Todd, CEO of SAEHP, commented: “The EU will be sending a pre-audit questionnaire early in the New Year so that final preparations can be done. This is a very exciting development for all of us in the South African breeding and racing industries. One of the most encouraging aspects is that we have shown what can be done when the private and government sectors cooperate and work to the same goal.”

Eight-times SA Champion trainer and SAEHP board member Mike de Kock was delighted and said: “With all the negative news we’ve had, this is the announcement of the year. I am excited for SA racing, the audit still has to be completed and there will be a few technical issues after that, but we’re as close now as we’ve been which is wonderful.

“This is a vital issue. Some of our industry’s biggest investors, like the Sheikhs of Dubai, have been getting impatient but now, at last, we have something tangible, light at the end of the tunnel. I have seen the ramifications of the prohibiting protocols on my own business with an internationally competitive Dubai string of 40 horses grinding to an almost complete halt.

“Adrian Todd and his team at SAEHP have worked very hard and in the face of many obstacles to get us this far. They deserve compliments, along with Dr Maja who gave racing her preference and several others who have done sterling work behind the scenes.”