FOLLOWING Government’s announcement to extend the COVID-19 Lockdown to the end of April, there have been numerous meetings of the Racing Operators, the Racing Association and The National Horseracing Authority over the Easter weekend. The following update is hereby provided:
Targeted Resumption of Racing
On the assumption that the extended national Lockdown is lifted AND that racing is permitted to resume with adequate betting revenues flowing to the Racing Operators, the plan is to recommence racing on Friday, 1 May. To this end, The National Horseracing Authority is in the process of making a coordinated representation to Government on behalf of the South African Horseracing Industry to enable such resumption after Lockdown is lifted, under whatever Government restrictions are implemented.
Given that we will have effectively lost 5 weeks of racing, the Racing Operators have agreed to push the National Feature Race Programme back around a month, which will mean that the Vodacom Durban July will take place on the last Saturday in July (with the Gold Cup meeting pushed out to the end of August). This will allow the Highveld to move a slightly revamped Champions Day (featuring the Champions Challenge and six other major races) to the last Saturday in May and stage the Horse Chestnut Stakes (Gr 1), SA Derby (Gr 1) and SA Oaks (Gr 2) on Saturday 2 May.
In the Western Cape, racing will now resume on Saturday 2 May (alongside Turffontein), with the first legs of the 3yo Winter Series (Variety Club Mile and Sweet Chestnut Stakes), together with the Klawervlei Farm 2yo Sales race, moved to this day and the race programme amended accordingly. This will enable Gold Circle to move their night meeting on Friday 1 May to Sunday 3 May. Gold Circle confirms that during the period May to July there will be no night racing at Greyville and these meetings will be moved to alternative days.
In the Eastern Cape, the lost East Cape Nursery (L) will be rescheduled for Friday 1 May, and the second and third legs of the World Sports Betting Poly Challenge will be relocated to 8 and 25 May respectively.
Depending on the Government regulations applicable after the lifting of the Lockdown, it is likely that we will have to resume racing “behind closed doors” (possibly with even tighter restrictions than before) with only essential participants allowed to attend race meetings. Given this, and the unique logistical challenges involved in staging racing at Flamingo Park, a decision will only be taken to resume racing in Kimberley once the government’s directives post lockdown are known.
It is common cause that the Racing Operators’ businesses have been under significant pressure of late for several well documented reasons. This has been further heightened by the national Lockdown necessitated by the COVID-19 containment measures implemented by Government. During this period virtually no revenue has been generated whilst the Racing Operators have had to continue funding their operations. This includes a significant effort by the Racing Operators, The National Horseracing Authority, the Racing Association and all stakeholders to keep the training centres operational under strict access control and sanitization protocols.
Due to this drying up of revenue and the uncertainty around the timing of the resumption of racing, football and other sports around the world (on which the Racing Operators are heavily reliant for revenue), it is unfortunately unavoidable that racing will resume with a lower level of stakes until the businesses of the Racing Operators normalize. In the interim, the Racing Association has agreed to contribute R13.1 million towards stakes in Phumelela regions and the Western Cape from May through July, thereby helping to mitigate the resulting reduction in stakes in those regions.
It has been agreed nationally to reduce the MINIMUM stake thresholds for Pattern and Feature Races as follows :-
- Grade 1 – Open R425k, F&M / 2yo R325k
- Grade 2 – Open R175k, F&M / 2yo R150k
- Grade 3 – Open R125k, F&M / 2yo R100k
- Listed – R85k
- Non-Black-Type – R80k
The necessary communication with the Asian Pattern Committee in relation to the amended stakes levels and new dates for the Pattern has been provided by The National Horseracing Authority.
In addition, minor races stakes will be run at reduced levels in all regions with a single stake for all minor race categories per region as follows :-
- KZN – R70k
- Highveld – R67,5k
- Western Cape – R40k
- Eastern Cape – R35k
- Northern Cape – R25,5k
The Racing Operators are acutely mindful of the devastating impact this stakes reduction will have on all participants in the sport and are committed to increasing these stakes levels as soon as they are able to. Phumelela and Kenilworth Racing are extremely grateful to the Racing Association for their support, without which these minor stakes levels would have been significantly lower.
The Racing Operators and The National Horseracing Authority are addressing all other areas of their businesses too, not least of which how their staff are treated during this challenging time. In line with Government guidance and directives, staff who are either not required or unable to work during the Lockdown period, will be placed on annual leave as appropriate.
Further, the various senior executives of all three Racing Operators and The National Horseracing Authority have had their remuneration significantly reduced (by up to 50%) even though their workloads have remained unchanged and even enhanced in most cases. This in line with the financial hardship everybody in the industry is facing currently.
The National Horseracing Authority has also agreed to reduce the Racing Operators’ levies (the primary funding source of The National Horseracing Authority) by 50% for the months of April, May and June.