The members of the Mauritius Turf Club (MTC) chose unanimously through their Extraordinary General Assembly held on Friday March 3, 2023, not to organize horse racing this season.
This is the first time this will happen in the 210 year existence of the Mauritius Turf Club, but they have not closed down and are hoping for better days ahead.
There has been a push towards the nationalisation of horse racing on the island since the installation of the Lepep government in 2014
The Parry Report, a Commission of Inquiry on Horse Racing in Mauritius done in 2015, concluded with the following couple of recommendations among many others:
- the current regulatory and governance functions of the MTC be removed and, instead, become the responsibility of a new independent Sports’ Governing Body called “The Mauritius Horseracing Authority‟ (MHA);
- the Mauritius Turf Club should retain responsibility for Race Planning and Race-day operations;
However, when in 2021 the government announced an amendment to the GRA (Gambling Regulatory Authority), claiming an implementation of the Parry report, the impact on the Mauritius Turf Club was far more profound.
Chairman Jean Michel Giraud said at the time, “We are going to face a real nationalization of races through the Horse Racing Division (HRD) and the GRA, which will not only affect betting, but also the organization of races. This Bill aims to remove the last remaining prerogatives of the MTCSL (MTC Sports and Leisure Limited). After having set up a Board Of Appeal, it will now appoint the Stipes, decide which races will be on the cards, how many race days there will be and who will be allowed to race or not. In addition, it will decide about the licenses of trainers, jockeys and who will be eligible to be an owner. In a nutshell, they will have full control of the races. The MTCSL will only be left with the ambulance service, horse sampling and lawn maintenance! The regulator wants to become the organizer. This doesn’t exist anywhere in the world!”.
Then last year MTCSL put in a new license application to the GRA.
The MTCSL then received the conditions attached to the new license.
These conditions were deemed unacceptable and were rejected following a meeting of the directors of the MTCSL.
Therefore the MTCSL were not able to organize the races and consequently the first day of racing scheduled for April 23, 2022, had to be cancelled.
Then what happened was the City Council of Port Louis issued a notice terminating the lease of the Mauritius Turf Club’s (MTCSL) use of the state-owned land on which the Champ de Mars racecourse is situated, a lease which was supposed to be valid until 2028.
They did this soon after the GRA had said they would not change the conditions of the aforementioned license.
They justified their unilateral decision by explaining that the MTCSL could not organise the races since it did not have a “Horse Racing Organiser” license.
The legality of the decision was challenged.
The People’s Turf PLC (PTP) then applied for the use of the Champ De Mars racecourse.
To cut a long story short both MTCSL and PTP ended up organising race meetings during the 2022 season, usually on alternate weekends.
However, in the latest round of troubles to hit the island’s horseracing fraternity MTCSL was informed by the HRD in a letter dated January 4 that its horse import license had been revoked.
They were advised it might be a temporary measure upon some legalities being investigated, but the Le Mauricien summed it up by saying, “More than ever the economic strangulation but also the prevention of the MTCSL from existing and functioning continues inexorably…”
The following report from sport.defimedia.info in February underlines how untenable the situation has become for the MTCSL:
The new lease proposed to the MTCSL no longer covers the entire Champ de Mars racecourse, but only the grass track and the sand track. The other parts of the Champ de Mars, in particular the ‘trotting track’ and its car park, the access to the Avenue Duke of York Club (except to be used as an Emergency Exit), the bleachers and the stables which are housed there, are excluded. . In addition, the MTCSL will no longer have the right to install its false rails or any structures whatsoever on the track or elsewhere.
According to an executive, the MTCSL alone financed the maintenance of the track from December 2021 to June 2022 and neither PTP nor COIREC considered that the MTCSL should be reimbursed. Regarding safety and insurance, the MTCSL must take the necessary measures to ensure the safety of the public, the jockeys and the horses. COIREC excludes all liability in the event of an incident or accident. In addition, the MTCSL must pay compensation in the event of a lawsuit against COIREC. They must subscribe to a ‘Public Liability Insurance’ which therefore covers the entire Champ de Mars. This even if the racetrack is no longer covered by the lease.
A member of the MTCSL did not mince his words against COIREC. “We are putting everything on our backs, because we did not respect the prescribed deadline to make our request for renewal of the lease? It’s bullshit. Everything has been orchestrated and changes have been made so that the PTP can freely enjoy these spaces. They were forced to come up with new terms to fit the reality of People’s Turf PLC. Last year, PTP did not give us access to the interior of the Champ de Mars and blocked the parking lot, even though our contract mentioned these spaces. We had to go to court. All this is done to make PTP legal,” he laments.
MTCSL has also written to the CEO of PTP. Khulwant Kumar Ubheeram, on Saturday to ask him for his proposal for a ‘Cost-sharing Agreement’, for the maintenance of the track, because the MTCSL is not able to assess the real impact of the lease on its capacity to operate and its finances. This request was reiterated on Monday. The MTCSL and MTC Boards will meet this week to decide how to proceed, once they have heard the responses from PTP and the GRA/HRD.
The MTCSL cannot come and complain and talk about favouritism. We do not favor PTP, but it is in good standing and has met the deadline for renewing its lease, unlike MTCSL. It is up to the latter to decide whether or not to sign the lease for the use of the Champ de Mars and to respect the clauses which are attached”, declares an influential member of the COIREC Board.
The MTCSL’s decision to continue organising the races hinged on the “cost sharing agreement” between them and the PTP. They waited a long time to receive the document and the PTP then requested a non-disclosure agreement, which would prevent it from disclosing the amount of this ‘Cost Sharing Agreement’.
On Friday, the news broke that MTCSL had decided not to organise the races this year.
A press release stated:
“The news has just broken.