Kevan Rice and his wife lead in The Gliding Fish after the Mark Dixon-trained gelding had won at Hollywoodbets Scottsville in March (Candiese Lenferna Photography)
Kevan Rice is a part-owner in the Flying The Flag gelding The Gliding Fish among other Mark Dixon-trained horses.
The latter horse had to be scratched at the start on Wednesday in an incident that was most unfair to both him and his connections.
He had sat quietly in the stalls for more than two minutes, but then became intimidated by an unruly horse next to him.
The latter had been given at least a half-a-dozen chances to load despite continual fractious behaviour.
The Gliding Fish injured himself as a result of the intimidation.
Rice gave his views on starting stall procedures in South Africa.
He also provided his own recommendations on how it could be improved.
He said, What I find amazing in this country is that despite the racing industry having gone through such a deterioration, and kudos to Greg Bortz and Hollywooddbets and others who are trying to do their best to do whatever they can, the basics are still not entrenched or followed.
Our horse had a really good chance of winning on Wednesday, but that’s not the point.
The point was it was two minutes and 6 seconds he had been in the starting stalls waiting for the number two drawn horse to load.
I had recorded the race and I came back and timed it.
In between that time the horse in stall 9 was getting frustrated.
The veternarian was correct to scratch our horse because he had torn the skin off his hindleg.
But I asked the vet ‘What are the rules when it comes to starting?’
He replied, ‘It is discretionary.’
I said, ‘Discretionary to who?’
My thoughts are the following: Is discretionary when you are in a good mood or a bad mood? Is discretionary when there is a favourite when you are trying to load or not a favourite? Where is the borderline and who decides whether it is within the bounds or out the bounds if there are no bounds?
I think it is so poor for racing.
I can accept for juveniles, who have not had an opportunity to race much, so they are skittish at the start and so give them leniency … absolutely, without question.
But four, five, six-year-olds who have raced many times before, where do you draw the line?
My thoughts after this incident was you’ve got to penalise somebody, because the punters are losing.
To have two horses scratched in only a nine horse race because it takes more than two minutes to load nine horses???
Either the starters and handlers are that poor or the horses or that bad, it’s somewhere in between there.
What if it was your P6 or Jackpot banker that gets scratched and the favourite doesn’t come in.
That penalises punters and they are scared of that.
I’m not a big punter and I’ve only been a racehorse owner and breeder for the last four or five years, but I look at the amount of money I’ve personally invested buying horses, breeding horses and then seeing stakes money being reduced by 20%.
And today (after the starting stall incident) I questioned, having bought three horses at the last KZN Sale for Mark Dixon, whom I rate as a top trainer, ‘Why am I doing this?’
I just think what they should do getting back to the starting system is, you can’t just say ok two minutes to load. What if you’ve got three bad horses, that could be six minutes of loading and what about the horses that are standing in the stalls for that long?
It is just not right.
They’ve got to have some sort of rule.
The Gliding Fish was initially not a good loader and I have this belief that what is fair for one is fair for everybody. There were times when I thought “scratch Fish” because he’s making it uncomfortable for the other horses.
Because I love horses, and obviously we have more love for our own horses, but our love is the horses and you can’t penalise others by saying ‘Oh just allow my horse time to load just because he’s our horse – it’s wrong’.
Number 2 was unruly and my question is why allow a bully to continue to be a bully at the expense of everybody else.
The horse is difficult to load so give him lots of treatment at the gates and give him lots of training, let him get used to it.
So my suggestion is you allow ex number of seconds or ex number of attempts for a horse and you then scratch him or her.
There could also be a system whereby a trainer gets a black tick for a difficult loader and then if repeating over a certain period, he or she could then be taken to task for not doing enough gate training.
But for me as a small owner supporting a small yard like Mark Dixon, Wednesday’s incident was just not right.
Peter Muscutt, who trained the unruly horse, in fact actually came and apologised to Mark Dixon and myself. It was obviously not his call to give it so many attempts to load. The starter should be brought to task.
We love our horses and it is routine for my wife and I to go to Summerveld to visit our horses and feed the whole barn carrots, we love it.
So this is not about winning this is just about applying consistent rules that will make it better for everybody.
If one had the time to research, one could see how many times it happens, as it appears to happen often around the country.
The question is why is it allowed to happen when there is no consistent rule applied to how you load and what the consequences of not loading smoothly are?