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Ricky Maingard’s new racing syndicate, Wolf Power Syndicate, will bring back memories to mature racing fans (Picture: Cape Racing)



David Mollett

In 2024, it will be 60 years since the release of one of the most famous songs in the music world. Do you recognize the lyrics?.
Come Gather ‘Round People
Wherever You Roam
And Admit That The Waters
Around You have Grown
Yes, you got it in one. The 1964 Bob Dylan song “The Times They Are A-Changin’.”
A changing of the times in the world of horse racing is exactly what has happened.
People are always banging the drum that punters are the lifeline of racing, but without owners it would grind to a halt.
Until recently, we had become pretty accustomed to the Gr 1 races being plundered by rich owners and breeders and those feeding the more moderate animals were simply the supporting cast. Many fell by the wayside because the monthly cost was too expensive.
Now – rather like special offers at your favourite supermarket – carrots are being dangled to attract new owners to the sport. Syndication is the new name of the game.
A Cape Racing media release before their Ready-To-Run Sale stated “most of the region’s trainers have come on board with customized offers on newly purchased horses designed to attract individuals from all walks of life.”
Some familiar names are getting involved. Ricky Maingard has formed the “Wolf Power Syndicate” named after the best horse I’ve seen here (but not in the world) in 51 years in the sport. Ricky has put together a six-horse package and said “Our aim is to be a boutique-style training quality rather than quantity.”
Michele Rix and Ashwin Reynolds have launched the “Kommet” syndicate (no prizes for the reason they chose this name) with a professionally designed client brochure and a website. Another top trainer going the syndiction route is Glen Kotzen.
The next plus for owners is the “Double Bonus” incentive announced prior to the Cape Ready-To-Run Sale. 23 lots of 89 lots offered were eligible for this bonus which sees an owner receive R200 000 in prize money if his/her horse wins as a juvenile.
The studs which came to the party for this bonus were Normandy Stud (10 lots also as agent), Soetendal (6 lots as agent), Woodhill (3 lots), and Beaumont, Ridgemont, Paarl Diammant (as agent) and Riethuiskraal one apiece.
Thanks to the Racing Operators and top businessmen, the financial lives of grooms have improved markedly compared to a few years ago. Indeed, some of the older grooms must be shaking their heads in disbelief.
In this month’s Betway Summer Cup, the sponsors will give R20 000 to each groom looking after one of the 20 runners. This is a big payday and, of course, those attached to the winner and placed horses will get their usual percentage.
In August, 4Racing CEO, Fundi Sithehe, announced the Turffontein grooms accommodation renovation project to ensure their living quarters were improved.
At the time, Turffontein grooms representative, Nceba Magazi, said: “We can proudly say that we are seen, our voices are heard and we are recognized. Having a voice was all we ever desired.”
Devin Heffer, communications manager at Hollywoodbets, is a young man with his feet on the ground and he said: “The focus of this grooms initiative was always more than just rewarding them over and above their normal earnings. It was about highlighting the importance of their role in the ecosystem.”
After my recent spell in the UK, I was amazed by the number of special offers daily advertised by bookmakers and the tote to attract clients. Some layers were paying six places on the Ebor Handicap at York and we’re talking about a quarter the odds a place – not the lesser odds offered here.
However, Betway, a sponsor with big involvment in sport both here and in the UK, have surely attracted new clients by announcing they will pay the 6% government tax usually deducted from a punter’s winnings.
Will this tempt other big firms such as Hollywoodbets and World Sports Betting to follow suit? Punters will certainly hope this is the case.
It’s also worth remembering that entrance to most race meetings in SA is free. This doesn’t happen in the UK, Australia or America. Entrance to the County Stand for their big meeting at York in August was 70 pounds (R1600). You are very much behind the eight-ball before you place your first bet!
Yesterday, I checked out the special offers advertised by some of the leading bookmaker firms. Paddy Power were offering 50 pounds (R1150) in free bets for new clients while Skybet and Betfair were both offering 30 pounds (R690).
For new customers, the Tote were offering 30 pounds (R690) in free bets once a 10 pound (R230) wager had been placed.
Of course, the horses are – like footballers in the Premier League – the stars of the show.
Right now, I doubt there has been such excitement about our equine athletes for many a year.
This time in 2022, we were raving about Charles Dickens possibly emerging as good as Horse Chestnut – or for us older guys – as good as Wolf Power or Elevation.
We still have Charles Dickens to look forward to but both Main Defender and Sandringham Summit have put their hands up as possible future champions with their magnificent battle in the Betway Graham Beck Stakes.
So, yes, the Times They Are A’Changing and some would say about time too. The bottom line is the sport of horseracing is on an upward spiral which looked highly unlikely two years ago.