By Mwangi Githahu May 13, 2020Cape Town – The national lockdown has placed South African horse racing under serious threat of closure, which would seal the fates of 60 000 jobs, and see thousands of horses euthanised.
In a last-ditch attempt to ward off this scenario, members of the industry have put together an online petition appealing to President Cyril Ramaphosa to step in and save them by allowing “horse racing to continue behind closed doors”.
Champion race horse trainer Jonathan Snaith, who has collected over 20 000 signatures for the petition in two days, said: “This entails strict protocols and social distancing without any on-course spectators whatsoever.
“We are asking for closed racing which will involve about 65 people on a 100 hectare property with around 15 minutes of actual racing per day. That is all it will take to avoid the total collapse of this beautiful industry.
“Failure to resume racing now will see this industry close its doors for ever, along with the loss of 60 000 jobs and an international media disaster for South Africa, which would come about with the euthanasia of thousands of horses that can no longer support themselves by racing,” said Snaith.
The National Horse Racing Authority’s chief executive, Vee Moodley, said: “The health and safety of all stakeholders is of paramount importance to us, thus we acted swiftly in joining the government to flatten the curve. We are proud that up until now, through the stringent enforcement of the rules, we have no reported cases of Covid-19 in any part of our industry and we intend to keep it that way.
“We have applied to the government for financial assistance, and we are told that it is under consideration.”
Meanwhile, Phumelela Gaming and Leisure (PGL) which went into business rescue last week, has received a cash injection from the Oppenheimers.
South Africa is the eighth most important horse-racing market out of 65 countries, which is significant for horse exports and profitable TV rights.