By Nicholas Godfrey
South Africa: The planned resumption of racing in South Africa on Friday (May 1) is on hold as the industry is still awaiting the necessary government clearance.
Friday’s meeting at Kenilworth in Cape Town has been cancelled with less than 24 hours’ notice – and subsequent meetings must be considered ‘on hold’. In immediate jeopardy is Saturday’s card at Turffontein, which is set to feature the South African Derby and Oaks and the Horse Chestnut Stakes.
Late on Thursday it was announced that a decision on the Turffontein meeting would be made “by close of business on Friday”. If Turffontein is abandoned, the three feature races will be rescheduled for Sunday May 10 in what was described as a “last-ditch attempt to stage them”.
Decisions on further meetings, set to take place from Sunday, are expected to made in similar fashion – the preceding day, pending government feedback – effectively putting racing in the country on about 18 hours’ notice on a daily basis.
Although racing in South Africa has been suspended since March 27 owing to the coronavirus pandemic, the National Horseracing Authority (NHA) tabled an application for racing to restart at the start of May after the national lockdown was eased.
However, despite several attempts to get a positive answer from government, the NHA reported on Thursday that it had “not received any feedback … on the status” of the submission.
The NHA issued a statement on Thursday confirming the position, saying: “On reading the legislated lockdown regulations that become effective on 1 May, under Table 1 Alert Level 4, ‘the transport of live animals’, clarity is being sought and it is our understanding that the movement of non-producing livestock, needs further amplification.”
The statement went on: “Until we have a response in writing, text or even verbal, the NHA is not in a position to provide the necessary feedback to the racing operators to recommence racing.
“In saying the above, the NHA can assure all stakeholders that we shall continue to engage such that a favourable outcome is obtained as soon as possible.”
Racing at Kenilworth was due to start at 12.35pm local time with the Social Distancing Maiden, followed by the Wash Your Hands Maiden and the Stay Safe With A Mask Maiden.