Trotting and Harness Racing
The Harness Racing Association of South Africa

News & Events

Chairman's Report - Friday 18th November 2011


 I am pleased to advise that progress is at long last tangible after what has been for the most part, another difficult year. Certain milestones have been reached, most importantly of which, is a rapprochement with Gold Circle under the foresight and steerage of Michel Nairac. Gold Circle have just had members pass the requisite resolutions to de-merge the KZN and WC regions. Certain processes however still require legal sanction for this to become fully effective. Gold Circle, together with PGE and Phumelela, face a current Competition Board complaint from an EC business-woman Phindi Kema which keeps tensions at a fairly high level.  

 Our office-suite in the Greyville grandstand complex has been extended, your chairman has been co-opted onto the board of the KZN racing chapter, feasibilities of different JV models with GC are being investigated, harness racing continues, and certain Phumelela commissions owing to us have been channeled back to us.

 We remain however sorely constrained by a cash shortage, owing to the morally questionable exclusion from us of participating in funds generated in South Africa by in-coming harness racing simulcasts. Your board remains committed to fighting its case with ATG, Phumelela and PGE, and this task will form a major aspect of strategy in the ensuing year.

 As was evidenced at the Parliamentary DTI Portfolio Committee’s public hearings on the report of the Gambling Review Commission in Cape Town recently, transformation in the horse-racing and stud breeding sectors remains of importance to government and central to our purpose and aspirations. Scrutiny by government of the current thoroughbred industry is intense and I am sure that change to the land-scape is both imminent and inevitable. Harness racing and its attributes can and hopes to fill any future voids.

 Our natural alignment with rural horseracing (telebhela) via the trotting and pacing gaits is compelling, and unlike with the other code, provides an enormous existing base of potential support. We are working closely with both Gold Circle and government in this development. One such project in this endeavour is the construction of a rural data-base, which is currently underway and to assist with which, we have engaged young Devonne Govender – one of our licensed drivers. Our links with DTI and the formation of PDI co-operatives to participate at ownership level in both the racing and breeding environments continues.  

 The commitment of HRSA to training remains key to our strategy, and our sponsorships at both the Dundee July and Sisonke Summer Cup are both disproportionate to our means, and noted by government. At the 2011 Dundee July, we again ran a “tote” on the day which once again offered the strategically important “Pick 7” harness racing bet.

 The Coastal Horse-care Unit also continues to work closely with us in rural equestrian development. It is sad to note that the equine has fallen off the agenda as far as the department of agriculture (DAFF) is concerned (only production livestock animals are supported), and work is required to reverse this unfortunate dereliction of responsibility.

 I am however delighted to report that the Registrar for Animal Improvement, DAFF, has at last approved our applications for formal registration of the Standardbred and Trotteurs Francais as approved breeds in South Africa. This approval took no less than five (5) painstaking years, 2 trips to parliament and much angst to achieve! This formalization provides the necessary foundation for our two newly registered breed societies to operate. HRSA has created The Standardbred Breeders Association and The Trotteurs Francais Breeders Association. Proposed constitutions for both are in a state of construct, and we are working closely with the Stud Book in Bloemfontein in this regard.  

 Our attempts to import frozen semen for AI have been unsuccessful, with breeding farms in both North America and Europe indicating an unwillingness to freeze semen on the onerous testing and collection terms required by the SA veterinary authorities.

 We have now taken the “bull by the horns” and purchased the stallion Sugar Trader (US) bh 2000, who we expect to receive in mid-February. This horse has both a strong pedigree and solid racing performance (he finished second in the Hambletonian stakes USA), with a total career earnings of R6m, and is already the sire of winners in Europe. We are yet to determine a “home” to stand Sugar Trader. At some point, we believe a Pacing stallion should also be secured to fully complement the current trotter and rural breeding base.

 In January and February we again hosted a touring party from the Sundsvalls (equine) Academy and we hope to repeat this in 2012. Another Swedish team would help significantly in our project of data compilation and passport issue to the rural herd.

 In August, driver Bart Rice travelled to Italy to participate in the European amateur driving championships in Taranto. Bart was unsuccessful there in driving a winner but no doubt gained much exposure for us and experience for himself.

 We have raced only 7 times in 2011 and remain constrained by a shortage of stake monies to elevate the frequency of racing. A race is due on 22nd November at Greyville, and the possibility exists for a showcase race at Ballito during the forthcoming COP 17 extravaganza in December.

 HRSA is proud to have established the SA Trotting Academy. There is an intention to develop this core concept into a unique and combined stallion station, equine research, training and extension facility in Dundee. Continuity of the project has been negatively impacted by the recent untimely death of Mr Mabizela (project leader) in the Umzinyathi District Mayor’s office, and new resources at that end are now urgently required.  An MOU comprising HRSA, DSR, DAFF and Coastal Horsecare Unit underpins the project.

 Interestingly, the world-class Coromandel Stud at Lydenberg in Mpumalanga province, the dream and creation of Edgars’ Group founder Sydney Press, is still unoccupied. We have been in touch with the Land Bank and it appears possible that under our aegis this facility could be re-established as a Standardbred breeding farm.

 The KZN Dept of Sport and Recreation’s Rural Horseracing program, of which we are a stakeholder, continues to support us with funding for various joint rural equine training and upliftment projects. We are grateful to MEC Weziwe Thusi and Mike Mthembu for ongoing support. An application for 2011/2012 DSR transfer funding for production of the rural provincial equine data-base has just been approved..

 We are extremely thankful to Mr Ulf Hörnberg (Sec Gen of ST in Sweden) for all his support to date and were sorry to receive his resignation off the HRSA board. He has been replaced on the board with the co-option of Mr Johan Nilsson (Sweden). Johan will be visiting us for 2 weeks in December.  

 We are additionally pleased to have gained a big notch forward in our quest for transformation value, in the appointment of Mr Mandlonke Ntanzi to our board. Mandla brings with him strong political credentials and access to high office in South Africa. We wish him well in this position, and look forward to the positives that he can bring to harness racing’s quest for recognition.

 Introduction of the V75 is still considered the greatest likely mechanism to provide the funding required for growth in our industry, and we are aggrieved by Phumelela’s below-the-belt “introduction” and suppression of this bet. To this end we are currently engaged with ATG to acquire a corresponding non-exclusive licensing arrangement. We need to exert every strength to acquire this. Both France and Italy have also been engaged to provide us with simulcast pictures. 

 I come now to the most pressing and important issue for HRSA and ask acceptance for the principles set out here-under, and to which your board have tied their coat-tails:

 The Racecourse Operator’s License which has been held by HRSA for the Dundee airfield track-site for the past 5 consecutive years and which is renewable annually on 31st December, requires urgent transfer, or faces expiry on 31st December this year. The value of this license is mostly due to the old ordinance which granted a corresponding “permission” to hold a totalisator license. On the 1st May 2011, the new KZN Gaming and Betting Act – 2010 became law, and all licenses, terms and priviledges held under the old ordinance will expire at the end of this year.

 A preclusion of HRSA continuing to hold this license is that the new Act requires licensees to be a “corporate body” (as defined in the new Companies Act). We have had engagement with CIPC in this regard, but owing to a huge back-log they are unable to provide us with an NPC company to meet this timing requirement. Furthermore there are a number of onerous points of compliance required by the new Act which we are now urgently attempting to effect. We have consulted extensively with Barkers Attorneys, Durban, who have done the investigation for us and advised that the new Racecourse Operator and Totalisator licenses should be applied for by Trotco (Pty) Ltd. This entity already holds the commercial rights to trotting in South Africa by way of the Eclipse Agreement with HRSA, and is the vehicle for BBBEE equity stake-holdings in the trotting industry. Trotco will correspondingly transfer 10% of its shares to HRSA, and continue with its obligations as set out in the agreement.

 We intend to submit both applications to the KZN Gambling Board on Mon 21st Nov.     

The future “home” for harness racing is still planned for the KZN north coast, and most of you will by now have seen the layout and plans that have been drawn for inclusion of this facility in the new Greenlands (Ballito) town epi-centre on the west side of the N2 motorway. This of course remains a dream until funding is secured, and to this end HRSA has lodged an application for R125m project through the DBSA “Jobsfund” initiative. If this were to succeed it would yield 90% grant funding with only 10% to be raised by ourselves. We currently await an outcome to this application.

 Your board is furthermore considering the offer of  Wembley Stadium as a Gauteng trotting track facility by Johannesburg businessman Pierre Sanan, and is evaluating the current status of the old Bloemfontein race-track for a Freestate presence. 

 RSA membership numbers as at 1st November 2011 were as follows:

 Hon Life Members                1

Life Members                          1

Family Memberships             2

Ordinary Members                 31

Rural Members                     553

 Our continued gratitude to Michel Nairac and Gold Circle must be recorded. The foresight of Michel, use of the Greyville office premises, Summerveld barn, and NRB services provided to us are all greatly appreciated. We trust that we can grow this alliance into a formalized collaboration in the future.

 A huge thank you to all owners who have invested  patience, money in bloodstock from overseas and received little so far by way of return. Please hang in there! The times, they are a changin’!

 Thank you too to the many other contributors and supporters of trotting – your voices are heard and appreciated. We note sadly the recent emigration of Dale Brereton-Styles – our most vocal female supporter of trotting.

 To our board members, Ian Deetlefs, Karel Miedema, Michel Nairac, Menzi Buthlezi, Johan Nilsson and Mandla Ntanzi – thank you to each and every one of you for the ear and guidance that is so valuable and much appreciated. I wish you all a great Christmas, festive season and holiday.

 D.A.Latimer – chairman.

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