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All roads lead to Hollywoodbets Durbanville on Saturday

Source: Sporting Post | September 20, 2023

Mother Nature has bowled Greg Bortz and his Cape Racing team a few bumpers over the past few months.
Climate change and the hundred year rain, coupled with historic flaws in the Hollywoodbets Durbanville track, have presented their challenges.

But the Bortz team are determined to exhaust all options and beyond, and the concept of rolling over and playing dead is simply not on the agenda.

The Sporting Post can break the news today of the most innovative ‘cover-up’ in SA racing in recent years!

In an unprecedented initiative, Cape Racing have had bedouin tents erected over 100m of the identified problem area of the scenic track, and together with tarpaulins, they will be used to optimize protection against the rain forecast in the Cape on Thursday, in advance of what is expected to be a bumper ‘Braai & Racing’ day at the country course on Saturday.

Any water on the tarpaulins will run off into sluices dug on either side of the track.

Cape Racing Chief Operating Officer Donovan Everitt told the Sporting Post that rain covers were used extensively in sports like cricket and tennis, and that the idea of repelling the showers from the heavens had been implemented at relatively short notice.

While trenches have been dug and engineers involved in redirecting subterranean streams, thus taking steps towards resolving issues emanating from under the track, Tuesday’s shortened racemeeting showed that attention may be required in respect of the surface – the clay becoming slippery, when wet. It seems that the topsoil may well be an issue.

So minimizing the impact from the top, makes every sense.

“We would never compromise the safety of our jockeys or horses. And the economics dictate that racing has to go ahead. So an immediate, as well as a long-term solution, is a non-negotiable. We thus approached the Western Province Cricket Union. Understandably we were informed that their world class covers are exclusively for their use, and they are utilizing them to protect their pitches. We made a few calls and the Bedouin tents are now up, with tarpaulins for ground cover,” said Everitt, who confirmed that the rising water tables have compromised the natural drainage.

“The tents will be taken down on Saturday morning and will be ready for roll-out alongside the track, together with the tarpaulins. A team will be on standby to cover the area should the volatile Cape weather change its mind. While the intention is to do what has to be done to provide a facility that works for racing and its stakeholders, we are considering investing in our own covers and looking scientifically at the drainage issues. Plans are to bring the best of international expertise in to find the best solution.”

Everitt said that the jockeys had suggested bringing in extra ‘Divot fillers’, those wonderful folk who slipstream the field and fill the potentially dangerous indentations created by thundering hooves.

“We have doubled our Divot team and are willing to engage with anybody willing to provide constructive input to make the best of the present situation, and find a winning outcome for the industry.”

Cape Racing Chairman Greg Bortz told the Sporting Post earlier this week that there was good communication and co-operation between the racing operator and the jockeys.

“The last thing we’d ever want to see is harm to any horse or rider. We want the very best for racing and for everybody involved. I personally feel that the term ‘jockey protest’ has negative connotations. It’s not a ‘protest’. It’s a case of the jockeys raising valid concerns. Everybody has bills to pay. But we are not in the business of risking life and limb for the sake of income,” added Bortz.

Grade 1 jockey Craig Zackey wrote recently on the Sporting Post Facebook platform that the last thing the riders wanted, ‘especially the Cape jockeys who don’t travel’, is to cancel yet another meeting.

“A handful of them are looking at pennies this coming pay month, and would be lucky to cover just their life insurances! Unfortunately Cape Town has suffered unfortunate weather since July, which has had a massive impact on their tracks. Watching the racing on television doesn’t look so bad. But you get on a 500kg animal and feel them faulter at what is a very bad and inconsistent patch at around the 550m marker. and you too would start thinking about your safety – and more importantly the horses!”

Craig Zackey – ‘we want to race!’ (Pic – Chase Liebenberg)

Zackey went on to say that it has been one of the worst times for Cape Town with the weather, and as much as they wanted to race, they could not afford to take the risks that could end up being harmful to horse or rider.

“We would race any day of the week on a track that’s slosh, but it must be consistently that! Not where the track is soft with a very bad inconsistent softer patch,” concluded Zackey.

Saturday’s Hollywoodbets Durbanville racemeeting starts at 12h10. Gates open at 11h00. Enjoy!