TIME FOR A RE-THINK

(This is my personal opinion and one which may not be shared by other members of the MOTA Committee – Sheldene Chant)

The vast majority of people who own racehorses do so for the love of the game and not because they are likely to make money.

Borrowdale Park has been fortunate in that some owners have supported this racing venue regardless of constant setbacks, disappointments and ever increasing expenses. They may not be particularly pleased with the situation but are in for the long haul because they enjoy racing.

As I am quite ancient I remember Borrowdale Park at its best when we raced three or four times a month. Although the course was subjected to more racing then, the annual racing break in August lasted three weeks. Now we are lucky to race twice a month and the annual break extends over six weeks. At that time the Mashonaland Turf Club actually promoted racing, and recognised that live racing was the reason for its existence. Oh well…those were the days, but back to the present.

The 2400m Zimbabwe Derby was due to be run at Borrowdale Park on Sunday, April 22, but heavy rain fell during the week, starting on Wednesday. By Saturday no reasonable person living within 25kms of the racecourse could have expected to race on Sunday, and that includes trainers and “stipes”. As Borrowdale “imports” several jockeys from South Africa for each race meeting (airfares and riding fees paid for by the owners) a decision was looked for on Saturday afternoon, without success.

At about 8.30 on Sunday morning interested parties were informed that racing would go ahead – and the rest is history. After two races the meeting was cancelled because of the going.

Tempers cooled in the Owners & Trainers bar when it was inferred that the cancelled races, including the Derby, would be carried forward to this coming Sunday, providing Phumelela and Tellytrack could accommodate this. Naturally this was of particular interest to the connections of several Castle Tankard hopefuls who had been going to run in the 1800m MR 80 Handicap – their “prep” race for the US$50 000 Castle Tankard on Saturday, May 16.

On Monday morning the Mashonaland Owners & Trainers Chairman, Kirk Swanson, quite rightly, decided to speak to contacts at Phumelela and Tellytrack about the prospects of racing this coming Sunday. The trainers were to meet representatives of the Turf Club later on. Mr Swanson learnt in due course that neither Phumelela nor Tellytrack had any objections.

As I was not present at subsequent meetings between the MTC and the trainers I can only report on the end result.

Racing will not take place at Borrowdale Park this Sunday. Only the Zimbabwe Derby will be carried forward to the race meeting on May 3.

With the addition of the Derby there will be 9 races on the May 3 race card, which includes a 1200m Maiden Juvenile Plate; two Maiden Plates over 1000m and 1600m; a 1200m Graduation Plate; a MR 50 Handicap 1800m; a MR 55 Handicap 1200m; a MR 75 Handicap 1400m and a MR 75 Handicap 1800m. Gentle Brook (84), and Killa Man (78) have been nominated for the 1800m MR 75 Handicap on May 3, but Menacing (81), Rock The Country (83) and Thriller In Manila (80) – all down for the 1800m MR 80 Handicap on April 22 – have not.

It would have been good if, for once, long suffering owners had been given some encouragement. Ten races on May 3 would have accommodated more runners. During the month of April nine actual races will have been run at Borrowdale Park. There is never enough racing here but this is ridiculous.

Keeping a horse in training in Zimbabwe costs as much as it does at most yards in South Africa – and then there are the extra costs of airfares and riding fees for visiting jockeys.

We all know that times are hard but we are sick of hearing about an ever deteriorating financial position, whenever anyone raises any issue. It is time for a re-think.

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