IN the matter between JASA (Jockeys’ Association of South Africa) and the National Horseracing Authority (NHA), due before a High Court Judge on Saturday, lawyers for JASA refer to NHA Racing Control Executive Arnold Hyde’s comments to the industry newsletter Turf Talk, published on Wednesday, and write in their affadavit: “The comments of Hyde are particularly disturbing and demonstrate a complete lack of morality as is best demonstrated by the following quotation;

“The jockeys are the elite human athletes of our sport and are irreplaceable. If a groom goes down with the virus they can be replaced (own emphasis added), and similarly for a trainer someone else can temporarily look after the yard. We are in the midst of a severe second wave, and every racing centre is in a COVID hot-spot.”

“Taking PE as an example. There are only 12 or 13 jockeys there, and if someone came from outside and infected a few others, there would not be enough riders to continue racing. The entire centre would have to close for an extended period, and we are not willing to take that risk.”

“That is apparent from the article, is that all stakeholders in the industry, save the First Respondent (NHA), do not support the First Respondents travel ban, nor believe it’s necessary. It’s is also apparent that Hyde has no idea of the importance of the grooms to the racing industry, the value that they add, nor the impact that would occur in the event of the grooms being infected by the COVID-19 virus.

“Racehorses are required to be exercised at least 6 days out of every 7; this occurs by them being taken to the exercise tracks at the training facilities by the grooms. They are normally taken in 3 lots, each lot comprising one-third of the horses in the trainer’s care.

“At the training tracks, they are normally exercised by work riders, who are generally specialist, former grooms. Many of these work riders participate in work rider races that are put on by the Second and Third Respondents. In the event of a mass COVID-19 outbreak amongst the grooms, horse racing would come to an end for a prolonged period as horses would not be able to be exercised in sufficient numbers. It is also concerning to me that in these times Hyde places more emphasis on the lives of “elite jockeys” than those of less fortunate (and seemingly expendable according to Hyde) semi-skilled grooms.

“Hyde also fails to consider that in the event of there being a shortage of jockeys the work riders, could fill-in for the jockeys on a temporary basis.”

Photo: Arnold Hyde of the NHA.

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