The World Sports Betting Grand Heritage scheduled to be run at the Vaal on Saturday will be replaced by the World Sports Betting Grand Series at Turffontein – effectively splitting the field in two with both races offering stakes of R500,000.
Following a track inspection late afternoon yesterday by various stakeholders, the decision was made that it will not be race ready come Saturday.
The track inspection was organised by Clyde Basel, Racing Executive for Phumelela, who invited stakeholders to join him at the 2000m mark yesterday and to walk all the way to the winning post in order to ascertain first hand the current condition of the track.
After the long walk, the stakeholders involved met for close on two hours after which it was decided to move the Heritage to Turffontein and to run it as two separate races.
“The decision has been taken to move the Grand Heritage and all the other races carded for the Vaal on Saturday, to the Turffontein Inside Track,” Basel said last night. “All the nominations for Saturday’s races have been reopened, but the original declared Heritage runners will get preferential treatment when it comes to elimination stage.”
According to Basel the two races will now be called the World Sports Betting Grand Series Leg 1 and 2, both being run over 1475m.
The winners of the two races will qualify for a match race early in December at the Vaal to determine who carries the title of Series Champion. “It will give new meaning to the phrase two-horse race,” Basel said last night. The stakes for that race will be announced in due course.
The announcement of the final fields for both the Grand Series races will be broadcast on TellyTrack today.
According to Basel prize monies will be paid up to ten places in both the Grand Series races.
The Heritage was originally scheduled to be run on September 29, but was postponed to this coming Saturday due to the track not being race ready.
Basel last night said the stakeholders who joined in the walkabout on the Vaal track yesterday were in agreement that although a marked improvement in the racing surface is evident, the track needs to improve further.
“Our estimate is that the track will need another couple of weeks to return to racing standard.
“Our main concern is for the safety of the horses and the jockeys and therefore a unanimous decision was taken to move the Heritage. Our sponsors World Sports Betting support the decision and are excited about the match race to come”.
“We tried our best to accommodate the Heritage, but we are not prepared to take unnecessary risks and we don’t want to delay the Heritage any further.”
National track Manager Dean Diedericks said: “ It’s been a very trying winter for Vaal racecourses but we are slowly but surely overcoming the issues”.
Earlier yesterday, Phumelela issued a media release in which the JSE-listed company announced that Andy O’Connor, former chairman of the NHA, will lead a commission mandated to review the track management systems for Phumelela.
Phumelela Group CEO John Stuart last week announced the review in light of various race meetings at the Vaal having been moved to Turffontein while last Thursday’s meeting was abandoned after only three races had been run owing to an “uneven and inconsistent track”.
According to Stuart, O’Connor’s independence and integrity is above reproach, making him the perfect candidate to lead a team tasked with making recommendations to Phumelela.
Part of O’Connor’s mandate will be to investigate current track management processes and the ways in which they could and should be improved, to draw up Standard Operational Procedures regarding the implementation of improved track management processes, and to ensure the alignment of the maintenance of training and racing tracks, with the feature race calendar at the various racing courses.
Apart from serving as chairman of the NHA, O’Connor also has a five-year stint as director on the Racing Association on his CV.