THE race meeting, scheduled for Newmarket on Tuesday night, 22 February, was abandoned after the jockeys refused to take up their riding engagements, writes CHARL PRETORIUS. The announcement was made after an inquiry held between racing officials and jockeys’ representatives at the racecourse.
The jockeys objected against two patches of trodden grass just after the winning post, which were softened by rain on the track and were considered to be dangerous to horses and riders.
It is understood that the patches of soft grass came about as a result of golfers who use the track as a walkway to get to the driving range situated on the infield area at Newmarket.
To get to the driving range, golfers have no option but to use an entrance situated close to the winning post, and they have to walk across the grass on the track to get to the other side. This has created two trodden paths in the pull-up area.
Racing Association general manager Colin Gordon commented: “This issue was raised several weeks ago in an industry liaison meeting attended by officials from the Racing Association, Phumelela, SAJA and the NHRA. The problem was discussed and it was agreed that the golfers entrance would be moved elsewhere, so that horses and jockeys won’t be affected.’’
Phumelela Racing Executive Graeme Hawkins told mikedekockracing.com: “In our opinion the track was perfectly safe to race on. Even jockey Piere Strydom agreed that the patches were better than last week, when we actually raced at this track.’’
Hawkins added: “Phumelela will be having an emergency meeting to discuss the issue on Wednesday. The jockeys’ decision was not unanimous, but we have served them with notice that they will be facing the toughest possible action. We reserve our rights in this matter.’’
Hawkins said that authorities at the driving range were requested to assist with the traffic problem across the track and that certain measures were instituted. In reference to golfers at the Newmarket driving range and racing enthusiasts, he concluded: “We have to learn to live with each other.’’
Several trainers are said to have supported the jockeys in their protest. Jockeys Association chairman Tex Lerena could not be reached for comment.