The local horse racing industry was shocked on Monday by the news that as of Tuesday, 1 December 2020, no permits will be issued allowing horses to travel to Cape Town from either Johannesburg, Durban or Port Elizabeth.
These permits are issued by the South African Equine Health and Protocols NPC (SAEHP). In fact, the operation, management, and maintenance of the disease control system for horses as well as the accompanying risk mitigation measures are conducted by the SAEHP on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform, and Rural Development (DALRRD).
According to Adrian Todd, Managing Director of SAEHP, the organisation has been forced to suspend the provision of these services from 1 December “due to circumstances beyond our control”.
These “circumstances”, however, are nothing more than a political spat between South Africa and the European Union regarding ongoing trade negotiations in which the South African horseracing industry has become a bargaining chip.
For an industry already severely under siege due to the coronavirus pandemic, the timing could not have been worse as the Cape Summer Season was just launched with the official revealing of the programme for the 160th Queen’s Plate – sponsored for the fifth year by L’Ormarins – on Friday, 8 and Saturday, 9 January 2021.
Not only will trainers preparing to send raiding parties to Cape Town for the two-day festival be severely impacted, but Cape Town trainers will also be affected.
The issuing, updating, and monthly validation of multiple movement permits are also suspended. These permits allow for movement of horses between the Philippi training centre and Kenilworth racecourse and movement between the Milnerton training centre and Durbanville racecourse, as well as movement from satellite yards to racing in the disease control zones.
Both Justin Snaith and Brett Crawford train out of Philippi.
According to Todd, the responsibility for services rendered by the SAEHP will revert to the State. It is common knowledge though that the state has nowhere near the capacity to fulfil this role.
Trainer Mike de Kock summed up the situation accurately, saying “obviously at this stage the state will have to issue permits, which could take goodness knows how long – if at all”.
The SAEHP could, according to Todd, resume its duties should the EU reschedule its export protocol audit, which was originally scheduled for April, but was then cancelled to the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.
The audit will play a significant role in determining whether South African Thoroughbred racehorses will be allowed the advantages of unhindered international travel which the rest of the racing world take for granted.
Arnold Hyde, Racing Control Executive of the National Horseracing Authority, yesterday afternoon said the issue needs to be resolved as a matter of urgency as it affects all trainers in the country.