National Horseracing Authority
The National Horseracing Authority of Southern Africa, formerly the Jockey Club of Southern Africa, is the Southern African equivalent of the American and British Jockey Clubs. The name change came into effect on 19 January 2004. The organisation is established by Act of Parliament in South Africa, and regulates the thoroughbred horse racing industry in South Africa.
Their motto is "maintaining the integrity of the sport of horse racing". Their primary source of funding is Phumelela and Gold Circle, the two South African horse racing companies.
The exciting, colourful pageant of horse racing is conducted at racecourses throughout South Africa and in Zimbabwe. These courses are owned by race clubs which are not only responsible for organising and publicising the races and also making sure that the fans are provided with a full programme of entertainment and enough to eat and drink. But behind all the glamour and excitement of horse racing, there is another organisation that works hard to ensure that the sport is clean and that everybody is given a fair deal. This organisation is The National Horseracing Authority, headquartered at Turffontein Racecourse, Johannesburg.
The main purpose of The National Horseracing Authority was summarised rather well by George Pfaff, the Club's secretary in 1959. He wrote:
- "The main object of the Jockey Club and the principal occupation of the Stewards is to promote honourable practice and to repress malpractices. One constantly hears of racing scandals and intrigues. That cry has been heard for centuries. Malpractice in racing does occur - if it did not there would be no need for the Jockey Club or its officials. It is said that all crooks go racing but not all those who go racing are crooks. Ninety-five percent of the trouble is caused by five percent of the people engaged in it, and it is this five per cent who make all the noise".
The name "The Jockey Club" is somewhat misleading and often causes some confusion because it is not an association for the jockeys, who courageously, urge their mounts towards the finish. In the 18th century, "jockey" referred to anybody who managed, or had anything to do with, horses. It was in 1882 that a group of 10 influential racing men got together in the Phoenix Hotel in Port Elizabeth to form an organisation, "so that all disputes in connection with various turf clubs might be referred thereto, and its decision became law". The organisation became known as The Jockey Club, named after its counterpart in the United Kingdom that had been established some 100 years earlier.
Racing is not only controlled on a national level but also on a regional level and, in order to exercise proper control, South Africa is divided into four racing districts with Zimbabwe constituting the fifth. In all, there are 670 members who are responsible for electing the 11 Head Executive Stewards who head the Jockey Club structure.
The existence of the Jockey Club and the multi-faceted control it exercises over the racing industry, coupled with the fact that it is recognised internationally, heralds an exciting and ethical future for the industry in South Africa.
Rules and inquiries
Horse racing, like any other sport, is governed by a comprehensive set of rules. These rules are designed to deal with all aspects of racing from insuring that the horses are properly cared for to serious malpractices like doping. In order to police these rules, the Jockey Club employs a number of Stipendiary Stewards, or "Stipes" for short. The Stipes are present at every race meeting and use sophisticated video equipment to help them pick up any incident that might need investigating.
Inquiries are opened into any matter which appears to be suspicious and if anybody is found guilty of breaking the rules, the Stipes have the power to impose penalties ranging from a reprimand to a total ban from racing. If a person, who was found guilty of breaking the rules, feels that he was treated unfairly by the Stipes, he or she can appeal to the Appeal Board. Because the Appeal Board is an independent body, it can ensure that fair play is observed.
The Jockey Club has its own laboratory that tests specimens from horses selected in every race. The laboratory uses the latest techniques and ultra-modern equipment to look for wide diversity of drugs. The screening of specimens is so successful that some people are saying that it is too sensitive and is picking up minute quantities of drugs that could not possibly have had an effect on a horse!
An important part of the control exercised by the Jockey Club is the licensing of jockeys, trainers and race meeting officials such as the starter, the handicapper, the clerk of the scales, the judge and, also the granting of colours to anybody who qualifies to own and race, horses.
Computerised administrative records are kept of over 270 trainers, 200 jockeys and apprentices, 9000 owners and 8000 horses in training. The Registrations Department also records over 10 000 renewals, changes of horse ownership's and leases each year.
The control exercised by the Jockey Club extends to the horse breeding industry as well. Before any thoroughbred foal can be recorded in the Jockey Club's General Stud Book, the mare owner, stallion owner, mare and stallion must have been registered before the foal was born. The breeder must also provide detailed information relating to the time the mare was covered, the time the foal was born and the identity of the foal.
To remove any doubt about the identity of the foal a laboratory at Onderstepoort blood types every foal and confirms that its parents are those claimed by the breeder. When millions of Rands are spent at the annual yearling sales, buyers can rest assured that the horse that they bought has the pedigree for which they paid.
The Jockey Club's role doesn't stop there, it also recruits and trains apprentice jockeys. The original Academy, founded in 1958, was situated in a house on the Berea – a suburb of Durban. In 1972, the magnificent S A Jockeys Academy designed by the well-known rugby player, Tommy Bedford, was opened on 8.1 hectares of land adjacent to Summerveld. Built to cater for 40 apprentices, the number of apprentices is determined by the needs of the racing industry.
During the five years as an apprentice, the youngsters are given a comprehensive education as well as taught the necessary skills to become a competent rider. The success of the academy is highlighted by the achievements of champion jockeys such as Michael Roberts, Jeffrey Lloyd, Felix Coetzee, Robbie Sham and Bartie Liesher.