Phumelela un­de­cided on bar­rier tri­als

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - RACING -

PHUMELELA has com­mended Gold Cir­cle for its de­ci­sion to in­tro­duce bar­rier tri­als but will not nec­es­sar­ily fol­low suit in its rac­ing re­gions.

Bar­rier tri­als are ba­si­cally prac­tice races and are part and par­cel of the horserac­ing scene in coun­tries like Aus­tralia, Hong Kong and Sin­ga­pore.

Bar­rier tri­als are ben­e­fi­cial for horses who have not run be­fore and in Aus­tralia for ex­am­ple, train­ers con­sider them es­sen­tial in or­der to pre­pare a horse for its first race.

Bar­rier trial

Bar­rier tri­als are of­ten held be­fore or af­ter race meet­ings and give un­raced horses the full race-meet­ing ex­pe­ri­ence – the jour­ney to the race­course, the crowd buzz and if there are enough horses par­tic­i­pat­ing in the trial, it’s just like a real race but with no real pres­sure to win.

All in all such tri­als or prac­tice races im­prove un­raced horses much more than a gal­lop with one or two work­ing com­pan­ions and can also as­sist enor­mously in hon­ing the fit­ness of horses re­turn­ing from a lay­off.

Plus they en­able train­ers to bet­ter as­sess the prospects of first-timers and run­ners com­ing off rests.

Gold Cir­cle has an­nounced that that all un­raced horses and those re­turn­ing from long lay­offs will have to par­tic­i­pate in a bar­rier trial be­fore be­ing al­lowed to race in KwaZulu-Natal.


The bar­rier tri­als will be held be­fore the first race or af­ter the last race on the poly­track at Greyville.

And be­cause bar­rier tri­als are open to the pub­lic and of­ten tele­vised, it’s an op­por­tu­nity for horse­play­ers to as­sess the abil­ity or fit­ness of a horse for them­selves.

That brings a wel­come trans­parency, al­though this el­e­ment of bar­rier tri­als is of­ten over­stated.

At the end of the day it’s not a real race and horses can ex­cel in bar­rier tri­als only to fail ón race­day.

Or they may not shine in prac­tice, but the ex­pe­ri­ence brings on them on so much that they are a dif­fer­ent story come a real race.

Paul Laf­ferty, chair­man of the KZN Train­ers As­so­ci­a­tion and a driv­ing force be­hind the in­tro­duc­tion of bar­rier tri­als in that prov­ince, is ex­cited and be­lieves they will en­hance con­sumer con­fi­dence in the sport.

He reck­ons they will of­fer po­ten­tial own­ers the chance to see a horse in ac­tion, which can as­sist train­ers who still have shares avail­able in a horse.

But it would be fool­hardy to be­lieve that bar­rier tri­als will nec­es­sar­ily prove a rem­edy for the many chal­lenges fac­ing horserac­ing.

They were in­tro­duced on an ex­per­i­men­tal ba­sis here back in the 1990s and fiz­zled out af­ter fail­ing to make an im­pact, and as Phumelela CEO Rian du Plessis has pointed out, they come at a cost.

“Gold Cir­cle can be com­mended for this ini­tia­tive, but our po­si­tion re­mains that the cost and ad­di­tional wear on our turf sur­faces is sub­stan­tial,” he said.

“We have found no fac­tual ev­i­dence sub­stan­ti­at­ing that these neg­a­tives will be out­weighed by the pos­i­tives. We will mon­i­tor the sit­u­a­tion very closely and will nat­u­rally change if our po­si­tion is proved in­cor­rect.”

More than 5 000 horses make their de­buts or re­turn from lay­offs of 90 days or more an­nu­ally in South Africa.

Neg­a­tive im­pact

To hold bar­rier tri­als for them in Jo­han­nes­burg and Cape Town, which have no poly­tracks, will have a neg­a­tive im­pact on grass rac­ing sur­faces and add sig­nif­i­cantly to trans­port costs. At city tracks in New South Wales in Aus­tralia, own­ers pay over Aus$200 for a horse to trial. All things con­sid­ered full marks to Gold Cir­cle for a bold ini­tia­tive and time will judge whether it’s worth ex­pand­ing bar­rier tri­als into the other rac­ing cen­tres. – tabon­

PAUL LAF­FERTY is the driv­ing force be­hind the in­tro­duc­tion of bar­rier tri­als and is ex­cited about it.

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