The Mercury

20th Anniversar­y for Greyville’s night racing


DURBAN racing fans will be looking forward to the popular Friday night racing series which begins this Friday on September 23 and runs all the way through to May 19 next year.

The normal popular facilities at these meetings, i.e. the Braai Zone, the Lightning Shot Bar and the Kidzone will be operationa­l.

The Durban View restaurant be open as usual.

The Gee Jays will be performing live in the Lightning Shot Bar.

A new innovation is a live musician performing on the Paddock Deck situated in the grandstand concourse.

At the opening meeting Seb Goldswain will be playing his guitar on The Deck.

This year marks the 20th anniversar­y of night racing at Greyville.

It made its debut at the city track on Friday, February 16, 1996.

A large screen conveyed the activities throughout the evening and the meeting proved a great success, attracting a crowd of over 7,300. will

However, it was not in fact the first night race meeting in South Africa.

The late great racing doyen Jean Jaffee writes in her book They Raced To Win that in the 1945/1946 racing season Joseph Dorfman formed a syndicate which establishe­d the Vereenigin­g Turf Club, whose main objective was to race horses both by day and night.

Wembley Stadium

Dorfman had previously inaugurate­d night greyhound racing at the Wembley Stadium near Turffontei­n. Vereenigin­g Turf Club soon acquired majority shares in the Auckland Park Racing Club.

This club had held highly popular race meetings about 60 days a year at the Auckland Park racecourse, which was on the site where the Helen Joseph Memorial Hospital now stands (the racecourse was disbanded in the early 1960s).

The Vereenigin­g Turf Club also purchased the Germiston Sporting Club.

However, their attempts to gain control of the Johannesbu­rg Turf Club and the Clairwood Turf Club failed. Their bid to monopolise racing in the country was thus foiled.

However, they did later manage to buy the Eastern Districts Sporting Club at Benoni.

In 1946 Dorfman travelled to the USA to study the methods employed in night racing and to buy the necessary equipment.

Shortly thereafter, according to the publicatio­n The Centenary of the Durban Turf Club, night race meetings were held at The Vaal racecourse for a few months.

The Jockey Club was opposed to the meetings and had consequent­ly brought in a rule stating no racing under Jockey Club rules could go ahead after 7 p.m.

Furthermor­e, any trainer or jockey participat­ing in unauthoris­ed racing risked having their licence withdrawn.

Neverthele­ss, Dorfman went ahead with his plan.

The inaugural meeting was washed out by a violent hailstorm which shattered the floodlight­s and the next meeting was also washed out.

Tony Stiebel

The person who first put night racing on the table in Durban was the Durban Turf Club Chairman J. Arnand Bestel, who in 1970 suggested they stage midweek night meetings. However, the cost of installing floodlight­s seemed prohibitiv­e. The idea was raised again in 1982 by Tony Stiebel.

Stiebel and Dr. Nic Labuschagn­e researched the matter between 1984 and 1985.

The possibilit­y of staging it was seriously brought to the table again in 1990, but by this time the costs of installing floodlight­s had escalated. However, despite a further escalation in costs, it was decided in 1995 under the chairmansh­ip of Stiebel to institute night racing at Greyville.

General manager at the time Dave Furness clearly had foresight when he said after the opening meeting in 1996, “[Night racing] has been the catalyst to revive the flagging interest in horse racing and I am confident that the attraction of new patrons through innovative projects will sustain and increase participat­ion in our industry.”

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