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Horse racing to go ahead in city

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“It’s a massive blow to those who work and have horses here”

Picture: Danie van der Lith

PHUMELELA Gaming has confirmed that horse racing will continue for at least another year at Kimberley’s Flamingo Park.

Danie Toerien from Phumelela said yesterday that the company was “pleased to confirm that an agreement in principle has been reached with various interested parties, which will extend horse racing at Flamingo Park in Kimberley until at least the end of 2020”.

“With the support of the Racing Association, Phumelela is in the process of concluding an agreement with Gold Circle that also involves Mary Slack and Hollywoodbets.”

Slack is the daughter of Harry Oppenheimer and sister to Nicky Oppenheimer.

Her daughter, Jessica, lives predominantly at the horse stud farm, Mauritzfontein, just outside Kimberley.

Mauritzfontein has, according to Sporting Post, produced six July winners, a plethora of Oaks champions, a Triple Tiara winner as well as Horse Chestnut.

According to Toerien, the details of the agreement are still being finalised and full details will be released in due course.

“Phumelela is issuing this communication in the meanwhile because it’s vital to provide clarity on the immediate future of the venue as soon as possible, particularly for affected stakeholders in Kimberley,” Toerien added.

“Phumelela wishes to thank the Racing Association, Gold Circle, Mrs Slack and Hollywoodbets for enabling the company to jointly find a solution to keep horse racing alive in Kimberley.”

In September this year, Phumelela Racing announced that the Flamingo Park track would stage its last meeting on Monday, December 9.

“The decision is based purely on commercial factors,” Phumelela Racing executive Patrick Davis said at the time.

“It’s a massive blow to those who work and have horses here,” a local trainer, Cliffie Miller, said at the time, “especially for the 100-odd people who live here with their families.

“The other concern is what is going to happen to the horses here. There must be around 300 horses stabled here. Some will find other places to go but there are a lot that will probably end up having to be euthanised.”

According to Miller, Phumelela Gaming informed employees, trainers and owners of the board’s decision to close Flamingo Park. “They quoted financial constraints, stating that they were making a loss of around R24 million a year. Horse racing in general has gone down over the years.

“This is a very sad day for Kimberley and our main concern is what this closure will do to the staff, who work and live here, as well as for the animals. For the trainers to relocate is also a big expense. I have been in the game for 43 years already.”

The ground was donated by the Oppenheimers in 1957.

After a multimillion-rand refurbishment of the racing surface and the construction of 140 stables in 2005, the Kimberley Racecourse was renamed Flamingo Park.

The Northern Cape Province’s racetrack is one of South Africa’s few sand tracks. Thanks to the refurbishment, Flamingo Park offered a dust-free racing surface of international standards.

Flamingo Park’s sand track is renowned for creating course specialists , even horses who have shown little ability on grass tracks elsewhere. This made it an interesting racecourse and one to keep your eye on.

A right-handed course with a circumference of just under
2 200m and a run-in of 600m, Kimberley is a 1 000m straight course which joins the round course 600m from the finish. Races run over
1 800m start from a chute extending beyond the back straight.

Punters have noted that the ability to race handy is especially important in Kimberley because of the firm and dusty conditions.

The draw is also a particularly important factor here, with high barriers usually favoured over the 1 000m straight course, and low numbers having the advantage over just about any distance on the round course.

One of the highlights on the Kimberley calendar is the Flamingo Park Raceday.

The day is headed by the NBT R200 000 RA Flamingo Mile and the supporting features are the NBT R135 000 WSB Sprint over 1 000m and the NBT R100 000 RA Diamond Stayers over 2 200m.

The races attract the best horses from Kimberley as well as a number of riders from other provinces.