Henk Steenkamp: The wind at the Fairview racetrack can sometimes change the whole complexion of a race.
Top horses and jockeys are often challenged against a strong headwind or must negotiate a tailwind that makes judging the pace difficult down the long Fairview straight.
Friday, all the attention will, however, be on the winds of change. These winds are sweeping through racing in the Eastern Cape, and at today’s Algoa Cup meeting, the launch of Nelson Mandela Bay Racing will be celebrated.
This will be the start of a new era for horse racing in Gqeberha, previously named Port Elizabeth, and yes, there is plenty to get excited about.
Phumelela Racing Executive Patrick Davis explains a fixtures review is in progress and that a new feature race programme will culminate in the Algoa Cup.
“We are looking to consolidate a regional season approach to stakes and feature races,” said Davis.
“The thinking being that each region will offer higher stakes per race in their season to encourage increased national participation in those seasons.
“For the Eastern Cape we have identified the August to October period as the new Eastern Cape Racing Season from 2022.
“We are working on a new feature race programme to culminate in the Algoa Cup day at the end of October.
“During these three months, minor races will carry an enhanced stakes level when compared to the rest of the year.
“We have also rebranded East Cape Racing as Nelson Mandela Bay Racing – with Fairview Racecourse still the venue for racing and training of horses in the region.
“This is in line with the recent rebrands of Cape Racing in the Western Cape, and Highveld Racing in Johannesburg and the Free State.
“The plan is to enhance the racing experience for both racegoers, and owners and trainers, and also to attract new customers and race sponsors to the sport in all regions.”
Davis added that given the horse population challenges all racing regions are facing on the back of the impact on the economy by COVID-19, the racing operators are reviewing the 2022 fixture list.
“As decent field sizes are commercially critical for the Tote (and therefore the funding of the sport), there will be a reduction in the number of fixtures next year.
“This will in the main be achieved by getting rid of double-header local race meetings on a Saturday. So, from next year, there will only ever be a single local race meeting on any given day.
“This reduction in races will assist with field sizes as well as enable the Racing Operators to pay better stakes levels for the reduced number of races.
“For now we’ve only released the January to April fixtures for 2022 on this basis. We are still working on the May to Dec 2022 period.”
Racing fans will notice that the Cradock Place Stakes is one of the races on today’s card. That was where racing in Port Elizabeth started via British garrisons in 1817 – at a farm called Cradock Place.
Official race meetings at Fairview Estate started through the Port Elizabeth Turf Club in 1857. The Estate was transferred in ownership in 1883 to the Turf Club to secure a home for racing for many years.
Another race course, Arlington, opened in Port Elizabeth in December 1950 and was closed in 2013.
The old Fairview race course was situated where the Greenacres shopping centre is today. It moved to its current location in Greenbushes in 1977.
Fairview became part of Phumelela in 1999 and hosts two popular big race days annually, the East Cape Derby day in May and Algoa Cup day in October.
In October 2007 the new stabling complex was completed at Fairview. The Arlington trainers moved to Fairview and Arlington closed in 2013 when the Polytrack was installed at Fairview.
The installation of this all-weather surface cost in the region of R40 million and had not only saved many meetings that were rained out on the turf, but is home to many fine horses which prefer the surface.
With the modern facilities in the HB Christian Room a real favourite at Fairview, the region has now ticked all the boxes and is ready for the new era under the banner of Nelson Mandela Bay Racing.
Source: Tab News