Ensuring all is fair in the Durban July

2014-07-05 00:00

“FOR us, the ideal Vodacom Durban July will be if nobody knows we were there.”

So says Shaun Parker, chairperson of the KwaZulu-Natal Stipendiary Stewards, an organisation that falls under the National Horse Racing Authority.

They may seem strange words for South Africa’s premier horse race that will be attended by more than 63 000 spectators today, but the job of the “Stipes” is to ensure that the races are run fairly and safely, for jockeys and for the horses. Not hearing from the Stipes means that the race went smoothly and without incident.

Because it is such a big event, Ernie Rodriques, chairperson of the Stipes in Cape Town, is here to assist Parker and his team of six. They have been doing this job for more than two decades.

Today at Greyville, they will monitor every second of every race with six to eight cameras placed along the track, and from a “boardroom” crammed with television screens under the main stand.

They will see that there is no interference among the horses and jockeys, that all the horses get out of the starting gates properly and that there are no contraventions of horse racing rules.

The Stipes have the power to issue fines or suspensions.

Usually, said Parker, by the time the horses have finished and are ready to be unsaddled, the Stipes will have viewed each possible area of concern to them at least three or four times with the cameras.

The Stipes are also in constant ­radio contact with other officials involved in the race, such as the starting team, the veterenarians and the judges. They will also ask for “specimens” of some of the horses after the race, usually of the winner and some of the other horses, to test for illegal substances.

Greyville’s configuration is slightly different this year — the track is slightly narrower — so Parker and ­Rodrigues inspected the race track yesterday afternoon.

But, said Parker, the job of the Stipes extends much further than seeing that the horse racing regulations are adhered to on race day.

The race horse owners, jockeys and horses are all registered through ­licences with the Stipes.

Each horse, for example, is issued a “passport” by the Stipes, in which the number of each horse’s electronic chip, its vacination history, markings and other details are kept.

The Stipes also visit the stable yards and training sessions of race horses during the week.

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