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Durban July: Horses outshine politicos

They wanted to be seen and heard. Then the lights went out and suddenly there was no sight or sound of a politician.

Sports fans watching the 2023 Durban July race meeting on TV had to endure obsequious presenters telling the pompous politicos what an “honour” it was to have them swanning about Grayville racecourse drinking the free booze.

And we had to listen to the self-important windbags burble on about sport uniting the nation; diversity, of course; how wonderful Durban and KwaZulu-Natal are; and take implied credit for it all.

Not one of them had bothered to tell the man at the light switch to take the evening off because, well, there was this very important event that had been granted exemption from load shedding.

We have it on good authority some of these people showed no embarrassment in the blackout as they swigged more Johnny Blue in the marquees, their only disappointment being that their expensive finery could not be appreciated in the dark.

A new take on the emperor having no clothes, perhaps? Looking on the bright side, most of Saturday’s race meeting was a glittering success.

The private sector showed how to do things, most notably the primary sponsor, Hollywood bets, a company built from scratch into a global giant by one family, with nary a cent from the taxpayer.

Many racegoers were moved to comment that they’d never seen such an entertainment spectacle on a South African racecourse.

And the racing was top-notch, too – testament to an industry that has survived and thrived in adversity. Those last three races would have been a cherry on the top.

After the sad abandonment of the last quarter of the meeting, not a few people wondered out loud whether the Durban July could be staged somewhere else in future.

What a parlous state a great city has been reduced to.

This is a moment to remind ourselves how the KZN provincial government is planning to change its gambling Act to cut operator Gold Circle’s betting rake-off from three percent to 1.6%, with the balance going to a “transformation fund”.

This would cripple Gold Circle and debase the July.

And what are the odds of the new fund being put to proper use? It’s time for racing to stop fawning over these leeches.

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