Rage as favourite horse scratched

Main Defender was the main contender at Hollywoodbets Greyville on Saturday, but was scratched just minutes before the horse race. | FILE

Main Defender was the main contender at Hollywoodbets Greyville on Saturday, but was scratched just minutes before the horse race. | FILE

Published May 5, 2024


Durban — High stakes racing morphed into high stakes drama at Hollywoodbets Greyville Racecourse on Saturday, after Main Defender, the favourite to win, was scratched and the rest of the meeting abandoned after only five races.

Everything appeared to be on track, but just minutes before race six Main Contender was forced to withdraw following tests that showed the carbon dioxide levels in its blood were too high.

Witnesses say the unbridled anger of horse owner Tony Peter meant the rest of the horse meeting had to be called off, leaving bookies and those hoping to make some serious money upset.

The horse’s owners and racing executives had a heated row in the middle of the track, while despondent punters hurled profanities at them.

Minutes later, Gold Circle posted a message on its website: “Due to the disruption of the race meeting and for the safety of horses, (the) public and stakeholders, Hollywoodbets Greyville races 6 to 10 have been abandoned.”

Racing executive Raf Sheik told the Sunday Tribune they would be launching an investigation into who started the drama, but for now, they would just say there was a “disruption to the race”.

One punter said he had placed R500 on Main Defender and, like others, he was “naturally angry”.

“Lots of tickets were carried forward for that horse and they scratched him. Racing is not the same; I’ve been betting for 60 years and now it’s only about the money. Even the payouts are not on time, they’re just taking your money.”

Another gambler said it looked like intimidation.

“Why do only Tony Peter's horses get tested when there are so many horses in that race?”

While police surveyed the crowd to maintain order, he said that “the main features were coming right up now when they scrapped the horse. Race six, seven and eight, those are the cream of the crop, so everyone obviously did something about it. I had money on him to win.”

Another punter said: “I had him in doubles and trebles and everyone had him in doubles and trebles. We’ll get a refund but obviously, I want to win. It’s a top horse and that’s why we came here today.”

Gold Circle announced that following the abandonment of Saturday’s race meeting, the R500 000 Independent on Saturday Drill Hall Stakes, the R500 000 World Sports Betting Guineas and the R500 000 WSB Fillies Guineas would be run at Greyville on Wednesday afternoon.

It said the decision was reached following consultation with the trainers involved and that it carried the support of their valued sponsors. The original programme for Wednesday’s race meeting has been recalled and a new race card will be issued in due course.

“We believe this decision to be in the best interests of all concerned and Gold Circle regrets the events on Saturday which led to the race meeting being called off,” said Sheik.

Sunday Tribune