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Zim racing goes solo after Tellytrack blackout

BY DANIEL NHAKANISO

THE longstanding partnership between Zimbabwe’s largest horse racing operator Mashonaland Turf Club (MTC) and their South African counterparts Phumelela Gaming and Leisure is on the rocks after a recent blackout of local race meetings at Borrowdale Park by the Tellytrack horse-racing TV channel on SuperSport.
Following the blackout of the last Borrowdale Park meeting on July 8 by the South African racing television channel, Tellytrack will also not be airing the Zimbabwe Oaks meeting today.

MTC chairman Gary Carter revealed that the recent blackout of local races on the TV station was due to a recent change of the guard at the financially-distressed South African horse racing operator.

“It is with regret that I have to inform you that the next meeting on Sunday July 19 [today] will not be aired on Tellytrack as has been the norm for many years,” Carter said in a statement to local racing stakeholders.

“Following the implosion of Phumelela and the changing of the guard at the top of the organisation, the MTC has been working hard to come to a working arrangement that firstly recognises the legacy issues between the two organisations, but also provides a framework of how we could work together now whilst resolution is being sought on these issues.”

In addition to not taking the Borrowdale Park feed, Carter said they were also baffled by Phumelela’s decision to suspend tote betting on Borrowdale Park as it provided a risk-free revenue stream for Phumelela without the attendant costs involved in hosting a race meeting.

He said despite the blackout on Tellytrack, bookmakers and viewers around the world would now be able to follow the action on social media after entering into a partnership with a local TV production house Sand Sport.

“The investment that MTC has made in new technology now allows the club to stream the meeting in HD on social media platforms and these will be available on Sunday @Sand Sport live on Facebook and @zimracing [Racing at Borrowdale Park in Zimbabwe] Facebook pages.

“We will continue to talk to Phumelela in an effort to restore this mutually beneficial relationship, but the MTC is also exploring other exciting opportunities that will become available across more Facebook platforms and YouTube platforms and direct to bookmakers should we not be able to conclude an agreement with Phumelela/Telemedia in the near future. My apologies for the temporary inconvenience that this may cause our supporters, but the MTC will overcome this temporary setback as it has overcome every other setback thrown at it in the last few years,” said Carter.

Zimbabwean racing events have over the years been broadcast on Tellytrack as part of the partnership between MTC and Phumelela six years ago where the latter agreed to provide technical services in respect of the staging of horse racing and betting in the country.

However, that partnership now appears in major doubt after Phumelela Gaming and Leisure entered voluntary business rescue in May, as the business came under severe pressure from the suspension of horse races in South Africa during the Covid-19 lockdown.

The company, which operates horse racing and totalisator betting in seven provinces in South Africa, has also suspended its shares from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, but maintains that there is still a “reasonable prospect” of rescuing the business.

Meanwhile, Lily Blue will head into today’s Zimbabwe Oaks at Borrowdale Park chasing a seventh successive victory.

Bred by Geoff Armitage and trained by Bridget Stidolph, Lily Blue has already won two legs of the Triple Crown — the Zimbabwe Guineas and the Zimbabwe Derby.

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