THE UK's Daily Mail has named Mike de Kock 'racing's pioneering international handler', one who belongs to a "new breed of trainer flourishing on a belief that no race in the world is too far away". Mike (49) is internationally acknowledged as a leader in the training profession and he has a host of supporters who firmly believe he has few or no equals.
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TWO-year-olds seldom win over 2000m against older horses, let alone two-year-old fillies. The connections of Pomander will be chuffed with what they’ve got, she wiped out a field of older fillies in a Maiden Plate over 2000m at Turffontein on Saturday in the hands of apprentice Luke Ferraris.
Pomander is a daughter of Flower Alley and Pure Spice (Black Minnaloushe), her dam being a half-sister to Graded Oaks winner Pine Princess, herself from one of the best families in the stud book. With blood like this, she is most certainly one for the notebook, as classy stayers can win their fair share of races.
Gary Grant, who owns Pomander with Chris Haynes, Mike de Kock and Noeline Malherbe, commented: “We own the mare and we took Pomander to Nationals and she was the last lot. We didn’t get what we wanted and Mike urged us to buy her back, we’re happy we did.”
Wilgerbosdrift’s Flower Alley has enjoyed an excellent start to his stud career, having sired Mike’s unbeaten Alibi Guy (two from two), and Pomander (1 from three).
THE teams representing the Highveld Hawks; Cape Eagles and KZN Falcons at the annual New Turf Carriers Inter-Provincial Rider Cup at Hollywoodbets Greyville on Sunday 21 July have been finalised.
The Highveld Hawks will be seeking their third consecutive win in the Rider Cup and their colours will be worn by a very strong team of jockeys in the 2019 renewal.
Muzi Yeni, Hawk.
Lyle Hewitson, Muzi Yeni; Gavin Lerena and S’manga Khumalo comprise the Highveld Hawks and they will go head-to-head with the Cape Eagles team of Greg Cheyne; Richard Fourie; Bernard Fayd’herbe and Corne Orffer and the KZN Falcons team of Anton Marcus; Warren Kennedy; Keagan de Melo and Sean Veale.
Under the competition rules, winning rides earn 20 points for a team; second place 16 points; third place 14 points with points being allocated all the way down to one point for the last home.
The Victor Ludorum will be awarded to the individual rider who accumulates the most points over the four legs of the competition. Fields for the 2019 New Turf Carriers Rider Cup will be finalised on Tuesday 16 July.
A bleak and disturbing picture of financial and related pressures has been painted by Phumelela Gaming and Leisure Limited in a SENS announcement published on Friday.
The announcement is carried unabridged below:
The Group indicates that it has made it clear in previous communications to shareholders that trading conditions during the 2018 financial year and during the first half of the 2019 financial year were very difficult and were not expected to improve.
The Group revealed to shareholders at the interim results presentation practical interventions to deliver long-term cost savings and to restructure for commercial realities.
Furthermore, the removal of the Group’s 50% share of the 6% levy on punters’ winnings on fixed-odds bets on horseracing has had an adverse financial effect.
Phumelela was entitled to this levy in terms of Regulation 276 of the Gauteng Gambling Regulations,1997, which the Member of the Executive Council responsible for Economic Development, Environment, Agriculture and Rural Development (“the MEC”) elected to amend to revoke Phumelela’s entitlement to a share of the levy.
Shareholders are reminded that the Group is trading under cautionary in respect of an application to have the amendment of Regulation 276 reviewed and set aside. The most recent cautionary announcement is dated 4 June 2019.
The results for the six months ended 31 January 2019 reflected a considerable deterioration in trading conditions in local tote and fixed odds operations whilst the local losses on horseracing operations have increased.
Despite international profits, the total loss in Media Operations increased by 35%. An interim dividend was not declared in order to conserve cash. The results presentation concluded that “it is impossible to give certainty on trading results for the full year”.
Circumstances post the publication of the half-year results on 29 March 2019 are worse than anticipated, exacerbated by the withholding of the levy by the Gauteng Government as a result of the amendment to Regulation 276.
Given the above backdrop of uncertainty, and in view of the fact that annual results for the twelve months ended 31 July 2019 are only scheduled to be published on or about 4 October 2019, the Board,in the interests of continuing candid communication with shareholders, believes it is necessary to advise on the situation post the interim results and with respect to guidance for the full year results.
In South Africa, Betting Operations comprise over-the-counter (“OTC”) retail outlets and non-OTC, being internet and telephone betting. Phumelela brands include Betting World and Tab whilst the Group has a 50% interest in Supabets and has a JV with Supabets in Supaworld Proprietary Limited, a company jointly owned by Betting World and Supabets.
As communicated at the half-year results, there are active interventions to rationalise and optimise the tote and fixed-odds operations. The costs of right-sizing fall within the 2019 financial year.
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The permanent annual cash savings in the rationalised Betting World/Tab is estimated at R60 million, which will benefit the 2020 financial year and give significant relief to the Group’s financial position.
Whilst there has been growth in total betting turnover for the ten months to 31 May 2019, the mix of the business has changed, with a switch in betting from the tote to fixed odds, where margin is lower. Across tote and fixed odds, the combined betting income margin is 1.9 percentage points lower than for the same period ended 31 May 2018 with fixed odds the most affected. Profits this year are also affected by the 1% increase in VAT in April 2018.
Although Supabets had a poor March and May, the business remains profitable but is anticipated to end the year with a reduced profit. The Supaworld JV footprint is growing with Betting World licenses being deployed as Supabets mega outlets where average turnovers are higher. Supaworld also had a poor March and May and remains marginally profitable.
Interbet, the local online betting exchange in which the Group has a 50% interest, has continued to perform well, and year-to-date is recording single-digit growth, which in a depressed consumer environment is very pleasing.
The Group also records equity-accounted income from the jointly owned Premier Gateway International tote operator on the Isle of Man, included in the non-OTC segment. This business returned an excellent result for the first half and is projected to end the year with double-digit growth.
Despite Supabets recording a lower profit for the ten-month period, total profits from equity accounted associates was higher in real terms.
Media Operations comprise the selling of media and data rights of South African horseracing locally and internationally and includes the administration of horseracing. The horseracing operations remain loss-making on a stand-alone basis. This has been the case for several years, with losses increasing each year.
The loss-making position has been made worse by the removal of the 3% levy due to Phumelela in terms of Regulation 276, as earlier referred to. The payment of this levy forms part of the agreement between the Gauteng Government and the racing industry and is intended to ensure the sustainability of horseracing. Phumelela must shoulder the costs in horseracing but income from other sources is insufficient to make up for the costs. The 3% levy has been withheld with effect from 1 April 2019 and deprives Phumelela of over R6 million on average per month in income.
Legal Matters and related
Further to detailed disclosure on legal matters in the first-half results, the following are pertinent.
As discussed above, the MEC amended the Gauteng Gambling Regulations with effect from 1 April.
Shareholders are referred to public disclosure in this regard as published via the Stock Exchange News Service and as updated in the financial results for the six months ended 31 January 2019.
The Group lodged papers on 21 June 2019 in the North Gauteng High Court to have the Public Protector’s report into thoroughbred horseracing in Gauteng set aside on the basis that the findings of the Public Protector in the report are unlawful, irrational, unreasonable and unconstitutional.
It is further noted that the Gauteng Gambling Board (“the Board”) and the MEC filed a separate application, on 8 July 2019, to have the public Protector’s report (alternatively the remedial action) reviewed and set aside and to have the report remitted to the Public Protector for reconsideration.
The Group intends to lodge papers in the High Court to have the decision by the Gauteng Gambling Board to find it guilty of contravening condition 10 of its Gauteng Race-Meeting licence reviewed and set aside. The Board imposed a fine of R5 million, of which R2.5 million has been suspended for 5 years and directed Phumelela to apply to it for the approval of its broadcasting fees.
Given the reduced profitability and withholding of the 3% levy, that has been received for over twenty years, the Group finds itself in a challenging situation. An accrual of approximately R26 million is necessary in the 2019 financial year due to the income from the bookmaker levy not being paid since 1 April 2019, with an annual impact of approximately R75 million.
The Group is therefore in breach of covenants in respect of its R300 million in borrowings. Phumelela’s financial executives are in regular contact with banking executives to keep them apprised of developments within the business.
No interim dividend was paid, and the Group is in no position to pay a final dividend.
Cash conservation is of the utmost priority as is cutting our coat according to the diminished cloth available.
At the half-year, the Group reported that Directors are cognisant of the fact that the results have been poor, that funding headroom has been exhausted, and that all measures necessary to stabilise the position must be taken. Shareholders should be aware that the Board see no positive relief from external factors anytime soon and that internal remedial measures are the only option.
For the ten month period to 31 May 2019, cash utilised by operations, payment of the final gross cash dividend declared for the 2018 financial year, together with capital expenditure, was funded and covered by dividends received from equity accounted investees and asset sales, which included a property and shares in ASL in Mauritius. A further asset sale is under negotiation and the Group is seeking a fair settlement.
A provision of R20 million has been made for current right-sizing initiatives.
Capex is under scrutiny. Whilst we subscribe to prudent spending to ensure a competitive estate, recent negative events mean we must economise in order to be able to maintain necessary capex in future.
The Group is fortunate to have strong international cash flows and profits, which in the year to 31 July 2018 amounted to R204,3 million and which for the six months ended 31 January 2019 amounted to R113,5 million.
However, it is important to bear in mind that a considerable proportion of international income is a function of Phumelela in South Africa being able to put up the show and ensure a world-class racing product for international punters. Should the local operations be in jeopardy, and that includes the betting operations, the domino effect through the entire horseracing value chain would be disastrous, it would destroy an already fragile industry and eliminate international income. It is therefore imperative to take all steps necessary to ensure that we navigate this unprecedented turbulence to keep the show alive.
Total assets have a carrying value of R1.7 billion, of which R0.7 billion represents equity accounted investees, including Supabets and Interbet. Equity is at R985 million.
Net gearing to total equity is 30% and net gearing to tangible net asset value is approximately 40%.
In view of the reduced profitability and the withholding of the 3% levy, the carrying value of assets may have to be reassessed.
The deferred taxation asset may have to be impaired.
Permanent annual cash savings of R60 million from the rationalisation of Betting World/Tab, immediate steps taken to focus on restoring fixed odds margins, and measures to economise on capex, will relieve the financial position and address the short-term cash deficit.
Restructuring options for the horseracing industry
As mentioned in the half-year commentary, the Board remains open to any realistic and constructive ideas that may benefit horseracing and the shareholders of Phumelela.
The Group has reopened the conceptual discussions that were terminated last year and is presently engaging with key stakeholders in the horseracing industry to examine scope for cooperation, consolidation, and pooling of financial resources. All feasible scenarios are on the table.
Shareholders will be kept informed when we have concrete information to convey.
The Board does not have the required degree of certainty to provide shareholders with detail of the anticipated range expected for earnings per share and headline earnings per share for the year ending 31 July 2019.
The Board does have the required degree of certainty that earnings per share and headline earnings per share will be below those of the previous year by more than 20%, hence this trading statement. With ten months of the financial year behind the Group and given the deterioration in income and profitability subsequent to the interim period, together with substantial restructuring costs, it is inevitable that the Group will report a loss for the year.
As and when the Board has the required degree of certainty to provide a further update on this trading statement, it will do so without delay.
The financial information contained in this voluntary trading update and trading statement has not been reviewed or reported upon by the Group’s external auditors.
Renewal of cautionary announcement
Further to the announcement dated 4 June 2019, the Company remains under cautionary as engagements with the Gauteng Member of the Executive Council responsible for EconomicDevelopment, Environment, Agriculture and Rural Development (“the MEC”) and the Gauteng Gambling Board are still in progress.
Shareholders are advised to continue exercising caution when dealing in the Company’s securities until a further announcement is made.
BUFFALO Bill Cody (IRE – Gavin Lerena) brought plenty of cheer to the stable on Sunday after the unfortunate incident with Hawwaam before the start of Saturday’s Vodacom Durban July.
The four-year-old son of Redoute’s Choice, returning from a seven-month rest, made his accomplished rival Cirillo look ordinary when he slammed him by 3.25-lengths in a Pinnacle Plate over 1600m at Turffontein.
Buffalo Bill Cody, impressive.
While Mathew de Kock was doing saddling duties at the city track, Mike de Kock and owner Mary Slack watched the race from Durban and popped a bottle of champagne in celebration, both delighted.
Mike commented: “I’ve always thought that Buffalo Bill Cody is a little better than Hawwaam. He is very good and this win over Cirillo proves it. We’ll be taking Buffalo Bill and Soqrat to Durban at the end of the month for the Champion Stakes. Hawwaam and Barahin will be rested.
IT wasn’t to be our day at Greyville. Just seconds before the start of the 2019 Vodacom Durban July our runner and the race favourite, Hawwaam, reared up in the stalls on being loaded. He bumped himself on his hindquarters, was clearly lame after the incident and had to be withdrawn by Dr Roehann Sutherland, the course veterinarian.
An big roar of disappointment went up from the crowd, but as it turned out Do It Again became the new favourite on the tote and tickets on Hawwaam qualified for the respective exotic bets.
This image shows Hawwaam at the moment of rearing up, and just before backing out of the gates and bumping himself.
While it would have been great to see how Hawwaam would shape against the big guns like Do It Again and Rainbow Bridge, this is the game of horseracing and Mike de Kock said: “Hawwaam just got a “lammie” (lamey) – a bump on his quarters and was temporarily lame. He was walking fine 10 minutes after the race.
“Dr Sutherland did the correct thing, scratching him, and I thank him for that. Our horse is alive, he is fine and there isn’t a mark on him. That Twist Of Fate ran so well suggests that Hawwaam would have been right there at the finish too, but that’s conjecture. We will live to fight another day.”
A decision will be made on whether Hawwaam will return to contest the Champion Stakes at month-end.
MIKE de Kock has a high regard for his Vodacom Durban July favourite Hawwaam but said his general price of around 2/1 was ridiculous and was based purely on hype.
He added, “For anybody to even make a comparison to Horse Chestnut right now is completely ridiculous and out of order and not forgetting that I have had other good horses since (the like of Ipi Tombe, Vercingetorix, Igugu, Variety Club etc.). There are also two horses in the July field, Do It Again and Rainbow Bridge, who have achieved more than he has”.
However, he did agree that Hawwaam was still unexposed and nobody truly knew just how good he was yet.
He said, “I don’t think he knows how good he is himself. Nothing went right for him last time in the Daily News 2000 and he still won. Before that he won very well in a weight for age Grade 1 against older horses albeit against a field I thought was pretty ordinary.”
He continued, “This is the first time he will race in a big field.”
It is a top quality field too and there is sure to be some hustle and bustle out there.
De Kock said, “It is the first time he is going to have to get involved with so many horses and I think that is going to test his mettle.”
He continued, “He does like to win though and he is versatile, he has won from handy positions and coming from off the pace. He is volatile, but he is certainly not a mad horse at all. He is just a manly horse, he is a boytjie. He has never done anything stupid before. That time at the SA Derby meeting he reacted like that simply because he was alone in the ring. He just loves being around other horses. He has always been sociable and bonds quickly with any horse we stable next to him.”
De Kock has good regard for the Daily News 2000 runner up Twist Of Fate and reckoned the 2kg swing in the weights for a 1,60 length beating would put them closer.
De Kock also believes Hawwaam’s stablemate Barahin will finish close to Hawwaam.
He said, “I think Barahin is fitter than he has ever been and he has only been beaten two or three lengths by Hawwaam so at the weights he has got be right on top of him. Barahin has a completely different style of running, he relaxes well in the running and takes time to unwind and the further he goes the better he gets. I like Barahin over ten furlongs and further, so this trip will be right down his alley.”
De Kock was impressed with Barahin’s win in the Grade 3 Jubilee Handicap over 1800m at Turffontein last time.
He said, “He gave weight away and ran past older horses like they were looking for parking.”
Hawwaam is to be ridden by Anton Marcus from draw four and Barahin will be ridden by Muzi Yeni from draw six.
De Kock would have preferred a wider draw for Hawwaam, away from the hustle and bustle, but he added, “It is what it is, I’m certainly not complaining and would prefer this good draw to a bad one.”
De Kock runs the David Ferraris part-owned Soft Falling Rain colt Aqua Delta in the Grade 2 Durban Golden Horseshoe over 1400m. He scratched Frosted Gold because of his wide draw and kept Aqua Delta after attaining a reasonable draw of ten.
He said, “He is unexposed and is a nice type, I like what I see. We will see how good he is against tougher company and if he does well he might be sent over to Hong Kong.”
He runs Soft Falling Rain filly Mawsool in the Grade 2 Zulu Kingdom Explorer Golden Slipper over 1400m and said, “Again, she was the one who drew best of my entries. I’m not quite sure she is this league yet, but I’m running her to expose her.”
He runs The Dazzler in the Grade 3 Betting World 2200 and said, “He had a training gallop on Saturday thanks to Muzi not riding to instruction, they hacked around, the race was a joke. So we are running him again here. He is fit and well and will be competitive.” – Gold Circle.
THIS year’s Vodacom Durban July is probably the toughest he has seen, Mike de Kock told JACK MILNER on Wednesday.
“Barring Soqrat, all the best horses in the country are there,” he said yesterday.
De Kock saddles two runners – 2-1 favourite Hawwaam and 6-1 shot Barahin, both three-year-olds.
Ask him which he sees as the possible winner, De Kock is reticent to give an answer.
The reason? “Hawwaam probably has a tad more class but it is a while since we’ve seen the best of Barahin.
The last time he raced at his best, he beat Soqrat at Greyville so he has to be right up there.”
Then he has to deal with the personality of the two horses. “Hawwaam is not straightforward. You don’t know what he’s going to do…whether he will jump slowly, or whether he will pull. This is also the first time he is running in an 18-horse field so we don’t know how he will cope.
“Barahin is a one-dimensional horse. He’ll relax near the back of the field and run on late.”
What could affect Barahin is the pace and in that regard, De Kock had a slight dig at the jockeys who he says will dictate the tempo of the race. What has happened previously in the race is that many of them are duped into following the leader rather than judging the pace they need for their own mounts.
“I think whoever sizes it up properly early on, who gets his horse into a good position, will have the advantage. The race can be won and lost over the first 200m.
“It’s always going to be tactical when you have a 18-horse field. You have speed on your inside and outside and only a few jockeys who understand that.”
De Kock did admit that one thing he likes about Hawwaam is that he knows how to win, something he proved he could do when winning the Grade 1 Daily News 2000.
“Despite Justin Snaith’s assertion to the contrary, nothing went to plan. We wanted to lead but he was left at the start, others got first run on him and he still won. He doesn’t know how to lose, even in Daily News he knew what to do.”
The stable also have three other runners on the day, starting with The Dazzler in Race 3, the Grade 3 Betting World 2200. “We ran him in the KZN Breeders Million Mile on Saturday but he only had a gallop so we chose to run him again.”
Mawsool will be lining up in the Grade 2 Zulu Kingdom Explorer Golden Slipper over 1400m but he is more hopeful than anything else. “She’s not a bad filly but we’re running her more for the fact she has a good draw. I would say she has a place chance.”
Their final runner is Aqua Delta in the Grade 2 Durban Golden Horseshoe over 1400m. “He’s an interesting horse. He won well on debut and he seems a nice horse. He’s looking for the trip but he’s only had one run and he is inexperienced.
“This will tell us how good he is. If he is good enough, David (Ferraris) a wants to take him to Hong Kong.”