Horse racing is a popular and well established sport in South Africa. While not holding the same mass appeal as the major team sports like rugby, soccer and cricket, horse racing has a distinctly more refined history and following. The first race that was recorded took place in 1802 and it is believed that training started some years before that. Today, race meets regularly take place and the sport has a distinguished following of enthusiasts. Often regarded as a more elitist event, horse racing attracts a variety of wealthy individuals and is well known for the horse betting and ladies fashion highlights.
The National Horse Racing Authority is the overall national authority that presides over the rules and regulations of racing meets. The NHRA used to be known as the Jockey Club of South Africa and was established in 1882. While they are the authority, two separate groups organize and control racing activities. Phumelela Gaming and Leisure Limited operates all racing meets within the provinces of Gauteng, Northern Cape, Eastern Cape and the Free State. Gold Circle controls racing activities in the Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal.
While a large number of races are held there are three major events that are held at three separate tracks around the country. In Johannesburg’s famous track of Turfontein, the Summer Cup is held. In Cape Town, spectators can watch the J & B Met. For those living in Durban, the Vodacom July is held annually at Greyville race course.
Unlike many other sports, horse racing exists entirely from the profit of its betting systems rather than teams and individuals winning prize money and sponsorship. As this is the case a unified betting system is controlled by Saftote for all of South Africa’s horse races. Horse racing has come under some scrutiny by the socially conscious public because of its association to gambling. This does not seem to threaten the sport however which thrives on a sense of tradition and sophistication one can rarely find elsewhere. The very nature of horse racing dates back centuries and will no doubt endure well into the future.