Red tape slows down fast horses
The infield of Kenilworth Racecourse in Cape Town is an expanse of beautiful Cape Flats sand fynbos.
Tucked away within this botanical gem is a small stable block with another treasure - a handful of racehorses collectively worth many, many millions of rands.
Durban July champion Igugu is among this select band, along with the brilliant sprinting filly Val De Ra. They are enjoying a spell of "vector-protected isolation" in the Kenilworth Quarantine Station before being exported.
This interlude in the fragrant fynbos is the beginning of a very long process that South African horses must undergo if they are to display their talents to the world.
I've grumbled here before about the ridiculous overreaction of many foreign health authorities to African Horse Sickness.
These jobsworths have an irrational fear that insect-borne AHS will spread to their countries - even though science indicates this is far-fetched.
Harsh new export-import rules were imposed about a year ago.
The South African government said it would take up the cause of getting these restrictions lifted and, for a while, racing people felt they had a powerful ally. But the politicos seem to have achieved nothing. No surprise there.
Some owners and trainers have decided to bite the bullet and jump through the bureaucratic hoops to get their horses running and breeding overseas.
After a month or so spent gazing at Table Mountain in vector protection, the horses are whisked by quarantine conveyance to the airport and loaded onto a cargo plane bound for Mauritius.
There they must spend 90 days' "residency" before they are allowed to set foot on European soil.
It doesn't end there. Horses destined for Dubai have to spend at least another month in quarantine in Europe before being flown to the desert.
For those heading to Hong Kong it is a 60-day layover in Europe.
This is all very well for the horses, which have a leisurely six months or so in some scenic spots, but it's a nightmare for trainers who have to start from scratch in conditioning their horses for top-level racing.
By contrast, opposition from other parts of the world can fly in, all tuned up, in the week of a big race.
Igugu's owners have decided they gotta do what they gotta do. The prizes are too big and the horse too good not to make the effort.
Val De Ra has been retired from racing following her disastrous performance in the Computaform Sprint a fortnight ago and is being shipped overseas to stud - with European prices for well-bred foals being some multiples higher than they are here.
A horse with much racing still in him, the exceptional miler Variety Club, winner of last weekend's Guineas at Greyville, is also earmarked for a stint in the fynbos - with the Hong Kong Mile a target for him.
TURFFONTEIN TOMORROW: PA - 5 x 2,9 x 6 x 9,10 x 3,5,14 x 3,6 x 6,8,11 (R72)