Racing with a difference in South African setting


WSG equestrian writer JEANNIE KNIGHT recently spent time in South Africa. In a special feature she reveals in Sussex Horse World this week ( October 26)what a day at the races is like in this totally different setting.

AN afternoon of racing at Durbanville, in South Africa, proved to be an excellent way of shaking off jet lag following an overnight flight to Cape Town to stay with my son, Ed, and his family recently.

They had already visited Kenilworth racecourse, slightly closer to their home at Constantia and had been impressed by the friendly, small crowd and informal atmosphere.

I’d seen racing at Kenilworth and Durbanville on television the previous year, when in Johannesburg, and it took no persuasion to join them for an afternoon’s racing at Durbanville.

This attractive course, in a glorious setting, has ample free parking and no admission charge.

There were nine races on the card for the afternoon, with races ranging from 1000 metres to the 2,400 metres of a Settlers Trophy Listed race with prize money of approaching £12,000 - and no prize money less than around £5,500.

As in Britain there are two ways of betting- either on the Tote where the minimum bet was 6 rands (less than 60p) or with bookies in their booths with a minimum of 10 rands ( under £1)

A race sheet giving the form and names of all runners was barely 30p and horses paraded in a paddock for all to see in an informal atmosphere before being led out on to the track, set against a backdrop of distant mountains.

The course has its own screen system of in-race running and playbacks of races afterwards, a pleasant restaurant, and someone to keep an eye on your car outside in the leafy car park, for the customary five rand on departure.

Some familiar names sprang out from the race sheet when I glanced at the breeding. Count Dubois, Peint Celebre and Galileo were well represented by runners .

Count Dubois now 13, is a champion sire in South Africa where he now stands at the Litchfield Stud.

He was a top class miler as a two-year-old in Britain when trained by William Haggas. His offspring, Cherbourg, was third in fourth race while Comtesse Duboise won her race.

For full feature, more pictures and to learn about how the South African racing system operates see Sussex Horse World, West Sussex Gazette October 26 2011