The East Cape Racing Awards held this coming Saturday, will be hosted for the very last time at Arlington Racecourse. That is if Phumelela’s scheduled installation of the new Polytrack synthetic racing surface on the inside of the existing Fairview turf circuit goes according to schedule. The awards function is to be held in the Racing Association Members Lounge in the Jock Andrews Pavillion. Andrews was the Chairman of the St Andrews Racing Club from 1950 – 1971.
So there goes Arlington. Let’s not get too bloody sentimental. But the problem with change and the almost flagrant manner in which we toss tradition and memories out of the window, is that we justify it so readily in the name of progress and commercial considerations.
The real problem for us traditionalists comes to arguing against it. We can’t.
Let’s face it, the rationale behind Phumelela’s bold move to ensure the sustainability of racing in the Eastern Cape with the closure of this wonderful racecourse, makes sense. Forget the ethos and tradition. It is all in the balance sheets. Just gotta love the accountants!
With tote turnover at the meeting amounting to just 3405 pounds and a few shillings, Arlington was opened on Saturday 23 December 1950 by the then Mayor of PE, Mr Boet Erasmus.
And most ironically of all, it was opened as the feeling was that the establishment of another club and course was vital if East Cape racing was to develop commercially. So we have gone full circle, have we not?
The one track in those days only coped with about three meetings a month on average. So it made sense to build another track and get the momentum going.
The Administrator of the Cape granted permission in 1948 for Arlington to be established. Mr John Andrews was the first chairman, with Mr R Hynch acting as vice-chairman.
The very first race was a Maiden Handicap run over a mile for a stake of 100 pounds and was won by the 5-4 favourite Cardenas. After this past Monday meeting at Arlington, one wonders if that wasn’t the first and last favourite to win there!
Scotty Schuleman’s Shape won the second race at 5-1 and his son Michael would go on to continue the family tradition. Another familiar family name trained the winner of the third race. Alex McLachlan, father of Des, trained Flying Fish ridden by Roy Curling.
The feature race, the St Andrews Inauguration Handicap was run over a mile and was won by Defy, trained by the late Andrew Smith, dad of current champion conditioner, Andy. The stake was 600 pounds.
A familiar name to Western Cape racegoers rode the winner of the seventh for the late Harry Lodge. Inquest was piloted by the late Lionel Witkowsky, who went on to train in the Cape and was the father-in-law of current day trainer, Andries Steyn.
Arlington played a major role in the behind-the-scenes influencing of the first ever sponsorship in the Eastern Cape.
In the early 1960’s the United Tobacco Company sponsored the R4000 Eastern Province Players Gold Leaf Derby. That was the richest ever race contested in those parts at the time. This was the forerunner of the Benson and Hedges Eastern Province Derby.
Big news in 1979 was the announcement by Mr R Loon, Chairman of the St Andrews Racing Club, that the 1980 Derby would carry a stake of R15 000.
The modern history is well documented since and one hopes that some part of Arlington will be treasured forever within the boundaries of the snazzy new-look Fairview.
Racing is not big on hailing heroes and legends of days gone by.
But there are enough sons and grandsons still plying one of the toughest professions on earth, to ensure that the unique tradition stands the rigorous test of this new disposable techno world.
With kind appreciation to Wally Strydom and Carol Janse Van Rensburg
The awards banquet will be held in the Jock Andrews Pavilion, Arlington Racecourse on Saturday 15 September 2012. Tickets cost R175 per head. There is a 3 course meal, sponsored wine at each table and live music for entertainment and dancing after the awards presentation. A cash bar is available and the dress is Formal. Tickets are still available bookings can be made with Carol on 0845822813 or from Janet on race days.