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Dante’s Raucous Inferno

Race-caller Alan Schoeman raises a 'Rorkus' to liven up Fairview meeting on 4 May

Alan Schoeman

Nobody's Perfect! Alan Schoeman pulled a curved ball out of the bag today.

A commentator’s bad line-call added some fun and games to an entertaining programme at Fairview this afternoon. The way punters have reacted, one would think we live in a perfect world.

The R70 000 Oaks Plate headed the eight race programme and provided a surprising winner in a thrilling finish.

The fourteen-strong field jumped on terms except for the Grant Paddock-trained Cuban Coral, who dumped her rider Grant Van Niekerk as the gates were sprung and Kendall Minnie took the Mitch Wiese-trained One Fine Dame to lead by five lengths.

Turning for home the pacesetter tired and dropped out as challenges came from all around. Francois Herholdt had been sitting in midfield on the outsider Alvilda, and he hit the front about 300m out to ward off a sustained late challenge from the fast improving Night Style. Alvilda’s stablemate She’s A Lady pipped the tiring Red Scent for third.

The winner , who is named after the first female pirate captain who came from southern Sweden in the time before the Vikings, started at 33-1 and was not expected to beat some of her better performed contemporaries. She was saddled by the well-travelled former Cape champion apprentice jockey Juan Nel, who works for the Justin Snaith satellite operation in Port Elizabeth these days.

jono snaith

In The Pink! Jono Snaith owns Alvilda who won the Oaks Plate today.

Alvilda, owned by the trainer’s brother Jono,  is really no star. She runs off a merit rating of 72 and has won twice from her eleven starts. A R70 000 Vintage sale graduate, she was bred by Wilgerbosdrift and is by Jallad out of the Fine Edge mare High Sea. Her dam was a fair racehorse. Trained by Dennis Drier, she won four races from her twenty-one starts.

The race produced a few disappointments, the biggest of which was the winner’s stablemate Roczinta who faded to finish in tenth position and eleven lengths behind. The daughter of Rock Of Gibraltar looks hard pressed to ever win a second race after starting off quite well in Cape Town. Roczinta is very well bred though and is bound to make her way to the Adams’ paddocks sooner rather than later.

Another impressive Snaith winner on the day was the powerful galloper Bois De Var, who kept on relentlessly under Richard Fourie to close the jackpot. The MR 84 Handicap run over 1200m was an open-looking affair and the money came for the weekly runner Count Dumani. But they had no answer to Richard Fourie’s calculated ride on the Var gelding.

Owned by Fred Crabbia, Bois De Var recently had stints with Mike Stewart and Glen Kotzen in Cape Town and looks like he will continue to earn in PE. He should love Arlington.

He is, quite obviously, by Var out of the five-time winning Dancing Champ mare Sheltering Trees. He was bred by Hans and Judy Stegeman in partnership with D Thomas.He sold for R500 000 at the National Yearling Sale, and with his career earnings now at R270 000, he has quite some way to go to recoup that investment.

The long-knives brandished by the all familiar character assassins that inhabit the corridors of horseracing were out in force following a bad call in the fourth race that saw commentator Alan  Schoeman awarding the race to the wrong horse.

Bois De Var

Galloper! Fred Crabbia's Bois De Var is a tough nut to crack when in front.

The Fred Crabbia silks are all over the show in Port Elizabeth and the Singapore-based owner had two runners for two different stables in the MR 90 Handicap run over 1400m. Justin Snaith sent Citizen Dante out with the standard cap, while Allan Greef’s Run Rorkus Run carried a gold cap.

An excited Schoeman shouted the storming Citizen Dante home as he flew past the pacemaking Havasha. Except it was not Citizen Dante. It was in fact Rorkus running to victory!

Love him or hate him, Schoeman is a legend. He started out as assistant to Larry Weir, Doug Fox and Pat Hurley and has been the voice of PE racing since 1981. He was also commentator in Kimberley for twenty years until being replaced by the young gun Alastair Cohen recently. Schoeman’s dedication to and love of what he does is illustrated by the fact that he religiously drove the long road with the Clerk Of Scales  from Port Elizabeth to Kimberley every Monday, leaving at three o’ çlock in the  morning and getting home way after midnight  – a round trip of some 15 hours for all those years!

He could also write a book on some of his experiences. No doubt the Rorkus incident will take up a chapter. He recounts the Kimberley story of a day a cloud of sandy dust choked him as the horses swept passed the winning post for the first time in a distance  event.” It was a very windy day and the sand almost choked me. I fell on the floor in a fit of coughing as I tried to clear my throat. All the while the race was on and  the punters were moaning about the silence  – not knowing that I was rolling  around on the floor of the commentary box. It’s quite funny now – but wasn’t then”, he chuckled.

He went on to mention the day the late legendary PE trainer Oom Nic Claassen tipped him his horse, All Three A King:” I am not a big punter and the horse was 100-1. I put a couple of rand on him and when he hit the front I battled to contain my excitement and screamed with joy and almost fell out of my chair  – the public must have realized that I had punted the winner!”

The nickname ‘Bumpy’, was christened by his late brother. “ He gave me the name and it has stuck like glue. In our younger days we enjoyed dancing – you know the boogie and jive thing. I loved it and was a talented dancer – at least I thought so – and was guilty of bumping into folk on the dance floor,  as I used to move like crazy.”

There are those that are now calling for the colourful character’s head and if one looks at it, the mistake probably borders on the unacceptable. Firstly Rorkus is a chestnut. Citizen Dante is a bay.The change of caps were correctly declared in what was just an eleven horse field. It is difficult finding mitigating factors. Playing with punter emotions is a dangerous game. But there was no malicious intent. It was a genuine mistake.

For a man who started calling in 1981, he really should have been able to call this race with his hands tied behind his back and while phoning to check his Telebet account balance.

On the flipside of the coin, making mistakes is what human beings are all about. Bumpy adds so much colour and humanity to the usual humdrum drone that we listen to every day. Nobody died, as they say. The Fairview commentary box is also not the best positioned eagle’s nest we have ever seen. It is also a thankless and tough job, that isn’t particularly well paid. A sitting duck really.

We will be very surprised, and disappointed, if Phumelela take action on this trivial oversight. There are, after all, so many other serious issues that need addressing in so many aspects of the package that is the horseracing product. It’s a case of priorities, and Bumpy adds more value than stress to most of our lives.

And the problem is we really cannot afford to lose genuine colourful characters. Let’s move on and enjoy the racing.

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8 comments on “Dante’s Raucous Inferno

  1. mikesack says:

    Hell I remember that incident many years ago and it was the late great Ernie Duffield calling the races as usual at a Scottsville meeting.It was a race down the straight and we were in a small smoke-filled tattersalls that was jam-packed on a Saturday afternoon.We backed a horse from the Buller Benton stable called JULAPA and in the final 200mt to the finish no mention made of this horse.It was a blanket finish and after something like 10 minutes,good ole Ernie said, “right here is your result, 1st no.? JULAPA!.  We jumped so high in celebration we couldn’t fault Ernie for the “oversight’.Commentating on horses is not an easy career and it is human to err.

  2. Ismikle says:

    Bumpy ? I always thought it was Dumpy Schoeman… The mans a legend, PE needs him and I reckon he adds spice to (racing) life…. never a dull moment plus he has a tough job with maximum fields almost every race…

  3. SportingPostEditor1 says:

    Commentating has got to be one of the most difficult jobs in racing or anywhere. The man made a mistake. We have all jumped a stop street or red robot in error and regretted it 2 seconds later. Think about all the things people say without thinking – and when they are not under pressure.
    Ismikle, it definitely Bumpy. Dumpy sounds like Humpty and all the kings horses!!
    Mike that’s a great story. Ernie was a legend.
    Are commentators all chain smokers? Remember Sandy Bickett?

  4. Williammilkovitch says:

    In the early 80’s prior to Tellytrack, my friends and I gathered around the speaker at the tote to listen to the last race commentary at Arlington, late friday afternoon after work.

    Dumpies calls home the first 3 horses past the post, we had 4 other horses in the last leg of the PA ! .. one out again !?.I get home, phone race results and discovered that the 3 Mr Schoeman called home never placed ! Our selections did so well, I had to salvage and straighten out the torn up ticket so that we had a readable bar -code. 

    So never think “pay-pay” when Dumpies commentates

  5. Dayalan says:

    Bumpy Schoeman is a legend.All you have to do is wait for the all clear and don’t throw you tickets away.But for him every race call is a July Handicap.He gives a thrill in racing.Throw away Craig Peters his voice is like a nursery school teacher
    Nico is worse husky like a taxi sub without the filter and shaheen shaw who messed up the first race in Mauritius called a 20 to one home that never featured.
    I threw my ticket away.Whos gonna reimburse me.

    Phumelela wake up”’ stop poking your nose in every province and destroying the heritage of each province like Gold Circle selling Clairwood Park

  6. Robert Taft says:

    As a former horseracing announcer/comentator in both the U.S. and Sweden, I fully realize there are several facts that make the task difficult. Track lighting at night can be very trying. Poor announcer’s positioning affecting clear visibility can be a real headache. If one is really quick to see, think, and speak, then you have a huge edge. If you’re blessed with clear voice and great diction, then your very blessed. Without a true admiration for horseracing, both thotoughbred and harness, then you should… stay out of the profession. Robert Taft

  7. Thomas Gerber says:

    One of the highlights of my career as a punter was when Alan Schoeman commentated a race on Arlington in Xhosa- must have been around 1986!
    And he got the winner right!
    What a legend!!

  8. WILLIAM MILKOVITCH says:

    Blue Nile, Blue Nile, Blue Nile, Blue Nile, Blue Nile …for 2400 metres, Mr Thomas Gerber what a joke that was !

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