Three Singles To Adventure

As always, Avontuur delivers a top day out

Gerald Durrell

Gerald Durrell – adventurer

Anyone who grew up reading Gerald Durrell will give a wry smile at the title. Durrell’s books were always full of wry humour, high adventure and of course, enormous fun. But perhaps best of all, his stories had a way of sort of wrapping you up into them, so that by about paragraph 3 you were right in the jungle with him, lassoing anteaters, feeding colicky sloths or being attacked by a particularly rare exotic bird.

Well, Avontuur race day was a little like that for me. It’s one of my favourite days on the racing calendar anyway as haute cheval always takes centre stage, while haute couture and haute cuisine are merely pleasant accessories, but this year exceeded my expectations yet again.

Off To A Good Start

Avontuur day

Avontuur day

My neighbours, as usual, turned their dogs out in force for an early morning choir practice. These are generally scheduled for weekend mornings, and often accompanied by impromptu DIY to add that essential background beat – the earlier the better of course, as the cool morning air is so helpful for vocal range. What’s the old expression about good fences making good neighbours?! On the up side, it meant that I found myself in front of the TV unusually early. From the moment the screen blinked into life, there was no mistaking the fact that it was Fillies Guineas day and that Avontuur were all over it. There were ads aplenty, across the country presenters were neatly liveried in Avontuur shirts, sets were dressed in green and white and Under Starters Orders was a joy. Mr Elley is as gracious and diplomatic a host as anyone could wish for, which made him a perfect counterfoil for the prodigious force that is Robert ‘The Ringer’ Bloomberg.

Robert Bloomberg

Robert Bloomberg

I am generally not one for betting shows, but I really have to dish out compliments all round. The day’s card had been thoroughly dissected from start to finish, with great trainer interviews and race replays where relevant. Although the odds were mentioned, these were accessories to the form and used to support arguments for or against the analysis of each horse. Mr Bloomberg’s comments on the ratings for the current 3yo crop also provided food for thought and all in all, it was clear that a great deal of time and effort had gone into the production. Huge kudos all round. Andrew Bon’s insert featured Mark van Deventer’s thoughts on the card, we were reminded that racing was on the summer course, got some information on the condition of the track, penetrometer readings and false rail and all in all, for the first time in a long, long time, I felt I’d been provided with some real, meaningful information to supplement my day at the track. Not only had trouble been taken to collate information on the day’s racing, it had been thoughtfully packaged and explained in terms simple enough for even this scribe to understand. I was so impressed I damn nearly had a bet !

On arrival

The theme continued on course and from the minute one walked through the gate, it was clear that you were in safe hands. The Avontuur livery and branding were all over the course, the experience was managed from start to finish and everyone’s needs were catered for.

My first stop was a quick tour of the parade ring to see some of the early runners, say hello to our presenting team and admire the Kenilworth pagoda beautifully dressed up. It’s such a beautiful architectural feature and wonderful to have it spruced up and in use for the summer.

Avontuur Fillies Guineas Day

Face painting was a hit

Then on to the apron and the children’s entertainment. Usually I would consider this a bit of a chore, but it was interesting to see the jumping castles and ‘kids corner’ moved to the far end of the apron, instead of behind the parade ring as we are used to and it was a riot. The children were having an absolute ball. There were slides and jumping castles, clown wigs, a pirate face painter (with a queue of fascinated kids waiting their turn), ice cream and food carts and a small stage for music and entertainment where Neil Pretorius was having a ball playing to the audience. Neil was a teacher in his previous life and was excellent with the children and looked to genuinely be having fun doing it. One of the biggest treats of the afternoon was a group of 5 local teenagers who call themselves Harmonized Melodies. It was their first ever public performance and they sang and beatboxed Pentatonix style. They were mind-blowingly good and it was rather a shame that the rest of the crowd didn’t get to enjoy them.

The racing

horses on parad

Good racing

Of course by this time, William Bambiso had won the grooms race on Jet Revez, Fire Master had cracked his maiden with Richard Fourie and MJ Byleveld had ridden Moonsong Magic home a smooth-looking 4.75 lengths clear of his field. I joined a couple of punters along the rail to shout the field home in the 4th which produced a bit of a messy finish with Even So drifting out and carrying My World with him. It was a bit of a scrum for the line, but Richard Fourie held his line and got Current Event home by 0.3 of a length. There was just enough time to get to the parade ring to see the field for the Gr2 Southern Cross Stakes. Everyone was keen to see Alboran Sea and she certainly delivered on looks. However, it was another eventful race with Rosier stumbling at the start and Lanner Falcon’s saddle slipping during running. In the end, Bernard Fayd’herbe and Fly By Night put in a polished performance to produce a podium finish for Mike Bass Racing. Cap Alright bid for a repeat win in the Southeaster Sprint, but had to settle for 5th with the honours going to Dressed In Cotton and the 2011 Met partnership of Darryl Hodgson and Gerrit Schlechter. However, it was a close run thing, with a deadheat for second between Villa Del Largo and Daring Dave with The West Is Wide finishing next best, less than a length back in 4th.


The horse of the moment – Majmu

Talk for the main event had been all about Majmu, but with Cold As Ice breaking through the stalls and heading back to the saddling enclosure under her own steam, the race was more about the start than the finish. In the end, Majmu gave her would be challengers short shrift to win with contemptuous ease. Mike de Kock has a good track record with fillies and the lovely grey daughter of Redoute’s Choice can now play eeny-meeny-miney-mo with the season’s features. The Dominion Royale Handicap produced yet another tight finish with the first four coming home within a length of one another and Vincente, full brother to the wonderful Val De Ra, making an appropriate winner. Blinkers and a tongue tie did the trick for That Cowboy Kid in the penultimate race of the day and Olim Dives clocked another win for Glenn Marcus’ fun initiative, the Be In The Race syndicate, in the last.

Hostess with the mostess

Pippa Mickleburgh

Pippa – hostess with the mostess

Pippa and the Avontuur team take their sponsorship and hosting duties seriously. The upstairs area was filled with its usual chocolate box selection of personalities from all across the racing spectrum and the prospect of bumping into a familiar face is another reason the day is always such fun. From the picnic tables in the parade ring, to the cheese board in the ‘gods’, Pippa and Avontuur’s deft touches are everywhere ensuring a little TLC for everyone. Not least of all the Peninsula School Feeding Association, who received a R100,000 donation which will help them provide 255 children with breakfast and lunch for a year.

Val & Ralph Rixon

You always bump into fun & interesting folk like Val & Ralph Rixon

Every year the car park is full and people come simply because they know Pippa is in charge and they know it’ll be good, because everyone works to make it so. Don’t be fooled by the day’s easy efficiency – as with most things that appear to happen as if by magic, Avontuur Cape Fillies Guineas Day takes a lot of blood, sweat and tears behind the scenes and a lot of hands on deck on the day to keep it all ticking along like clockwork. Whether it is Anton Schafer tirelessly walking the premises to check that everything is in its place, Dean Diedericks being on hand to keep an eye on the track, or me writing this column – we all want to chip in and do our bit and do it right. Even the weather gods did their bit. Pippa just has that effect on people and I think that’s quite a credit to Avontuur’s first lady! Well, she has to make room behind Val de Ra and Miss Frankel now, but you know what I mean.

Like Gerald Durrell and his marvellous adventures, Pippa and the Avontuur team always ensure a top class outing, so thank you for a thoroughly engrossing day’s racing. Pippa for president ! Or better yet, head of marketing.

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