I have such terrifically fond memories of Durbanville racecourse. I grew up in Durbanville and on any given Saturday morning, fresh from mowing our lawn, I would cycle up to its off-course tote to fritter away my recently acquired R5, writes Neil Andrews.
I was blessed to witness the likes of Spider O’Toole and Green Silver race round those inimitable green hedges. I was too young to be on the course, let alone be betting, but a young boy’s passion will out and I found resourceful ways to wager and shout home Peter Kannemeyer-trained winners – more often than not partnered to perfection by Garth Puller, with his trademark ‘last to first’ flourish of brilliance.
As a racecaller, the Durbanville track had its own set of particular perils.
On most winter Wednesdays the commentary box – though I’m not convinced it ever qualified as being one – performed its own rendition of a windswept crow’s nest, the wooden structure offered its occupant little protection from the elements and left him with the distinct impression that he’d been shipwrecked off the coast of a godforsaken island in the outer Hebrides.
However, such discomforts were of little significance when compared to the challenge of negotiating the Durbanville sound system, which relied solely on two booming loud-speakers that hung above the Winning Post.
Facing inwards, positioned high above the lollipop and directly opposite the announcers booth, these fog-horns served to bellow all messages back over the heads of racegoers below, their tri-purpose being to quadruple the decibels, delay the delivery and then return the communication to the unsuspecting ear drums of the poor fellow who had originated it three seconds earlier.
Calling horse races is trappy at the best of times but to do so at Durbanville demanded a rare skill. The name of the horse leading the race would exit your ‘North and South’ one moment, only to make a surprise return to your ‘Britney Spears’ three seconds later when you’d be in the middle of trying to call the horses in second or third.
Of course none of the above can excuse my dismal attempt at Durbanville to mimmick Sir Peter ‘they hit the rising ground’ O’Sullevan. I infamously called Bronze Mystique a winner of that race (it was comfortably beaten into second) choosing to concentrate on accurate intonations of the legendary Sir Peter as I sprouted forth, “and Andrew Fortune looks left and then looks right but there’s no dangers, he’s got this all sewn up” – I think the margin of defeat was a half-length!
Of far greater service to the racing public was my announcement on one particularly dank and dreary Durbanville day for anyone who had lost a set of false teeth to report to the commentary box for their collection.
Thirty years on and i still have those teeth at home.
I’m not wearing them yet nor has anyone asked me for them, but I’ve certainly lent them to Terry Paine a few times.
Personally I cannot wait to see the latest evolution of Durbanville racecourse. Of course I am a trifle biased – I just love the place!
Ed – Neil Andrews is a Supersport and Tellytrack presenter. And as you may deduce from the above, a former racecaller.