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Temperatures Up At Durbanville

A lockdown day experience - never again

I often pose the following question to select racing insiders:Does racing actually deserve to survive?

Usually they respond by wheeling out the choir whose repertoire is restricted to just three hymns : ‘Let’s All Pull Together’, ‘Alles Sal Reg Kom’ & ‘Don’t Be Negative’.

The last mentioned is simply Peter Gabriel’s ‘Don’t Give Up’ but with different lyrics.

Garrick Bergh writes in the Sporting Post Mailbag that he is a slow learner but once he ‘gets it’ he doesn’t usually forget it.

In June 2019 I turned up punting; primarily because I realised that, by punting, I was still actually financing this fiasco whilst complaining about it! So I stopped whilst allowing myself the freedom to have a small bet on the July and/or Met if I so desired.

In July 2020 I exercised my freedom of choice and had a small punt on the July.

It was a very interesting exercise. My selection predictably did not win but I experienced a feeling I had last had when I struck my very first losing bet way back in the early 1970’s – I was angry.

Angry at my lack of control and angry because I could rather have donated R5k to a needy charity. But not angry because my horse had lost. I now really feel liberated from this addiction and doubt whether I will be tempted to have another bet in my lifetime as the activity suddenly makes me feel positively uncomfortable.

Despite the above I still have a horse in training so my connection with the game, although tenuous, is still intact.

But the last year has made me very aware that I am still spending R10k pm on an interest which is probably no longer an actual interest but merely a bad habit.

My experiences at Durbanville on August 4th have merely confirmed my disenchantment :

My partner and I decided to drive to Durbanville to be there for our runner. It’s a 90km plus round trip through Cape Town traffic but…..we decided – ‘Let’s do It!’

I called Kenilworth racing to register my intent. After the usual scratching around I was supplied with an email address to submit my details for registration. Which I did. I printed a copy because I know from two previous visits what happens when you reach the entrance.

We encountered our first problem at the entrance to Durbanville.

The attendant had managed to change the thermometer’s reading from Celsius to Fahrenheit so my partner’s temperature was off the scale and he didn’t want to admit us.

I try and keep a sense of humour under these circumstances but he saw nothing funny about her temperature which, in his mind, was 3x over the limit. It took some time and a mini conference between the gate attendants but eventually we were admitted.

We wandered into a relatively deserted racecourse and made our way to the restaurant. We found a seat but were never approached by a waiter so scratched our intention of having a beverage. I wonder how the other 15 odd souls there got service……..

Not long thereafter we wandered over to the parade ring where we were confronted by the next little surprise.

Durbanville (photo: hamishNIVENPhotography)

NOBODY was allowed in other than trainers.

According to the very big gentleman guarding the entrance the ruling was introduced for that meeting. Pity it was never promulgated. I could have saved myself a 90km journey and watched from home.

Then I had a bright idea and asked : ‘What happens if my horse actually wins’. Response – ‘Then you can come in’. WTF. I did, however, learn something that I never before knew : My mate Rob Champion is now a trainer! How do I know this? Because he was in the ring.

After the inevitable delay at the start ( no surprise – this is South African racing ) the race was duly run and my horse ran 4th out of 5.

I am not one to blame jockeys but he was riding a horse with no turn of foot who, ideally, needs another 1000+ metres to be seen at her best. So he slightly missed the jump, rushed to the front, slowed it to an absolute crawl & then predictably got tapped for toe in the straight; having voluntarily wasted her stamina and weight advantage by failing to make the opposition ‘carry their weight’ for much of the journey.

To be fair – the rider of the (beaten) favourite was even worse. Under 60kg he looped the runners on the turn (Who does that? Is a 600m run in too short?) and got nabbed on the post.

What am I doing this for?

I’m not speaking from my (punting) pocket as I thankfully no longer bet. The sport drifts like a rudderless ship with no one in control or anyone willing to take responsibility.

Nothing seems to work. There is no social interaction at all, no buzz and really poor entertainment value.

Why bother?

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9 comments on “Temperatures Up At Durbanville

  1. Philip Goldberg says:

    Congrats Rob.
    Wishing you all the best as a trainer.

  2. donald bradshaw says:

    Garrick , I feel I have to add to your article in respect of the punting perspective. I have been in this sport for 55 years and in my early days tried to make some money on the side in the game I loved with no success so I then changed my strategy to punting for the entertainment value and I must say for approx….. 40 years I was quite entertained by what was offered by the industry I can also confirm that although being quite sophisticated in understanding the nuances of the sport I certainly did not show a profit after all those years but regarded my misfortune in making any profit as ” paying for my entertainment ” much like paying for a wine and dine,

    However , the last few years the industry has thrown out their customers like yesterdays dish washing water and has made no attempt to win us back and in fact matters have just got worse and I am sure I do not have to list what those matters are here ?

    Then COVID arrived and my ” entertainment ” was curtailed and initially I thought what will I do for ” entertainment ” only to find after a week or two that I did not miss the ” entertainment ” and saved a fortune to boot !

    So , I have again changed my strategy to have a bet on the July and my experience in terms of profit was much the same as yours but I enjoyed the race nonetheless shaking my head that Its My Turn did not get up for 4th on the outside and thereby land me 87 % of the quartet which would have changed my fortunes to profit.

    I record and watch local racing without having any bets and I am still entertained by what is on offer good or bad as I no longer have any investment in the outcomes so can have a good laugh at what is produced by the industry.

    I will have a bet on the Gold Cup and attend the odd horse racing meeting in K.Z.N. when it is opened to the public in future with a budget of 1 K and will still be entertained win or lose but will no longer be a daily contributor to the sport of kings in terms of what is possibly my final strategy change !

  3. Rob Champion says:

    While it’s not for me to engage in how good or bad “ my friend” Mr Berghs experience was at Durbanville I do take umbrage in the mention of my name as I have not attended a race meeting since lockdown began. His eyes must need testing ! You can imagine my shock when I received a call from Kenilworth Racing asking if and why I was present in the Parade Ring.
    I miss the racing on course but understand the rules in the current situation so the only racing I have seen is on Tellytrack !!
    Sorry for your bad experience Garrick but you certainly did not see me in the Parade Ring and I certainly don’t want to be a trainer under current conditions!!!

  4. Garrick Bergh says:

    Hi Rob – Please accept my unconditional apology for clearly mistaking someone else for you in the ring at Durbanville on Tuesday. No excuses but the good looks which I saw half concealed by a Covid mask in the ring resulted in the mistaken identity.

    I did, in fact , have my eyesight tested a couple of months ago but was advised it is not great but as good as a 68 year old could hope for.

    Interested to learn that Kenilworth Racing found the time to call and aggravate you but not enough time to advise us that access to the ring was to be prohibited on the raceday. Makes we wonder what changed from the last two occasions at Kenilworth when access WAS permitted.

    Please hang on tightly to your ‘umbrage’. You are sure to have plenty of opportunities to use it again in the future in this activity.

  5. Frankie says:

    Frankie Zackey…
    Rob I think the man took a pounding never mind that the doesn’t punt anymore,, i wonder who’s fooling who ? they hit Zanadu from 7s into 2s if I’m not mistaken…Why travel 90km if you know the horse needs a extra 1000m ? waisting petrol nowadays is a sin…I think the article was done out of pure frustration,,

  6. Garrick Bergh says:

    Dear Frankie

    Given that you have stopped just short of calling me a liar I am going to give you the unwarranted courtesy of responding to your allegations :

    1.) To repeat – I have NOT punted my own horses since 1998 when I had a small bet of R2000/280 on a horse that I owned called Best Defence. How, you might well ask, do I remember that? Simply becasue it was the last time that I backed a horse in my ownership.

    2.) Who is ‘they’? This mysterious group that has stalked racecourses but whom nobody has ever met? Certainly not my yard who sent out a mere 5 winners last season and are not noted as a punting stable. Which is the very reason my horse is there.

    3.) With one exception (when she ran over 1000m recently after a one year layoff) I post on African Betting Clan a full preview as to what interested punters might expect before she runs. So – without having to buy the horse or pay stabling and vets costs – every punter has access to as much as I know regarding any horse of mine. It’s a dangerous thing to do on the occasions when I get it wrong because it elicits comments such as yours.

    4.) We travelled to Durbanville to enjoy what ownership is supposed to be about. Had I known that I would not be allowed access to the ring we would not have gone. Simple. Perhaps if I HAD been in the ring I would have emphasized three things (again!) to the jockey.
    a. Stay alert when you load as she tends to fall asleep in the pens. (As you will note a horse bolted so she spent a long time in the pens).
    b. Make them carry their weight. DO NOT CRAWL as she gets 2 miles. They crawled…..
    c. She does not run for the whip but, by all means, cajole her because she will keep finding under a vigorous hand ride.

    5.) If you would be so kind as to point me in the direction of ANY races for F&M beyond 2000m in the Cape I would enter her like a shot. There are none. Nix. Nada. Ever!! Stamina horses are COMPLETELY ignored so there is nothing sinister to be construed about her presence in a F&M 2000m as it is the longest distance offered in the Cape exclusively for F&Mares.

    So, in conclusion, the truth appears to have well & truly fooled you. Is that perhaps because you are a stranger to it?

  7. Steve Reid says:

    The second that I heard that Robert Bloomberg had been deemed surplus to requirements I knew Kenilworth Racing was done.

  8. Keniza Masilela says:

    Based on what transpired it sounds like the temp reading was correct, Lol.

  9. Brandon says:

    Just prior to the July for three or four meetings you could make money by blinding picking the two highest odds horses in every race to win and you would have walked away with a tidy profit. That sums up the current state of sa racing.

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