A Legend in the Peninsula Room

A Legend on the Turf

Pat O 'Neill

True Legend. Pat O’ Neill is a wonderful lady

I personally wouldn’t have scheduled a top-class 3yo classic on the Saturday before Christmas, but the Cape Guineas sponsors Cape Town Sales have secured the presence of a legend of the turf that is bound to have some of the old school taking the trouble to head down to Kenilworth this weekend.

I have a lot more personal empathy for the race programmers after my chat with Messrs Davis, Hawkins and Harrielall in last weekend’s edition (SP 1895) and have no intention of criticising decisions that are made with the bigger picture in mind.

But racing at Christmas time has never been something that has excited me. There are just too many other distractions and social functions on the go and maybe if it was packaged and marketed differently, we could change attitudes and drum up the necessary support.

There should still be a fair crowd at Kenilworth though, as besides a terrific field that includes some Northern needle courtesy of The Hangman, the feature event is a race that has produced some great horses over the years.

The honour roll includes names like Jet Master, Horse Chestnut and Captain Al and Dean Kannemeyer is apparently quietly confident of adding to his record of 4 winners in the past 6 years.

Not to say that our friend Joey Ramsden is going to lie down with the smashing King Of Pain a huge contender to give Ramsden the Guineas double.


Cape Town Sales have pulled off something of a coup with their Guineas Day Guest of Honour, the Honourable Pat O ‘Neill, whom many will remember as a noted breeder and trainer of bygone years in the Cape.

Pat trained from the world-famous Broadlands  Stud in Somerset West and had such good horses as Swan River, Rose Bay , Miss Lindeman and Mexican Summer, to name but a few. She is still married to Frank O ‘Neil, who lives in Australia these days.

I had the pleasure of lunching recently with Pat Cavendish O’ Neill and one would have to go far to find a more interesting character. We meet many pseudo heroes and plastic legends at every turn in this game, but Pat is one person that could talk for a week on every subject from the genius of Terrance Millard to sexist discriminatory practices by the Jockey Club that almost saw her banished to obscurity before she had even started.

Pat’s Mom, Enid Lindeman (hence the name of the brilliant filly Miss Lindeman) hailed from the famous Australian wine family, and was an internationally renowned beauty who married four times.

Two of her husbands were millionaires, two had titles, but as her daughter’s book cover blurb laments, ‘none lived long.’

Pat published her first book in 2004, entitled ‘A Lion In The Bedroom’ and will be signing copies of her latest release, ‘ A Chimpanzee In The Wine Cellar’,  this Saturday at Kenilworth.


The unfortunate reality is that such an interesting guest speaker could have been marketed to a wider non-racing audience and we could have attracted some fresh new faces to Kenilworth in the process. At least you read it first right here in the pages of South Africa’s undisputed leading racing publication- but sadly probably nowhere else!

The question again arises – should we be packaging and marketing our Christmas racing on a more wider scale? I believe that we certainly could.

The marketing and presentation of Christmas racing is done on a rather more extravagant scale in the United Kingdom, where one can purchase anything from morning coffee on the gallops with a trainer to various options offering the thrills of racehorse ownership.

It is noticeable that the entire attitude is different in the Northern Hemisphere, with things that we take for granted and snub our noses to, taken as genuine thrills. Like standing in the Parade Ring prior to a race. I have met very few people here that would pay good money to do that.

I noted in my search too that there are trainers who take the initiative to market themselves as part of the Christmas experience. And some of these gifts are not cheap either!

Sadly googling Christmas specials for South African horseracing threw up sweet nothing.


Some of the eye-opening, albeit ordinary,  gifts that I managed to track on the internet includes a Boxing Day package at Kempton Park Racecourse.

Guests are invited to celebrate the festive season with a premier Boxing Day package for The William Hill Winter Festival, host to the fantastic King George VI Steeple Chase, one of the highlights of the winter racing season.

Join the crowds for a special Boxing Day treat with a package that includes admission to the Premier Enclosure, racecard, a free drink, discounted return visit voucher and free entry to the prize draw to win a KIA Soul Shaker car. Children under 16 are free on admission when accompanied by an adult.

The costs of this  package is around R 1300 for two people.


Then Gary Moore Racing is offering something ‘for the person who has everything.’ It is the chance to experience racehorse ownership.

Discover the Sport of Kings and experience the thrill and prestige of ownership with a share in your own racehorse for a day. This unique Christmas experience consists of two stages and will be the perfect present for anyone who has it all. We have a few of those silver-spooners here.

The first day will start with a visit to Gary Moore’s yard. Moore is a world-class trainer and father of current Champion Jockey, Ryan Moore. You get to meet your horse and be whisked away for a special view of the morning gallops in the West Sussex countryside.

You will then be given a behind-the-scenes tour of the stable, including a talk with the trainer to update you on your horse and tactics for the race.

The second stage enables you to register to receive your free, exclusive Owner’s badge and attend a day at the races. Stand in the Parade Ring with the Trainer and Jockey and watch your horse run his race from the Owners & Trainers section of the stand – if you’re lucky enough to win, you will even be invited into the Winner’s Enclosure to have your picture taken in front of the crowd.

This costs around R2700 per person.

Get Involved

Then for R6500 John Long Racing make racehorse ownership affordable this Christmas.

This all-inclusive gift could soon see that special someone reaping the benefits of racehorse ownership for a season; watching their own racehorse train on the gallops in the stunning Surrey countryside, discussing tactics with their trainer and meeting their horse face-to-face.

The package includes a certificate of ownership from the trainer, a photograph of the racehorse, up to the minute information about the horse and notice of when the horse will be racing.

And as if that’s not enough, your loved one will also receive an exclusive Owner’s badge to watch their horse race, including special access to the Parade Ring and the Owners & Trainers’ Bar facilities at the course in question.

This package is designed to make your friends envious this Christmas. Well, so says the advertising blurb!

Name The Game

Then what about enjoying a loved one’s name up in lights by naming a race at Lingfield Park Racecourse  – the perfect way to wish someone special a Merry Christmas.

This is the ultimate personalised gift package.

Buy someone the truly unique gift of naming a race in their honour at the premier All-Weather venue, offering old-English charm from the heart of the beautiful Surrey countryside.

This special package not only includes the naming rights itself, but entry to the racecourse for two, a racecard and four-course meal on a table that overlooks the winning post and is yours for the day.

The price starts at around R5200.

Then for the younger set, there is the option of an exclusive membership to Newbury’s CLUB 18-25, for the sibling who loves to socialise. This costs R1200.

This incredible membership package runs from January to December and gives members entrance to the racecourse, including the renowned Winter Festival and Party in the Paddock concert events, priority parking, priority booking in the Hennessy Restaurant and exclusive private box offers


Then what about  buying  someone the best this Christmas with a luxury package to the Cheltenham Gold Cup?

There’s not a member of the family who wouldn’t be pleased with this premium package to capture the magic of one of racing’s momentous events, the Gold Cup at Cheltenham.

The Glass Fronted Restaurant is elegantly furnished and overlooks the racecourse, providing a stunning view of the action. From the restaurant’s balcony, you can experience the unique atmosphere of The Cheltenham Festival and join the roar of the crowd as the horses thunder towards the winning post.

The package includes admission ticket and Club badge, car parking, morning coffee, 4 course luncheon, afternoon tea, table for the day and a complimentary racecard – everything you need for a day you won’t forget!

This package is priced at around R6000 per person

If that’s slightly above budget, your loved one could still be enjoying lunch at The Festival on Gold Cup day with a restaurant package in Cheltenham’s Moscow Flyer restaurant.

The perfect  gift for a friend who’s looking for a great day out, the package includes Tattersalls admission, three-course lunch, afternoon and a racecard – plus, it’s located close to the renowned Guinness Village, so you need not go thirsty during the day.

This costs around R2400.


The Newmarket Experience costs just R1000 per person and incorporates a visit to the home of horseracing.

For a Christmas trip that won’t be forgotten, buy your nearest and dearest a voucher that offers them a personal guided tour of the home of horseracing.

The tour runs from 9am – 1pm with the day starting with a visit to the 2,500 acres of Jockey Club gallops to watch the horses training.

Next stop is a visit to a working training yard, followed by a behind-the-scenes trip to the British Racing School, where the future stars of the sport learn their trade.

If the gift is redeemed after 1 February, you will also be treated to a visit at the world-class National Stud where you can get up-close and personal to some of the world’s top stallions, and even mares and their foals in the fields. Group sizes are limited to 2-6 people per tour.

Then what about supporting  your country in style at the Welsh Grand National?

Chepstow Racecourse hosts the renowned Welsh Grand National and what better present than to buy someone tickets to attend – in true VIP style!

This luxury package includes entrance to the Premier Enclosure and a three-course meal at your reserved table in Silks Restaurant, complete with waitress service and offering extensive views over the racecourse and the Welsh countryside.

The package goes for R1500 per person.

Gasping For Ayr

If that doesn’t grab you, what about taking your loved one to Scotland’s premier racecourse and splurge on an all-inclusive hospitality package.

Ayr Racecourse loves to celebrate Christmas and New Year and you could buy someone an exceptional package to Ayr’s raceday in the first week of the year , so that they can join in the fun and festivities.

This VIP package starts with a Buck’s Fizz drinks reception and a behind-the-scenes tour of the racecourse, including a glimpse of the stables and Jockey’s Weighing Room.

Guests will dine in style in the Premiere Princess Royal Stand, with a three-course lunch, cheese board, afternoon tea and inclusive bar, all the while enjoying views of the Winning Post and Paddock from the restaurant’s private balcony.

As part of this VIP package, guests will also receive a complimentary racecard, access to private betting facilities and the post-racing entertainment.

This packages costs R1500 per person


If dressing up is not your game and your budget is limited how about a morning at a top racing stable with a leading trainer?

This Christmas gift gives you access straight into the thrilling world of horseracing with an exclusive invite to witness what really goes on behind the scenes.

This is top racehorse trainer Gary Moore’s budget package.

Arriving to refreshments, you will then head to the gallops to watch the horses being put through their paces.

You will have the opportunities to talk to the stable jockeys, get a tour of the yard and an insight into the hard work that goes on before the horses  get to the track. A must-see for any racing fan or horse-lover

The visit costs around R1000 per person.


All that is left is for me to wish you all health and happiness over the festive period. I won’t mention wealth as that is a foreign word for most folk involved in the great game.

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