Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A Day at the Races... well, an evening at least

Yes, on the way down to Durban town centre, past the excellent and very colourful Botanic Gardens, we saw what looked very much like a grandstand, a bit similar to the one at Ascot. Then behind the fence we could see a beautiful turf track being attended to by two young women with henna-ed faces, who told us they were racing today and that the first race would strat at 5.40. After some negotiation between ourselves it was decided that I could go, provided I was back at the Hippo Hide by 8, in time for happy hour at the Roman Lounge.

We spent the afternoon, mainly walking to and finding the Town Hall with its Natural Science Museum and Art Gallery (also both excellent and free!). We even saw a rhino again, making that three days in a row.. albeit that this rhino was stuffed! Then we met a chap walking down to the Bat Centre and we joined him.. he is being given a studio where he makes works out of re-cycled plastic and was just setting it up.

Fred took a taxi back up the hill, while I had a long-ish walk through not-so-safe looking areas to get back to Greyville Racecourse, under a dark sky, with flashes of lightning while my clothes were wet and dripping with sweat. The raxces were both similar and different to waht I expected - similar in that the racial divide was whites as owners and trainers, Irish as jockeys, blacks as stable boys and security men and Indians and whites as punters - no surprise there. What was a surprise was that it was free to enter, the track looked immaculate, bright green under the floodlights, under a purple sky, the paddock resembled the better parts of the Botanic Gardens with its well tended lawns and exotic trees, whilst the horses looke dabsolutley magnificent, their sweat gleaming in the floodlights.

I succumbed to just one bet, using up all the change I had in my pockets, going for Afghanistan, ridden by a jockey Shearer, he was top-weight and did well to come second... so I start another betting year in the negative (last year, 2005, was another postive one and I am still carrying around 4 twenty pound notes which I am sure I won on Take The Stand in the Gold Cup, last March - but maybe not). Also spent time chatting with a knowledgebale young man working as a security guard who told me that thuis was his penultimate race meeting before he goes off to work for the South African Defence Force.

On the way ut, I was advised by the friendly ladies at the entrance that I ought not to walk, that it was dangerous and that I should take a taxi. It wasn't far, but t was up a hill, and it was raining by now, so I took the taxi, even though the price he charged was equivalent to being robbed anyway!

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