It’s common cause among racegoers that the Queen of South African racing is the venerable Mrs Bridget Oppenheimer, with whom we had an interesting chat this week. She was responding to an invitation to visit Summerhill, and we agreed this would take place during the forthcoming winter. She’s just had a spate of winners including three just yesterday, but in the course of the conversation, she relayed an amusing anecdote which is sad in one respect, but reveals her sense of humour on the other.
Mrs Oppenheimer was at a race meeting at Turffontein the other day, when she decided to get out of her motorised wheelchair to view the races from the rail. Five or six minutes later she turned round to return to her wheelchair, only to find it had been wheeled away, never to be returned. These are expensive items as we all know, so it’s no consolation to say that she can afford it, because whatever you have, for a lady well in her eighties, there is considerable discomfort and inconvenience occasioned by this sort of behaviour. You wonder what our society has come to when people reliant on their wheelchairs, can be summarily deprived of them.
However, she’s found a solution. Her well-known racing silks of black and yellow have been in part at least, replicated in her wheelchair which is now a bright yellow, and is likely to be spotted anywhere in a crowd, and even more conspicuous in the hands of a would-be thief. It reminds us all of the shooting of Sea Cottage in 1966, by a “skelm” by the name of Johnnie Nel. Johnnie Nel was a known racketeer, and was hired by the late Sonnie Chislet, a “bucket shop” operator in Durban, to shoot the hottest priced favourite in the history of Africa’s most famous horse race, the Durban July. Sea Cottage was deep in the red on most betting boards.
Nel, as one might have expected from a man of his “activities,” was the proud owner of the only yellow convertible Oldsmobile in the entire city of Durban, and this was the vehicle he chose as his getaway car, following the assassination attempt.
Needless to say, Mr Nel was incarcerated within an hour of the deed, and so we wish the same fate on any person contemplating the removal of Mrs Oppenheimer’s wheelchair again.
Until then, we wish you many fine winners in the year ahead, Mrs “O”, and the best of luck with Hunting Tower on Saturday the 29th, in the J & B Metropolitan.