Mauritius Turf Club

I’ve had the good fortune recently, which happens every now and then, to be the Duty Manager on a couple of evenings at Hartford House. They’re running a splendid show there right now, and our Summerhill team is so proud to be associated with them. Just this last month they were included in the top six Boutique Hotels in South Africa, alongside the likes of The Saxon and Ellerman House, by no less a programme than Top Billing, while the restaurant in November last year made the top ten in South Africa. No wonder they have such a substantial following, and it’s all the more pleasing to see so many of our foreign friends around.

The night before last, there were 22 guests in-house, just two of them from glorious Clarens in the Eastern Free State, and the other 20 from Germany, Scotland, the UK and Belgium. Last evening there were 18 guests in, including people from Malawi, the Sudan, Mauritius, Ireland, the UK (three couples) and a single visitor from the Ukraine. How incredibly interesting these people are, and what a pleasure it is to see them in this part of the world, sharing their experiences, their wisdom and importantly, their wealth with us!

Among them is a very learned gentleman who has done great work in African countries in the field of agricultural consultancy, and he was telling us of the great successes of the smallholder schemes in countries such as Uganda and Malawi, so there’s hope still for our land reform programme. He says Zimbabwe missed the boat in this respect, because they weren’t willing to entertain the idea of subsistence farming in any form.

It’s one of our traditions at Summerhill to honour those that come from our own discipline, and we get special pleasure from the visits of the members and professionals of the Mauritius Turf Club. Right now we have two past Chairmen of the Mauritius Turf Club in the form of Eduard Nairac and Jackie Haral, and his lovely wife Josephine, while Mauritius’ top trainer, Hueges Maigrot makes up the balance of the party. We’ve had some remarkable bashes in the past with these fellows, because they really know how to party, and we sometimes shudder at the thought when they tell us there could be ten of them on board! However, we’re all getting a little longer in the tooth now, and thank heavens these fellows have mellowed a bit and we’re able to get to bed at a reasonably sensible hour.

We always look forward to their visits as we’re amazed at the significant knowledge they have of the South African racing and breeding scenes, and very often they know considerably more about us than we know of ourselves. Remember that 95% of the horses in training in Mauritius are ex South African, so when you race at the Champ de Mars in Port Louis, it’s a little like attending a domestic race meeting. And bear in mind, this is the oldest race club in the South Hemisphere, dating back to 1812.

If you like the buzz of racing at all, you haven’t been anywhere until you’ve been to the Champ de Mars, because the Mauritians love the game more than any other form of entertainment on their glorious island, and that includes football! If you go there as a racing man, and particularly if they recognize you, it’s the equivalent of arriving as a victorious World Cup rugby player at Oliver Tambo Airport. There’s no end to the number of gifts they deliver to you, and there’s no end to the number of requests for tips, even though you’re having to tip their own horses, about which they know substantially more than you do!

Posted by Mick Goss