(Photo : Summerhill Stud)
Anyone who read Charl Pretorius’ column on Racingweb last week, will be relieved to read the latest one, here goes :
REFLECTING ON A STRANGE WEEK
Morning all and welcome to (believe it or not) the fourth weekly newsletter from Racingweb!
A few times a year life, or racing - if the two can be considered separate terms - sweeps you off your feet.
If I had a wingback chair and a log fire I would be in front of it right now, swivelling a glass of Red, warming my feet at the fire while my dog sighs happily and I stroke it with my free hand. I would jot down notes in a journal and reflect on the good, the bad and the sometimes astonishing experiences and revelations that life can bring you in just a short space of time.
I use the traditional log fire analogy because I was booked into a quaint Guest House somewhere in the Stellenbosch Winelands this week to attend the International Breeders Seminar in Somerset West.
“Soverby”, on the Lynedoch Road is a surreal kind of place, something you’d expect to see in an episode of Twilight Zone, yet far from dangerous and with no ghosts or otherworldly beings hanging around.
The beauty of the winelands always overwhelms me and yes, I fully admit, we live in the most beautiful country on earth. A few days in “Die Boland” makes one look at the world, and one’s life, with new eyes.
Then, Khayelitsha and Nyanga, Cape Town’s joint Big Sore Thumb next to the International Airport which heralds entry into the Mother city for foreign visitors. The ugly side of the coin, yet with groups of exuberant youngsters playing soccer all along the end stretch of the N2 Highway, smoky fires burning outside their shacked homes to bring them a measure of heat.
It was in a township like this, in the Worcester area, that Champion Jockey Andrew Fortune, riding barefoot and topless on a bicycle from shack to shack, dealed in ‘Crack’ and ‘Tik’ and had a good business going. After collecting some cash he would return to the makeshift home he shared with several other township druggies, get stoned out of his mind, have sex with spun-out girls who would stumble in and out, relieve himself in a hole in the ground and take cold showers under an open tap that hung on a wall somewhere.
“We would only shower if we were drugged enough to withstand the icy cold water, or if there was the promise of a crack pipe directly afterwards to counter the almost dizzy feeling of freezing one’s bones off,” Andrew tells.
He was an incidental, a “filler” speaker between internationally renowned breeding experts at the said seminar and the story of his fightback amazed one and all. I’ve heard it a few times in interviewing Andrew, but he remembers shocking new things every time he tells it, sometimes bringing himself to tears.
I have enormous admiration for Andrew Fortune, a man I used to slate week after week as editor of Racing Express when he failed to fulfil his riding engagements. From the moment I met him at Joe Ramsden’s stable (he was in the early stages of recovery about two years ago) until now, Andrew has grown immensely in stature. He’s a warm, wonderful and humorous human being and an engaging and entertaining speaker. He has made an enormous impression on me and he leaves me feeling “in need” every time I say goodbye to him.
Of course the righteous religious would argue my “need’ is the need every non-believer has for God, but there are various ways of looking at it. To me, it seems simply a need to have Fortune’s unwavering confidence, amazing courage and step-by-step approach to success.
Having put booze, drugs, tobacco and sex well behind me, food is my latest vice and by a long way the most difficult to overcome. Andrew wants me to come with him to an Anonymous meeting (Fat Fucks Anonymous? Hi, I am Charl, I am a Fat Fuck!) to confess my gluttony and receive help.
Believe it or not, I am desperate and almost ready for this. My gut has now comfortably overgrown what used to be a proud, upstanding and visible member of my anatomy and with the weight gain my arms appear to have grown shorter. I cannot scratch my balls or my back anymore, there is not enough reach in the limbs that used to power a record-breaking athlete and can these days only pick up takeaway bags.
Sampling the extraordinary delicious African-theme fare at a dinner laid on by Pippa Mickleburgh at Avontuur Stud helped me to believe, briefly, that being a Fat is actually a way of life that should be celebrated, like being a Vegetarian or a Zen Monk, but somehow there are differences. Those people are not known to blow and grunt or get blackouts after just a single flight of stairs. And they can still see their own genitals.
Grave tales aside, I will file a few reports in forthcoming weeks on what was a truly engaging and valuable seminar to attend, and hearty congratulations to the Cape Breeders for staging the occasion.
The thoroughbred racing world is entering new phases of growth and innovation on a variety of levels and in our time, believe me, we will see the institution of things like AI (Artificial Insemination), ET (Embryo Transfer) and perhaps even the cloning of a champion horse.
I could go on a while longer and tell you about the embarrassment of walking into Lionel Cohen at the Avontuur dinner just a week after I insulted him in this letter. Lionel asked me to stop my strange behaviour and bury the hatchet. I think I will.
Earlier this week I wished death upon another individual who, however hateful, probably does not deserve a Price on his head. It is not my duty to bring death onto someone else. I am not God, or Charles Bronson. So Joe, Sloop, old chap, while you are not welcome on Racingweb’s Talk Forum, I do withdraw the offending statement with an apology to you.
Ja, life is strange, and one often utters awkward things, but life also goes on. Every day brings challenges anew and while you think about your own, let me bring you the…
WEEKEND EYECATCHERS (2 wins from 3 selections last week):
Kenilworth Sat 29/8: Race 3 (7) SIERRA DEL PLATA
Clairwood Sun 30/8: Race 2: (4) EL JAY MACAVITY
Clairwood Sun 30/8: Race 7: (3) LORD LONDON
Beep, beep, beep de beep… that’s all folks! Remember to log on to www.racingweb.co.za for more fun!
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