hear the drums
hear the drums

Hear The Drums

(Photo : Wally Strydom)

“Can you hear the drums, Fernando?

I remember long ago another starry night like this.”

Extract from The Times

By Mike Moon

mike moon
mike moon

Mike MoonListen carefully, and you might hear distant drums beating out a call to arms. Before there’s panic, let’s explain that the boom-boom is all about a horse.

Unless you’ve had your ear close to the ground, you might never have heard of Hear The Drums. Indeed, many racing fans have yet to fully grasp the legend of this seven-year-old gelding.

Some might have heard of Sentinel, a champion racehorse of the 1970’s that won 29 times. Well, Hear The Drums topped that a fortnight ago, galloping to his 30th victory.

It was commonly thought that Sentinel held South Africa’s winning record, but anoraks have come up with a nag called Screech Owl, with 32 wins in the 1950’s.

These numbers are mind-boggling.

Most thoroughbreds never win a race; two victories constitutes a satisfactory turf career, and five brings bragging rights. Thirty is in the Tiger Woods-Lance Armstrong league.

Then consider that Hear The Drums has only had 53 starts, with 15 place finishes, and that most victories came under handicap weighting that might have stopped a train.

Hear The Drums is likely to claim the record in due course, and could well inch closer to it when he contests the Cape Flying Championship at Kenilworth in Cape Town today.

However, this race is of greater import than just one more notch on a stable doorpost. It would be his first Grade 1 victory.

It seems unbelievable that a horse with 30 wins doesn’t have a top-grader among them. But Hear The Drums is a resident of Port Elizabeth, a busy racing centre that bafflingly doesn’t have graded sprint races on its calendar.

So, the warhorse must travel to conquer beneath the Great Mountain.

He’s been there before. Twice he’s tackled this big sprint - finishing fifth, then fourth, with good excuses for failure both times.

Owner Peter Fabricius tells me he’s confident of a bold showing today. But, whatever the outcome, he won’t be complaining - Hear The Drums has already delivered him R1.6-million in stake money, for a purchase price of R42,000.

Hear The Drums came to Fabricius by chance.

Sitting bored in the office of his Durban clothing firm one day, he idly called a friend, Mick Goss, who was at a horse sale.

Goss mentioned that in the auction ring right then was a horse he himself had bred - a speedster that would go for a song because he was small and unfashionably pedigreed. The finger of fate tapped lightly.

Speaking of songs, by now I trust that you’re humming the lyric slyly inserted above (even highbrow musicos get darn Abba on the brain).

If Hear The Drums wins, there’ll surely be some lusty singing of it down Port Elizabeth way.

“I can see it in your eyes, How proud you were to fight for freedom in this land.”


Kenilworth, Race 8: 1 Hear The Drums, 13 Villandry, 7 Cyber Case, 3 Blue Tiger