some image

Having fun, writing about the stuff I like

Going on Tour

Oscar Foulkes June 29, 2023 Uncategorized No comments

As a young adult in the mid-80s, I caught the tail end of racehorse breeders more-or-less taking over the Victoria Hotel for the National Yearling Sale. I did hear many stories, though, of the late-night shenanigans that went on in the decades prior. There is a sense of Nationals fulfilling the role of a tour, in the sports context, especially back in the day when the majority of the sale would have been supplied by breeders from remote parts of the Karoo. Perhaps the romance of the tour is part of what still draws breeders to Gosforth Park.

I could invite suggestions of who the main instigators of the rowdy behaviour may have been, but you know, what goes on tour, stays on tour.

On the subject of tours, a couple of years ago I inadvertently came into the possession of the tour diary of the Hamiltons Rugby Club Dynamiters old crocs tours. Spotting the familiar face of Marsh Shirtliff, I immediately got it back into safe hands. I suspect, though, that for all the anecdotes and pictures in the book, the most entertaining (or damning) stayed on tour. The Dynamiters tours are still going strong; this week they won the 11-a-side tournament in Phuket, with another racing personality, Wayne Mealing, in the team. By all accounts, these tours are legendary.

I had a little tour of my own this week. With us having just two weanlings on the Cape Racing Mixed Sale, I elected to pop them in the horsebox and transport them myself. The drive into Cape Town, on Wednesday, was somewhat eventful, but less so than if we’d got caught in Thursday’s mudslides.

One of the things that happens on tour is the special types of bonds that are formed when one spends that much time in proximity with the team. Of the two weanlings, one was sold (well done on your bargain purchase, Nigel Riley), while the Rafeef colt didn’t make his reserve and came home with us after the sale. OK, so he’s a horse and we didn’t drink a lake of beer together (and there was no fines meeting), but I definitely have the same sense of getting to really know his personality while on tour.

This guy took all this newness in his stride, bestriding the turf at Kenilworth as if he’d just won the Cape Flying Championship. He walked up and down as many times as he was asked, displaying his athleticism with a feline stalk. Throughout this, he remained as low-key as a churchgoing kid from a small town, while taking in everything going on around him.

For all the talking I did about his prospects on the Premier Sale in January, to be followed by an illustrious career on the racecourse, perhaps the most impressive thing about him was the way he took everything in his stride. In the stormy gloom of the late afternoon, when it the time came for us to go home, he walked up the horsebox ramp as if he’s an old hack that gets taken to shows every weekend.

A huge part of this colt’s behaviour is thanks to Kholiwe and Staci, the star grooms who took care of our weanlings. I am so impressed with their horsemanship, especially considering that both of them are new to this.

While the conclusion one could draw is that having women on tour leads to better behaviour, some may say that the whole point of a tour is NOT to be on best behaviour. As they say, “No great story started with someone eating a salad.”

On the other hand, if you call lucerne alfalfa, does it qualify as a salad?

Add your comment