Jen and I had flown to Durban to watch the Sharks host their Super Rugby semi-final. It was a trip that I’d booked a month or so earlier at a time when they were riding high at the top of the league and looked nailed on for a home semi-final spot. Unfortunately our booking seemed to trigger a late season slump that saw them drop from first to third place in the table, thus losing the home advantage. So, whilst we were in Durban for the match, the Sharks were actually playing it a few thousand miles away in New Zealand.
Oh well. Durban has plenty going on without the Super Rugby, to the extent that some people will probably visit the place without even having a sporting event in mind. We opted for some fresh air and spent a few hours walking at the Krantzkloof Nature Reserve. Whilst hiking down and up a big ravine, we were circled by a buzzard that took longer than I liked to decide that we probably still had a bit of life left in us.
This isn’t a blog about going for a walk though, no matter how many spectacular the scenery. It’s about going to the match. Or on this occasion when the match took place in a different continent to the one we were in, it‘s about going to the races.
Greyville racecourse sounds to me like one of those fictional venues from which the bookies show computer generated ‘races’ for the purposes of taking money from punters when there aren’t enough real races to lose your money on. It isn’t fake though, it’s a proper track and fortunately there was a race meeting scheduled for whilst we were in Durban.
It was quite an important day in the racing calendar by the look of it, with some Group 1 races and a Gold Cup. It was also a long meeting with twelve races listed, starting just after noon and going on until around half past seven in the evening. That suited us as we didn’t have to rush the hike and so we turned up with the first four races already over.
Both of the tracks that we’ve been to so far in South Africa, Turffontein and Kenilworth, provided a very similar experience. They were free to get into and there weren’t too many spectators watching the racing, although a few more were avidly following events on telly screens. It seemed as if the racing was going on more for the benefit of bookies around the world than the paying public.
Greyville was a far bigger occasion. For a start we had to cough up a hundred rand each just for course admission and once inside it was heaving. I’d estimate that there were a good few thousand people there.
A lot of people were spending their day in the sponsored tents on the inside of the track. We had a brief look into one or two, but even the one organised by a charity for the homeless looked a bit posh for us. In hindsight I should have arranged Member’s passes or some sort of hospitality tickets, but I’d no inkling as to how busy the place would be.
We ended up watching a couple of the early races from the seats at the front of the grandstand. It was a decent view, with the horses running on the nearside grass course rather than that polysomethingorother surface that I’m sure is a combination of loft insulation and belly button fluff.
It was a bit on the chilly side in the grandstand though and there was a better option provided by a beer tent down by the rails. Whilst the view wasn’t so good, there was plenty of food, alcohol, a betting kiosk and even some of those gas patio heaters. We settled for that.
Betting-wise, it was a poor afternoon, with a third place in the last race we watched before clearing off turning out to be the only return of the day. Next time we’ll get a couple of badges and lose our money in a bit more comfort.