I see the J&B Met is being run in Cape Town today, except it’s not called that any more. It’s now the Sun Met. I don’t know what happened to the whisky people. I attended the race twice. Once in 2007 and again in 2009. Here’s what happened the first time.
I awoke late on Saturday and drove out to Kenilworth Race Course for the J&B Met, eventually finding parking in a side street on the outskirts of Darling.
Arriving thirsty as seven stoned camels, I made for one of the makeshift bars on the lawn in front of the grandstand. Gallons of vodka, brandy and whisky. But no beer. That’s a good idea, I thought. Pump this white trash crowd full of high-octane spirits in the middle of one of the hottest days in living memory, then rig the main race and take all their money.
Earlier, while researching the history of the race, I got sidetracked by the history of J&B and researched the whisky instead. One line stood out: “J&B Rare has a youthful personality and is drunk as a refreshing drink during the day and throughout the night.”
Being a youthful drunk with a refreshing personality, I knew right then and there that I had met my soulmate.
I ordered a double and the callow youth behind the counter tried to charge me a small fortune. I looked him in the eye and flashed my media tag. “I’m a journalist,” I said. He nodded and offered to make it a treble. “Forget it,” I said, “I need my money for gambling. Where are the rich and famous?” He pointed towards some sort of tented village on the opposite side of the track. Within minutes I was out of the refugee camp and among my people. All around me, packs of half-naked women and silver-coated freaks of no discernible gender wafted in and out of air-conditioned marquees.
I marched up to the J&B tent and flashed my tag at the security goons. They stepped aside and waved me through. This was more like it. Free food and as much whisky as any sane man could ever hope to drink. And a quiet area to place your bets without being jostled and spat on by a heavily tattooed desperado trying to win enough to feed his chronic tik habit for another week.
It was like heaven. Well, that part of heaven reserved for black people, anyway. I was the only whitey in the area. Either J&B are way ahead in the affirmative action stakes or whiskey has become this year’s umqombothi.
The company claims that its Rare blend is the most approachable whisky in the world. And they are right. I approached it time and time again, from many different angles, and not once did it turn its back on me.
Sauntering over to the bookies, I studied the stats for the eighth race. There was something called a swinger pool but my body clock told me it was way too early in the day to strip down and start hitting on another man’s wife.
I couldn’t work out if I was looking at the horse’s age, weight or odds, so I put R100 on number 18 for no real reason at all. The bookie gave me the lazy eye and said there were only 13 horses in the race. “I knew that,” I said. “What about this 50kg three-year-old? Is that the horse or the jockey?” She ignored me so I asked if she thought Wonder Lawn had a chance, but she said he had been scratched for coughing. “That’s a bit unfair,” I said. “Maybe he was just a little hoarse.” She asked me to step away from the counter.
My media tag was like a magical passport to pleasure, a free pass for freeloading. I was welcomed into every corporate tent I went up to. Except Standard Bank. I was determined to recoup some of the trumped-up charges they have inflicted on me over the years but a thug wearing an earpiece turned me away in no uncertain terms.
Seeking refuge inside a less hostile tent, a woman spotted my media tag and rushed over. “Marc Lottering is here,” she said breathlessly. I wasn’t sure how to respond to this so I didn’t. “He said he doesn’t want to be bothered by the press so we would appreciate it if you stayed away from him.” Why a joker from the Cape Flats with a drunk driving conviction and a hair-do the size of Athlone stadium would come to the races and demand to be ignored was beyond me.
How to place a bet without making a complete fool of myself was also beyond me, but I wasn’t about to leave without a substantial win on the big race.
“All of it on Badger’s Gift for a win,” I said, seconds before betting closed. She was the only filly in the race and hadn’t seen a track in three months. This was a good sign. She had to be hungry for a flat-out run.
Pressed up against the rail, I couldn’t see the start. Actually, I had no idea where the start was. For all I knew it was in Milnerton.
Then I heard the commentator mention my horse. The crowd erupted and I spilled whisky all down my shirt but I didn’t care because my horse was winning and soon I would be able to buy a thousand new shirts. Badger’s Gift crossed the line so far ahead of the others that I couldn’t even see them. I dashed back to the bookie to claim my winnings but she said it only counts if the horse has a jockey.
I was appalled. The stupid cow had thrown her silk-coated homunculus and made straight for the stables for a bit of hay and a little lie-down.
“If lame horses get shot, why don’t you shoot lame jockeys?” I shouted, trying to reach into the till to get my money back. I was escorted to the door and asked not to come back.
Outside in the cruel heat, the beautiful people were starting to melt and stagger. Having spent the rent and developed a lifelong addiction to whisky and gambling, I sensed it was time to leave.