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Man and Beast

by Samora Chapman / 15.07.2013

Horse racing is known as the sport of kings. It’s funny; I always thought surfing was the sport of kings. I must have been led astray somewhere along the line. Horse racing can be traced back thousands of years to Ancient Greece, Babylon, Syria and Egypt and is always associated with competition, entertainment and money… the sport of aristocrats.

Durban has it’s own little horse race – The Vodacom Durban July – coined as ‘the biggest race in Africa’. 50 000 humans went down to the races last Saturday to gamble, drink, splurge and parade in their finest threads.

Durban July

A week of rain ahead of the event meant that mud was ubiquitous, adding an earthy element to the bourgeois festivities. Muddy stilettos. It was filthy and spectacular. It was a confusing mess.

The main race was won by the tenacious little jockey S’Manga Khumalo. It was the first time in its 117-year history that the Durban July has been won by a black African rider. Viva! Trainer Sean Tarry and owner Chris van Niekerk picked up the cheque for R3.5-million at the door.

The horse, a four-year-old Silvano gelding called Heavy Metal, should also get a mention since it’s the animal that actually ran and won the race.

But the real victory was the union of rich and kind-of rich in an ostentatious show of beauty, fashion, indulgence and entertainment.

Durban July

Watching the main race, I couldn’t help getting swept away with excitement as the men and beasts came charging past, rumbling like thunder. When a human and a horse are united, a superior and improved being is born – the perfect combination of raw power and a keen mind.

For thousands of years humans and horses have been close companions. Or should I say: horses have been our loyal slaves. We have gone to war together, travelled to the far reaches of the earth, ploughed and cultivated the land and paraded at the grandest events. I think it’s fair to say that humans have benefited greatly from their relationship with their trusty steeds.

I suppose horses also benefit in a weird way. They are chosen ones, like Golden Retrievers or Parakeets. They are spared being crunched into a fine paste, turned into boerewors and thrown on the braai on the side of the racetrack.

But there’s no point in getting serious here. It’s just a little fun down at the racetrack. And I got some pretty pictures to show for it.

Durban July

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* All images © Samora Chapman

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