J&B Met 26, January 2008.

Posted: January 26, 2009 in Theatre & Event Reviews and Interviews

Published:  The Event

Cowboy booty and lots of loot.

Crossing the track my tiny heels sank deep into the racecourse’s green turf and I nearly poured my drink over my head as the sound of a whip cracked through the air.  It is the 31st running of the J&B Met at Kenilworth and it is a hot January date to which around 50 000 people turned up dressed in plums, patterns and metallics (often combined), resulting in a look not unlike a 1980’s hangover, drenched in Pinotage and residual Christmas tinsel.

To ensure that the vibrant gambling masses enjoy their favourite annual outing, a considerable amount of event organisers and sponsors together with the City of Cape Town pooled  resources and pulled off an organised and entertaining event.  It would be difficult to miss J&B as the main sponsor through a flurry of red and yellow flags, banners, umbrellas and branded buildings.   The folk at J&B are responsible for marketing the event nationally, attending to branding, entertainment, the hospitality marquee, picnic site and public bars (I counted no less than twelve). 

Sue Kabalin – national events co-ordinator, Brandhouse was quick to add that they certainly did not provide the two bare-arsed, whip-cracking cowboys that flashed their exposed crumpled derrières at the amused crowd.  However, the stilt walkers, acrobats, mime artists and dancers were booked through Valentina Leo. Maru Sport (contracted until 2011) is the commercial partner for corporate hospitality with full responsibility for the marketing, sales and event management of the hospitality village. This is where well-heeled VIP’s in air-conditioned business class marquees sip blindingly expensive whiskies look down at the deprived masses milling about in the sweltering heat. 

Chattels Event Infrastructure Management attended to all infrastructure management including roads, marquees, electricity, sound, TV screens and stages.  Kabalin explained that nearly every department of the City of Cape Town, such as Disaster Management, Health, Waste and City Police, were involved and that the Traffic Department was responsible for developing the Traffic management plan. There were approximately 4500 staff member that worked on the day as well as 600 security, police and emergency personnel.  We parked at the Youngsfield Parking Area provided by the organisers and were swiftly shuttled in a subdued but anticipatory group to the Kenilworth main gate.  Much later, the shuttle bus trip back to our cars in the early evening were reminiscent of school outings with oversized kids babbling, singing and jumping up and down on their seats.

 Eddy Cassar PR has been involved in the J&B Met for 14 years. Among other duties theirs was the unenviable role as baby-sitter for the media and celebrities for the entire weekend.  Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Schalk Burger, Metro FM DJ Thomas, Jeannie D, Randall Abrahams , Marc Lottering and surfing model, Roxy Louw whipped the paparazzi into a shooting frenzy. 

Thanks to an unexpected tip-off I got the low down on a winning horse – Dancer’s Daughter.  I brazenly put the sum of my gambling budget on this beauty.  As the grey mare breezed into first place the entire stadium roared in delight.  I later learned at the Tote that she was the favourite and I had to share my winnings with thousands of gamblers leaving me with a grand winning of R75.00.  Still it is the most exhilarating experience screaming your horse across the finish line. 

Golden Circle’s professionalism is without question as they whisked punters in and out of their money.  Pocket Power, the favourite in the big race, roared into a win and made history with his second straight victory. It has been 30 years since a horse won the main race for two consecutive years.  Pocket Power was so jittery after the race that he they could not mount him for the traditional winners’ parade.

Chairman of Gold Circle in the Western Cape, Ashraf Mohamed confirmed that the National betting turnover was R34,6 million which included co-mingling with the French tote on the feature event. 

I could not attend the after party as I had to wash my hair, but I heard from reliable sources that some people only turned out to party after the racing finished.  There were various after parties including the J&B VIP Marquee party and the concert on the main stage for the public where Flat Stanley performed.  It is rumoured that the main event is the 5FM/J&B after party which is organised by World Sport Group with the help of Eclectic.  Maybe next year my invite will extend beyond the racing greens and I might just get to crack a cowboy’s whip at the after party.

Interesting fact:  The land inside Kenilworth Racecourse has 22 Red Data plant species that are internationally recognised as being threatened with extinction.  Gold Circle uses the J&B Met to raise awareness about the environmental uniqueness of Kenilworth Racecourse and that the right steps are taken to protect the sensitive vegetation during the event



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