MILDLY deranged journalist Charl Pretorius managed to squeeze a trip to Singapore from Mike de Kock to report on this Sunday’s Group 1 Sunday’s SIA Cup. Mike hesitantly agreed, considering the National Horseracing Authority’s lengthy recent inquiries into his former employee’s allegedly improper conduct.
After he’d solemnly promised not to bring racing into disrepute again – and agreeing to an additional clause not to behave in “Afrikaans” fashion (emotional outbursts, self-pity, drunk and disorderly doings), Mike arranged for Singapore International Airlines to issue a business class ticket in a difererent name.
Marsh Shirtliff, part-owner of SIA Cup runner River Jetez, came to the party with an expense allowance. As it turned out his generosity was immediately absorbed by a debit order issued on the Pretorius account by Johannesburg’s version of Dr Frasier Krane, all but emptying an already skewed version of what was termed “Savings” when initially granted by one unfortunate banking institution.
DISCLAIMER FROM MIKE DE KOCK RACING: This article represents the views of an independent journalist and mikedekockracing.com will not be held responsible in any way whatsoever for damages or NHA Inquiries that might follow as a result.
Pretorius writes: I humbly attempt to convert ZAR 1000 of Marsh’s contribution to Singapore Dollars at Oliver Tambo International Airport, but two Bureaus De Change refuse to accept my business.
“Your passport is not enough sir, we need your utility bill in order to facilitate this transaction. A recent bank statement will also do. These are FICA rules, sir.”
Immediately remembering my promise to Mike, I decided to stay calm. No tantrums. “Breathe deeply and smile”, suggests Dr Wayne Dyer in his best-seller, Your Erroneous Zones.
I follow his advice, allowing a woman in the queue behind me to swear at the BDC attendant on my behalf. She too, made the grave mistake of forgetting to bring her utilities bill to Olly Tambo.
I was told that South Africans would be voting during this week and being out of the country would be a hugely satisfying start to my trip. Nobody should be subjected to the humiliation of voting for a government that claims to uphold personal freedoms but continues to have condomless sex with its citizens.
FICA? Change and substitute the letter ‘I’, I’d say. Make it FUCA perhaps? No, FUCU sounds better. FICA equals FUCU, a blatant method of Orwellian-like control over the lives of ordinary citizens. Those exchanges at the airport must be losing substantial commissions.
Singapore Airlines: A pleasure indeed!
Now to Singapore International Airlines, an outfit of immensely professional proportions. Here’s a flying experience all individuals with with some spare cash or influential friends must make a point of enjoying at least once, if only to sample SIA’s world-class cuisine, the Krisflyer On-Board Entertainment System, the wide, flat-reclining leather seats and the service of its delightful, busy-bee staff.
Phumelela Gaming and Leisure’s John Stuart, Director of International Business, occupies a recliner in the row just in front of me. John is excited about the growth of betting pools on racing in places like Dubai and Italy. Even Kenia’s Ngong enjoys good support, he says.
I point out that last Sunday’s “Ngong Oaks”, was contested by only four fillies, three of which completed the race in nothing more a common canter. There was no “graft” from the jockeys. No, the runners that lined up in this event were simply not good enough to break into a gallop! One dropped right out before the home bend, too tired to complete the home run – disgraceful in the worst degree, a slap in the face of the sport and its enthusiasts and truly nauseating to watch. But hey, turnover’s good, and John promises that some of the profits will be re-invested into South African racing. “We’ve always been committed to this,” he says.
Changing Rands for Dollars at Singapore International? No FICA, no passport, no problem. Zero commission charged and crisp notes handed over before you can say, “Orchard Road” . I receive well under $200 for my grand, but the notes are crispy, they feel good and I am offered a mobile sim card on the spot to see if my notes work. A mere $50 gets me a temporary contract from “Hi” Mobile with $60 and a free watch thrown in. Yes, a stylish black-and-white fashion accessory, on the house as a welcoming gift. “Hi, Singapore. Thank you!”
A taxi driver named Patrick opens the door to his E-class Mercedes Benz, arranged by Singapore Turf Club. In the early hours of Tuesday morning, the Multi-Starred Marina Bay Sands Hotel is only 15 minutes away, but Patrick makes this quarter of an hour so informative I quietly commit to buying a spot on Singapore’s Double-Decker open-roof for a city tour.
A trip to Indonesia would be first on my list, however. Patrick tells of thoroughly enjoyable, must-see Indonesian Delights, just $30 and 45m away on a Ferry. At 5am on Wednesday I am already fired up. I promptly feel like Crossing Singapore’s Mercy to what is described as Fantasy Land on the other side.
But Singapore grows on you quick, and in the words of the song eluded to above… “This land’s the place I love, and here I’ll stay..!”
Debbie Hawkins, excelling in her position as Senior Manager – Horse Ownership, for the Singapore Turf Club, a PRO function she finally gets to perform at a professional organization, is on duty to welcome her old friend and the Brown family to the magnificent Marina Bay Sands.
Herman Brown (sr), the legend himself, tells me their stable’s SIA Cup charge, Gitano Hernando, is improving nicely. “He’s a Melbourne Cup prospect, he needs that kind of trip,” says Mr Brown. Herman (jr) trained Mourilyan to a super third in Australia’s biggest race in 2009.
The room originally assigned to Mike de Kock is mine for a week, and I promise myself not to tell him too much, because even a seasoned traveller like Mdk will agree that Singapore’s newest grand hotel offers the kind of opulence only a fraction of the world’s population get to see, perhaps once in a lifetime.
The bathroom is as big as my garage at home, featuring a jet-bubbling bath and a shower you can easily fit five girls into, ten if they happen to be from Thailand. The King Size bed can acommodate same, but for the purposes of this trip my laptop, five pillows from a “pillow menu” and a large tray with Clam Chowder, Rogan Josh, Indian Green Salad and Martine Rose from Italy will suffice for now.
Debbie has arranged for Singapore’s Racing Channel and Racing International to be included on the menu serving the Plasma Screen in my suite. I take an extended break to rest my travel-weary bones and as sunset approaches I watch a replay of Mike’s assistant trainer Trevor Brown putting the mighty mare River Jetez through her paces, and later Singapore’s star sprinter Rocket Man gallops impressively in the hands of Felix Coetzee.
“Leroy Brown” and I are meeting for cocktails on the beyond-state-of-the-art Sky Deck on the 57th Floor, overlooking the decadent Singapore Skyline.
The Marina Sands Sky Deck.
I bump into Felix in the lobby. He is shaking his head in amazement when I inquire about Rocket Man, who is moving like a machine and is the talk of the town. “What a pleasure to be riding this horse, he will be very hard to beat!” says the master jockey.
The Sky Deck, in the shape of a large yacht, stretches over roughly 100m along the roof of the Marina Bay, connecting its three towers, each with 1000 suites. It features a palm-lined pool way up there in the sky, jacuzzis along the walkway and a night club from which dazzling views across the city can be enjoyed.
Leroy and i hook up with Herman Brown (jr) and his assistant trainer Nico “The Spaniard”, calm and reserved by virtue of his recent fatherhood and with a faraway look in his eyes. Nico tells that he and charming wife Sarah, based in Dubai, have a second child on the way.
Leroy has to be up at 230am to feed River Jetez her breakfast. He disappears. I’m glad that Nico’s there though, he will be able to keep one town wrecker in check tonight!