10 fun facts about Cape Town’s top horserace: the J&B Met

Can’t wait for the J&B Met? We’ve collected a few fascinating facts about the oldest horse race in the country (you see — fun fact right there) to get you pumped for the big day. These totally random facts might just be the conversation starter you’re looking for…

1. The oldest horse race in the country, the Metropolitan Mile, was originally run on the Green Point Common. The jockeys were English soldiers attached to the Cape Garrison.

2. Only one horse has won the J&B Met three years in a row. Pocket Power, trained by Mike Bass, won the J&B Met in 2007, 2008 and 2009. Prior to that, the record was held by Politician, a horse trained by Syd Laird that won the J&B Met in 1978 and 1979.

3. Kenilworth Racecourse, where the J&B Met is run, is unique in that it has three racetracks that all finish in front of the grandstands with one pull-up area. The racecourse is also situated on a 52-hectare nature reserve that is home to the most preserved section of Cape Flats Sand Fynbos in the world and hundreds of fauna species, including 20 on the endangered list.

4. The event has been postponed twice — once in 1986 due to equine flu, and once in 2004 as a result of African Horse Sickness.

5. J&B has been sponsoring the J&B Met since 1977. At first glance, 39 years may not seem like all that much, but this is actually the longest running sports sponsorship in the world!

6. The J&B Met packs quite an economic punch. Wesgro, the official destination marketing, investment and trade promotion agency for the Western Cape, estimated that the economic impact of the 2013 J&B Met for the City of Cape Town and the region was a whopping R68 million.

7. Over 300 different stores in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Durban get involved in promotional displays for the J&B Met. The event gives the South African fashion industry a big boost in what is traditionally one of its quietest months. Many South African designers dedicate entire ranges to the J&B Met.

8. Every Met Day each of the grooms at the Kenilworth Racecourse is given a special J&B Met overall, which is worn with pride for the rest of the year.

9. The numbers are superlative: the J&B Met attracts up to 50 000 guests, who arrive in approximately 20 000 vehicles. The J&B Met Hospitality Village provides over 2 500 guests with lunch and dinner.

10. In 2002, the gates were closed halfway through the afternoon and ‘house full’ signs were put up because no more people could safely be admitted to the venue.

A dummies guide to betting smart at the races

If your betting know-how comes down to scanning the race card for a horse’s name that tickles your fancy, these simple tips will significantly increase your chances of actually winning at a Cape Town horserace. Clyde Basel, who has almost 30 years of experience in the horseracing industry, shares some practical advice.

Study the race card

Before you can place any bets, study the race card. The first things you need to look out for in the race card are the number and times of the races. Each race has a certain number of horses, and they are listed in numerical order. Once you’ve found the race you are looking for, you look out for the horse’s name, the jockey who is riding the horse, and the horse’s trainer.

Most people who are new to horseracing will pick a horse entirely because they like the way its name sounds. But if you want to take it a step further, the race card will often show you what sort of form the horse has got. So, you look at its last run, where it finished, how it has run in the past, how close it got… that sort of thing. This will give you an idea of whether or not the horse is competitive.

Go see the horses

It’s not essential to view the horses in the paddock before the race, but if you do, there are a few things you can look out for. Often the best sign of the wellbeing of a horse is its coat — a nice shiny coat usually indicates wellbeing. You can try and gauge its fitness by looking at its ribcage. Usually if there is a little bit of ribcage showing, it indicates fitness, but bear in mind that you get different types of horses and some are just naturally more robust. If the horse looks relaxed and walks quite slowly and is not too concerned about its surrounding, this is often a good sign. What’s normally not a good sign is perspiration. If the horse is sweating down his neck or buttocks, it might mean that he is too full of himself or that he has taken quite a lot out and that is often not a good sign before a race.

Newbies: try an ‘Each Way’

If you have never placed a wager before, I think your best option is what we call an “Each Way” — it’s a “win” and a “place”. For example, if you like horse Number One, you will have R10 each way — R10 to win and R10 to place. That’s the easiest and simplest way to bet. So, the horse can either run first, second or third, depending on how many runners there are. If there are 15 runners, it pays out for first, second and third; if there are 16 runners or more, it pays out for first, second, third and fourth.

Box your bet

You’ll sometimes hear people talking about “boxing their bet”. When you move out of an Each Way, you get what you could call, for example, a Trifecta, which is the first three. So, you could choose a Trifecta straight line — so that they run one, two and three in a set order. A box is any order. So if you say ‘”I want a Trifecta box, one, two and three”, it doesn’t matter what order they run, as long as it is those three horses. It would cost you more to box your bet, of course.

Go for a Pick Six

I think one of the most popular bets is the Pick Six. All tote betting is pool betting, so everybody puts money into one pool and then that pool is distributed amongst all of the winners. So, a Pick Six normally runs from the first leg, which is race four, all the way to race nine. There are six races, and the idea of the Pick Six is to pick six winners — one in each leg.

You could do one choice in each leg, but if you wanted more because you weren’t sure who was going to win, you can bet on more horses. The more horses you put in each leg, the more the permutation will cost. What’s fortunate about that is what we call fractional betting. So, if you only want to bet ten bucks, no matter how many horses you put, you’ll get a percentage of the total cost — you’ll get 1% or 5% or 10%, depending on what you spend. Whichever numbers you’ve chosen, one of those has to win each of those legs, and if you get your numbers winning in each of those legs, you catch the Pick Six, which can often pay out one or even two million… or, if you have multiple winners, can pay out R20 000 or R30 000. Not a lot of people catch it, but the Pick Six is quite fun!

Dynamite in small packages: what it takes to be a top jockey

Champion jockey and three-time J&B Met winner Bernard Fayd’Herbe breaks down the weighty issues behind the glitz and glam of taking a horse to the finish line.

I have always lived around horses — my grandfather was record-holding multiple champion jockey Tiger Wright — and, apart from size, I think a love of horses is probably the biggest requirement to becoming a professional jockey.

I was born in Durban and grew up in Madagascar. When I was 14, trainer Neil Bruss saw me riding amateur races there and suggested that I go to the South African Jockey Academy in Summerveld near Durban.

The entrance requirements are quite strict when it comes to size. They’re obviously looking for small and light people, so when you apply they take your measurements: from shoe size, knee to heel length, etc. I got in to the Academy in 1996 and boarded there for the five years of my apprenticeship. Once you qualify, you’re on your own, but you’re also ready to take on the world — literally, because top jockeys are flown all over the world to race.

When it comes to jockeys, size really does matter — probably more so than for fashion models! They say you’ve got to have nerves of steel to race, and yes, there is an element of risk involved, but I just don’t think about that at all — you go out there and give it your best and make sure your horse gives it their best.

I do have one fear though, and that’s putting on weight… I don’t really have a small frame so I have to guard against getting heavy. The biggest disappointments of my career come when I find a very good horse, but can’t race it because we don’t weigh up.

But fitness is also part of the job description. A jockey has to be one of the fittest athletes in the world, so I have a gym programme that involves a lot of cardio to keep my weight down. I also run a lot, cycle and swim.

When I’m preparing for big race days my routine involves getting up at 04h00, sitting in the sauna for 30 minutes, then training horses for two hours. Once home, I run on the beach, maybe swim — you have to keep going. And that’s the other aspect of being a jockey that people probably don’t realise: you have to have a helluva work ethic and be a bit thick-skinned, because there are a lot of highs and lows.

I work between 15 and 25 horses, six days a week. We don’t just train with the horses we ride on race days — in fact, sometimes you’ll get flown abroad to ride a horse you don’t even know. But I try to spend a lot of time riding a horse before a big race; some days hard, some days slow.

Kenilworth (where the J&B Met is held each January) is my favourite racetrack because it’s the fairest track in the country, so normally the best horse wins. Greyville, for instance, is a bit tricky, with an uphill coming into a straight that only gives 400 metres to the finish. But Kenilworth is a flat track, that goes wide — when you’re riding around the turn and you swing into the straight, you’ve got 600 metres to the finish — enough time to get your horse to the frontline.

Tips for men who put fashion first at the J&B Met

Fashion designer Wayne Govender offers his tips on how fashion-forward men can hook a winning look at the annual J&B Met, the most glamorous horse racing event on Cape Town’s calendar.

Horse racing and couture have always been a great mix and men’s fashion at the J&B Met is way more daring and exciting than compared to other great race days like, for example, polo events or the Queens Plate cup, which are more classic and conservative. So when dressing for the Met, men tend to shrug off boundaries and want to make a splash with what they pick to rock up in.

At the J&B Met, we are lucky to witness some of this country’s top menswear brands, like CSquared, Viyella and Carducci, as well as a host of very talented up and coming newbies.

If you’re heading to the Met and hoping to make a favourable and lasting impact, remember that a winning ensemble consists of your chosen look that captures the theme correctly, with a twist to make it your own personal style. Go for something that draws the right kind of attention to you, something that you can wear from day to night, from event to event afterparty, and still look ultra chic.

Go with what works for you, and that includes planning and investing in your look. A great style statement at the Met could cost absolutely nothing if you are really clever, all the way up to maxing out your credit card if you’re feeling splashy. Whatever you do, do not copycat an outfit from any famous international designers, do not show up in casual attire — save that for the beach — and never wear a bad attitude to the races!

Also, don’t forget the sunblock – lots of it – and a hot date as arm candy of course!