BACK in 1997, Janet Jackson had a hit song “You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till It’s Gone”, writes DAVID MOLLETT.
Given the glowing tributes to somewhat eccentric – but highly entertaining – UK racing presenter John McCririck perhaps these words are applicable to him. He was sacked, took his employers to court but lost the case.
Following his passing, you had to love Brough Scott’s comment that McCririck was “somewhere between a Messiah and a Wrecking Ball.”
Happily, our vibrant presenter, Andrew “Bonski” Bon, is alive and well and on most big race days – but surprisingly not last Saturday – is the guy whose post-race chat with the winning jockey brings a great conclusion to an important sporting occasion to life.
“Bonski” doesn’t fall into the eccentric category of McCririck, but the 58 year-old exudes an energy and passion of someone half his age.
What is abundantly clear is that he’s a horseman who has no fear in getting upsides and close to a sweating horse after a race. You also have to be fit and he is as a result of riding out every week.
“Bonski’s” career kicked off in 1992 with IGN and I asked him for his highlights in his near three decades in racing.
“Blimey, where to start,” he said. “Probably the most memorable is London News’ ground-breaking win in Hong Kong in 1995. Thanks to the vision of the late Jimmy Lithgow, who put together a media team to cover the race, we were able to send back reports on that historic occasion.”
I was one of that media contingent and Business Day considered the win important enough to put on their front page.
“Then I had the honour – thanks to Mauritzfontein – of seeing Horse Chestnut at Claiborne Farm in Kentucky in 2000.”
“Meeting famous CNN anchorman, Larry King, who has conducted over 167000 interviews, was another highlight. He said: “Don’t panic – I’m just another normal human being.”
Another event “Bonski” remembers fondly is Victory Moon at Royal Ascot in 2003. “He was a serious horse and a flagbearer for SA.”
So where did his close association with racehorses begin? “I guess it dates back to Maritzburg in 1979 when I worked with horses at the starting stalls. I learnt a lot and chatting to jockeys post race is nowhere near as severe as that. It taught me to have respect (for horses).”
While he’s far from a fitness freak, “Bonski” has competed in eight Comrades Marathons as well as 10 consecutive Two Oceans.
“I keep fit riding a lot and walking the dogs and it’s fair to say my wife, Sarah, has rekindled my love for horses. She’s been my mentor and is a supremely talented with horses – she runs a riding school with some 24 horses including Sean Tarry’s former star, Whiteline Fever.”
As I have had 17 years with Tellytrack (we part ways this week), I’m aware it’s not been the smoothest of rides and “Bonski” attributes his decision to be a contractor – rather than a full-time employee – “because I’m an artist and not partial to corporate governance.”
On Vodacom Durban July day, “Bonski” was in his element perfectly capturing the exciting post-race moments of SA’s most famous race with winning jockey, Richard Fourie.
So Tellytrack viewers will have been surprised that “Bonski” wasn’t on hand to welcome Nooresh Juglall following his win on Dynasty’s Blossom in Saturday’s eLan Gold Cup. In fact, for a moment, Juglall and his mount came to a halt and the Mauritian-born jockey was probably wondering why no-one was there with a mircophone.
Post-race comments in the lead-in have now become the norm worldwide – particularly in the UK – and “Bonski’s” only explanation for his non-involvement is that “they didn’t deem it necessary.”
The mention of the UK brings me to Saturday’s King George at Ascot and – when you think about it – there is a similarity between Frankie Dettori’s ride on Enable and Anton Marcus’ on Soqrat.
Going into Swinley Bottom at Ascot, Frankie was towards the rear having been unable to get a position from an unfavourable draw. At this stage, bookies must have been rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of beating the favourite.
The picture changed dramatically on the final turn with Frankie rushing Enable up into contention – a move which resulted in a pulsating win for John Gosden’s superstar. York officials will be keeping their fingers crossed that her next engagement will be the Juddmonte International on August 21.
Anyone who had read my WSB Champions Cup preview in Business Day will know I was in Soqrat’s corner. Anton Marcus showed just why he’s regarded by many as the best jockey in the country by grabbing the nettle and making an early move on his mount.
Never mind it was a Gr 1 race with a R1 million purse, Anton trusted his own judgement and was so nearly rewarded with victory.
Eric Sands has done a first-class job with Rainbow Bridge who – in my opinion – falls into the category of “skittish”. Eric showered praise on owner Mike Rattray and the man responsible for putting Mala Mala Game Reserve on the worldwide map has been a dominant personality in the sport for many years.
However, it would have been nice if there had been some recognition of Rainbow Bridge’s late owner, Chris Gerber, in the post-race interview. It was Chris, to say he’s sorely missed is an understatement, who bought the son of Ideal World from Mauritzfontein/ Wilgerbosdrift for R300,000.
The winning cheque for Mike Rattray on Saturday – before deductions – was R625,000 so there’s still some way to go before he recoups the rumoured R7-R8 million it cost to acquire the gelding from the Gerber family.
That will not matter one iota to Mike and Norma Rattray. Presumably their aim will be another Sun Met (still shown as the J&B Met in the four year-old’s formline in Winning Form!) victory and this time in their colours. Then a bid to go one better in the 2020 Vodacom July.
If it happens, let’s hope “Bonski” is there to chat with Richard Fourie. One has to love his exuberance and passion – like John McCririck his like are few and far between.