I saw horseracing’s future and its name is Kenilworth

The transformation at Kenilworth comes from an uncompromising passion for the sport and in particular the horses.

On Thursday 9 May 1974, music critic Jon Landau travelled to the Harvard Square Theatre, situated at no.10 Church Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts. After his experience he wrote: “I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.”

On Sunday 26 November 2023 I travelled to a racecourse I used to know, situated at no.105 Rosmead Avenue, Cape Town. After my experience I feel I must write: I saw racing and horse-ownership future and its name is Hollywoodbets Kenilworth.

I was down in the Western Cape for the first salvo of what promises to be an electrifying Cape Summer Season of Champions and was privileged to be afforded a walk-through of the property by Greg Bortz, the Chairman of Cape Racing.

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I’d heard reports from friends and racing associates about the extreme makeover underway at the racecourse but in truth nothing could have prepared me for what I witnessed. Such was my spine-tingling first impression of their racing renaissance I suspect my epiphany was begotten even before Greg’s goosebump generating tour.

There is a deep resonance in this transformation for it transcends the cosmetic. A fresh energy, born from the quantum culture-shift and inspired leadership, is as palpable as it is infectious.

All change is driven by a raw and uncompromising passion for the sport and in particular it champions the love and respect for the heroes of our sport, the equine athlete. To that end, integrity is paramount and the policy of inclusion is evident in the way Cape Racing celebrates everyone who has bought a racehorse.

It is impossible to do justice in print to the visual beauty and sophistication of the likes of the 1881 Members Lounge, Winner’s Circle, grandstands, lawns and punter facilities. As such, all I can advise is that, given any chance, you find a way to race at Hollywoodbets Kenilworth.

Jon Landau’s 1974 prophecy regarding the struggling 24-year-old musician from New Jersey is woven into the tapestry of music history, but there were other revelations in the original concert-review published in the 22 May edition of Boston’s Real Paper.

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These too appear interchangeable with sentiments gathered from my first race day at the new Hollywoodbets Kenilworth.

For example, I could easily transpose Landau’s “he (Springsteen) made me feel like I was hearing music for the very first time” with the lived experience that “it made me feel like I was watching horseracing for the very first time”.

And then there’s “can anyone really be this good, can rock and roll speak with this kind of power and glory?”

In a salute to my aforementioned tour guide I could substitute Landau’s rhetorical question with one of my own and ask “can anything really be this good, can horseracing speak with this kind of pomp and power?”

I believe the answer is a resounding ‘yes’.

Incredibly what has already been achieved in the Western Cape is only the tip of the iceberg. As it was with Springsteen, so shall it be with Cape Racing.

Back in 1974, ‘The Boss’ was only just getting started. What would ultimately become Springsteen’s signature song Born to Run would only be released the following year in August of ’75 and his Born in the USA album (which sold over 30 million copies) would only appear a full decade later in 1984.

The Hollywoodbets Kenilworth project is the future and it’s clear nobody is Dancing in the Dark and more Glory Days lie ahead.

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