I’ve been a huge fan of horse racing since I was eight years old. This Saturday, I get to attend my first J&B Met, one of the great events on the South African racing calendar. Every year, racegoers are challenged to dress according to a theme, which this year is Made For The Mix. Looking at the key visual on the website, I took this as permission to break the rules a little. Maybe get away with not going for traditional high heels and bling:
After pitching for an investment bank last yet while wearing a T-shirt printed with my painting of the strategy, I had an idea: why not wear my feelings about the race, if not on my sleeve, then at least on a shirt?
Which is how I decided to paint my favourite J&B Met winner. Horse Chestnut is the greatest horse I’ve ever witnessed in the flesh, and I remember his Met win in 1999 well. I was attending a politics workshop in the winelands that weekend, and I sneaked out of the conference room to watch the race on TV. I remember my heart thudding as the strapping chestnut colt hit the front in the home straight, then my jaw dropping as he put one length, then two, four, eight lengths between him and the best older horses in the land. It was astounding, a reminder that sometimes, very seldom, you have a chance to witness something truly special.
This was a horse so good that grizzled old punters were moved to tears when he won the South African Derby at Turffontein a few months later. I wrote about what Horse Chestnut meant to South African racing fans for the Sunday Independent, and extracts were published in a book about the great horse, who now stands at stud in Franschhoek.
I’ve painted Horse Chestnut before, in pastel, but never in lipstick. As it happens, though, my husband runs YFM, and we’re attending the Met because the station is one of their media partners. YFM colours are black and red, which is how I ended up painting Horse Chestnut in lipstick.
This is how the image took shape, from the sketch in black eyeliner to the final version:
This will be printed on the back of a black Woolworths T-shirt tomorrow. Boobs are terrible for T-shirts because they distort the shape of images, so I’m planning to print this smaller image on the front. This sketch is based on two of the horses that trailed Horse Chestnut home:
I’ll post pictures of my #MadeForTheMix outfit on Saturday. If any horse deserves to win, it’s Horse Chestnut’s fellow Triple Crown winner, Louis The King, though I also have a soft spot for Jet Explorer who was so badly injured in a freak accident last year.
I can’t wait. Tweet you at the races!