James Goodman and I have just flown out from King Shaka to attend the World Cup night of racing at Medan, Dubai. We meet up with top jock, Anton “Arthur” Marcus, who is being flown out to ride Majestic Mambo. As usual he has to watch his diet and travels with a small scale to keep abreast of his weight and contain it. We wish him au revoire as he turns left onto the plane and Jimbo and I go right. We have drawn a Pakistani family alongside us with three young children. I sleep as fitfully as a man on death row and James’s continuous trips to the toilet add to my chagrin. He must get that bladder infection sorted out. On arrival we go straight to our favourite duty free shop, the liquor store where James sniffs around humidor for bargain cigars. We are both looking like bloodhounds when we get to our hotel for Breakfast. Mike De Kock has arranged a game of golf for us later in the day so we need to get some beauty sleep in. Watch this space …

Having had a nap James and I have arrived at Meydan Race course and it is bucketing down. If this irregular weather continues we could have the Winter Olympics here soon. The media center is fairly full as we get our credentials. We can see the golf course from the media room and they assure me that it will be fine to play in ninety minutes. Some of the finest racing journalists are sitting up here send news back to their different countries.

l-r Mike de Kock, Phil Georgiou, Mark Player, Dereck Poupard, James Goodman, Paul Lafferty, Michael Abboud, Gary Citron, Andrew Riddell

The golf is a lot of fun as always, but the unseasonal inclement weather slides in like a passing monsoon and we are unable to finish our round. I have a comfortable lead over the other three stooges playing with me, but, under the Duckworth Lewis rules, they don’t have to pay me, not that they wanted to. There is a big squad waiting at the Cube for prize giving, and, as par for the course, none of us get any bounty for our efforts. We get to meet the owners of wonder horse, Winx, who are at the prize giving. Gary Citron(without an E) breaks the record for eating the most lamb chops in one sitting and is wheeled out a little later experiencing a stout rebellion from his lower intestines. Mike De Kock is in good voice and holds court in customary style,talking to us all passionately about the industry and its mounting pitfalls.

The usual suspects with Winx shareholders Peter Tighe and Debbie Kepitis and Australian trainer Manny Gegalotis with cap

He wears his heart on his sleeve, and there are no sacred cows. We need more of his ilk. When we eventually depart, we all have to clamber in to Mike’s car, a 1982 Mahindra Sports, a rare collector’s item these days, for a lift to the Meydan Hotel taxi rank. There are so many Pakistani taxi drivers incumbent in Dubai, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in Islamabad. Jimbo Goodman is wrapped up like a koeksister in the spare wheel compartment. A wonderful evening.

Gudgie, Laff, Charlie Pigram, Michael Abboud

Thursday is always a party night and Phil has arranged for us to try a new venue called, Zero Gravity, up at the waters edge. He has arranged a bus to carry the gang up to the nightclub. Gary Citron (without the E ) has plonked himself next to the bar on the bus and is holding court with the tight five from Griqwas….Tubs, Joe De Mata, Sean Singleton, Phil and Mike. Goofman and I are the locks and one of the girls is the hooker from some Russian team. The venue is similar to Shimmy’s but a hundred times bigger and better. There is a furlong of food stations supplying freshly made gastronomic delights. Charlie Pigram of Spurs fame visits the noodle bar on a good few occasions. A group of young guys from South London ( Bromley) know Charlie well and join us for a good laugh. The DJ plays music from another planet and it takes a good few hours before the dance floor fills. Tony Peter does best and comes third in the dancing competition beaten by two statues. I have seen more movement in a parking meter in the wind. The irrepressible Marsh Shirtliff cuts a rug in fine style showing that the free drinks do pay off.

Trainer Mark Johnston, Huggy Livingston and unnamed friend.

Huggy Livingston of Scottish Rugby fame arrives with Betty and trainer extraordinaire, Mark Johnston and Deidre and old aquaitances are rekindled. The party is as good as you will get anywhere in the world. Rumor has it that Gary Citron(without the E) Tubs and the ageless Gudgie close the hotel bar at three. Watch this space …

Friday is Boat Day. Mr George has arranged for the squad to go on one of the luxurious boats manufactured in Yemen that is sailing to Iran from the marina on to the Persian Gulf. Gary Citron( without the E ) is wearing a black tee shirt with the word respect blazoned across the front. Like me wearing a tee shirt with Shorty written on it. Two hundred and seventy five people are on the boat (designed to carry a hundred & twenty five at a push) and the party gets under way quickly as we slide out in to deeper waters. Jimbo Goodman has no sea legs, and starts turning as green as a leprechaun before regurgitating the entire barbecue he devoured on top of the Meydan on Thursday night, and eventually has to lie down on a low lying settee just above the bowels of the boat. 

Seasick Jimbo

This time we have managed to get a good DJ and the music is top drawer from the ’30’s. Tubs is in great form dancing around like an electrified amoeba with a drink precariously balanced in his right hand. Charlie Pigram from Spurs is on the move doing his favourite cup, saucer and spoon trick to great bouts of laughter. The food is outstanding and is available for the full five hour trip. By the time we drop anchor again, Gary Citron(without the E) is looking as bad as Jimbo two hours earlier with many of the passengers talking under water Hebrew as they stagger down the gang plank looking for a space to throw up.

Ally Vance

Jim and I get a taxi back with a Portuguese driver who is flying between the cars. We brand him Nando Alonso. Back at the hotel bar we meet up with Neil Morricce and Justin Vermaak. We are introduced to Ally Vance the international equine presenter from CNN. A remarkably talented person who has graduated at Oxford, is an Olympic athlete and charming to boot. 

It’s race day and we drive out in the hired bus to Meydan after watching some Super Rugby in the hotel pub. Every one is dressed up to the nines and Gary Citron(without the E) ambles up like James Gandolfini in the Sapranos. He is more spun than a tapestry. Gilly and Marius have been to the pooch parlour and look great. Gilly and Phil are interviewed alongside the SA flag which is viewed all across the Racing world . Gary Citron (without the E) is whispering in Phil’s ear “ tell them it will Shit in” need I say more.

Tamer Hassan and Ben Shenel

 There are many South Africans out for trip and our vantage point alongside the parade ring is loaded with friends. The young boys from Bromley are looking as suave as ever but Ollie has alcohol poisoning and we manage to get him on a drip in the jockeys room. One of the Bromley lads, Ben, who has a million twitter followers bring along one of his friends for me to meet. When he walks in I see that he looks to be combination of Stephen Segal and Antonio Banderas. His name is Tamer Hassan and is a great character who sounds just like his good mate, Ray Winston. He has been in plenty of movies and a superb raconteur. I take his number as he is one of the boys you want to stay in touch with. Gary Citron ( without the E ) has forgotten to take his green tablet and is floating around the room like Dwayne Johnson on steroids. Controlling him is like herding feral cats on speed. Our bus home is set for 11.30 and eventually the gang troops on to it . Marsh and Gary Ctron( without the E) are straight into the bar on the bus and want everyone to join them in the bar at the hotel. I scarper off as I have an early flight. Great trip that should be on everyone’s bucket list. …. Adios