You know, I am not posh in the rather English way of being horse-mad. In fact my history of interactions with horses is rather tainted.
First, when I was about fifteen a cousin of mine decided to take me horse riding. What she didn’t realise is that I’ve seen horses in the distance or on TV but had absolutely no idea how large they are. We were all for a shock, including the horse: let’s just say it didn’t go well.
Second, I went horse riding with John and my older sons in Scotland. It was going well until the horse decided that the grass under a tree is very tempting. I had no idea how to stop it and a branch was coming at me. After a polite ‘Please stop!’, the horse was eating grass and I was hanging off the tree branch like Tarzan.
Third, I don’t read good rubbish novels often: only when I am very tired and my mind is in overdrive. This is exactly what happened when I was writing my PhD. My only way to relax was to read Jilly Cooper so I read ‘Riders’ (yeah, it is all about horses, races and people behaving badly).
And fourth, ‘A Day at the Races’, the 1937 movie with which the three Marx brothers continued to revitalise cinema (for reference, philosophy needed one Marx), is a favourite of mine. I remember seeing it in a cinema screening classic movies and having hiccups from laughing.
My favourite scene?
When the vet was supposed to give the horse a pill; to do this he had to use a tube, put the pill in it and blow in the horse’s mouth. Next, the audience is looking at the vet chocking. Asked what happened, he gasped out:
‘The horse blew first!’
So you see, I am not a woman likely to be seen at the horse races.
Then again, I am not a woman likely to be seen at the Hurlingham Club in London but I was invited there.
Last Friday, I took a day off and John and I went to the Chester Races. Apparently, the day before Wayne Rooney (the Manchester United striker) was spotted there; poor lad, hope he had better luck with his bets than with his team.
We went because this sounded like something that could be on a bucket list; at least one of the hundred things to do before you die. Up there with ‘ride a horse in Mongolia’ and ‘get bitten by insects in the jungles of Amazonia’.
Just messing with you, guys. We went because John won the tickets at one of the investing courses he’s been doing. I’ll be a pretty lame personal finance blogger to let free tickets for the Chester Races to go to waste, wouldn’t I?
I can sum up my observations like this:
- Too much flesh exposed that should have been covered;
- Too much make up and killer heels;
- Too much money and very little taste;
- Too much booze and very little sense;
- Too much food of low quality; and
- Too many drunk young women and really bad language.
Now, I’m no shrinking violet and on occasion have been known to use language worthy of an army sergeant-major.
What I heard at the races, my friends, is a whole new ball-game. This is Cheshire, baby!
One thing that was beautiful were the horses.
Going to the horse races without gambling is like smoking dope without inhaling: it makes little sense.
We did bet.
First, I decided to compensate for my ignorance of horses with luck. ‘Easy six’ is a cumulative bet for six races. This is a gambler’s bet: the probability of getting the winners in all races right is minute. When you win, you win big time; when you lose…well, depends how much you put on the bet.
To make matters even trickier, I went for a ‘lucky dip’ – the winners in the races were chosen at random.
In retrospect, it may have been better to go and hand over my £20 to the bookie without making a bet; it would have been much less fun though.
And one of the horses won: Blithe Spirit won the fourth race.
Once it was clear that my bet is not going to come off – and the Ferrari that was part of the deal was safe – we decided we’ll place couple of individual bets (£5 each).
In the fifth race we decided to play it safe and placed a bet on the favourite: Gabrial’s Bounty.
Lovely horse! Problem was that when they were warming him up even I could see that something wasn’t right. It was frisky, refused to get in the door and…well, it didn’t feel right.
Gabrial’s Bounty, the favourite to win the race, finished one before last. It was also limping rather badly by the end of the race.
We lost our £5 and this horse shouldn’t have been raced if a complete novice like me saw there was something wrong.
In the sixth race we bet on Scillonian Sunset; because John always wanted to go the Scilly Islands. Lovely filly but it lost. Another £5 gone.
This is when we stopped and made our way back home.
Was it fun?
You bet! (Actually, with my experience at the races I probably shouldn’t bet.)