Wednesday, 10 July 2013

A day at the races

I challenged myself to draw a summary of this post in Paint in 5 minutes.

A day at the races

Horse racing is one of the oldest known sports with events dating back to 600ishBC where it was a regular event in the ancient Greek Olympics.  This very much outdates other sports such as Football, Rugby and the world’s greatest sport Badminton.

Horse racing is still a very popular betting sport in many parts of the world and has taken Australia by storm, mainly thanks to Australia’s slightly unhealthy obsession with gambling.  You can walk into any sports bar or bookies in Australia and find a wall of TVs dedicated to showing various horse racing events happening across the country and overseas. 

To my surprise they even have virtual horse racing as well.  These virtual races are set up to look like the real thing but fail miserably due to poor graphics.  I can’t imagine why anyone would want to bet money on a virtual horse race.  In the event of losing how would you explain to your other half that you just lost money backing a horse that never existed and was composed entirely of poorly rendered pixels?

Look at those virtual horses go!
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Anyway, why am I talking about horse racing I hear you ask?  Because this weekend the house and I were going to dress up smart and go to the races for the day.

The man in the mirror

The day started off with everyone getting dressed up and drinking moderate amounts of alcohol in the backyard.  Putting on my suit alone in my room for the first time since arriving in Australia gave me mixed feelings. 

Before I even left England I had my whole year of living in Australia planned out.  I was going to get a well paid job as a Civil Engineer and I would wear my suit every day for work, I would then come home to my expensive apartment overlooking the Harbour Bridge and drink red wine.  However my real life in Australia consisted of me working in a call centre taking abuse from idiots on a daily basis and coming home to a cockroach invested windowless room inside a poorly maintained dirty house.  Although I do drink a lot of red wine so at least I got that bit right.

Had a dreamed a bit too much?
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My reality, and if I had a choice I'd probably pick this.
Despite these slight shortcomings I was really enjoying my time in Australia and to be honest the life I had fantasized about was unrealistic.  But putting on the suit for the first time made me realize how my life in Australia didn’t turn out anything like I had expected it to.  Just looking into the mirror and seeing me wearing a suit was like looking into an alternative dimension that I created in my mind, it was a very surreal moment.

The sport of kings

After several drinks in the backyard we got into taxis and headed to the races.  It was a very hot day, the first hot day for several months and the first sign that the Australian summer was on its way. 

A few people in the house took the races very seriously and had done research beforehand on odds and which horses the racing pundits were backing.  This research however didn’t seem to be working as a witnessed my house mates systematically lose race after race.

It was amusing watching them fruitlessly shout at a giant TV screen.  It seemed real horse racing wasn’t too different from the virtual horse racing after all, both involve shouting at a TV screen showing horses.  You only saw the horses in real life for a few seconds whilst they galloped past us during the final straight.  The only house mate who was winning anything was Irish Mick, who obviously had the Irish luck with him that day.

Inspired by the success of my house mates and not wanting to be left out I decided I would place a last minute bet on a horse in the next race. 

Whilst I was approaching the bookies I realized I had no idea what I was doing.  I was confronted by a wall full of odd horse names and confusing fractions.  Western Symbol 4/6, Fruity Loops 10/5, Comment on my blog 16/4.

What the hell did this all mean?  They might as well have written the whole wall in Brail.  I was never good with fractions at school either; I was always more of a decimal kind of guy.

After a few minutes and with some guidance from the nice girl behind the counter who at this point had become slightly concerned about me, I managed to find the list of horses taking part in the next race.  Looking through all the odd names the name “Destruction” seemed the best choice.  A horse called Destruction obviously sounded like a winner, certainly better than backing a horse called Fruity Loops.

The lads.

A horse called Destruction

My race was about to begin.  I took position in front of the giant TV screen, the same position my house mates had occupied before.  I was now involved, my money and a very small part of my pride was on the line.  

The clap of the starting pistol signalled the start of the race and amazingly Destruction got off to a flying start.  While the other horses were stuck in the pack Destruction had managed to break in front.  Had I had the incredible good fortune of picking the Usain Bolt of the horse world on my very first race?  I was told the odds were good on this horse as well, whatever that means.

Destruction maintained the lead for the first half of the race and was doing well.  However towards the final straight Destruction began to fall behind the other horses.  I found myself shouting at the TV screen along with everyone else. I was desperately trying to urge Destruction on but it was pointless.  By the time they reached the final straight Destruction had disappeared behind the pack and ended up finishing 2nd to last.

I was disappointed not to have won, especially considering that Destruction was winning for the majority of the race.  Considering I was pretty broke after my holiday in Cairns some extra money would have been really useful as well.  But at least I could say I have tried horse racing and for a brief moment it was fun and exciting, just a shame about the end result.

The rest of the evening consisted of drinking.

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