Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Caulfield Cup

The Caulfield Cup is part of the Melbourne institution that is the Spring Carnival. People from all over the world come to Melbourne to take part in the racing, the fashion, and the social atmosphere (read: 18 year olds drinking champagne out of the bottle). But, more on that later.

We slowly arrived as trains and trams trickled in to Caulfield Station (they have a train stop just for this race!) and even the ride on the train was entertaining. Groups of people dressed to the nines cheered as the train stopped to collect us and cameras flashed as people settled in for the 10 minute ride to the race track.

A flurry of phone calls later and we were able to get our group together and head in to the track. The first thing we did was stake a claim to some grass near to the track so we could see the horses run by. (This lasted for exactly two races, until the crowd got bigger.)

Then came the very important studying of the racing papers from the morning newspaper and the racing programs to decide how we were going to bet. Of all of us, only Richard, Dee and Don had been to the races before, so the rest of us looked to them for guidance. Plus, it turns out that Don's family used to breed race horses, so whenever he made a comment about a horse it was a bit like an EF Hutton ad- when talked, everybody listened. (For a while anyway.)

Early in the day, picking your horse was based on a very thorough study of past performance, the reputation of the jockey, the trainer and home country of the horse (horses were flown in from Ireland, New Zealand, and the US). Later in the day, the strategy became a bit more dodgy. I'm sure it had very little to do with the chosen refreshments and standing out in the sun for 6 hours. Really.

There were 10 races total for the day, and the Caulfield Cup was race 8. We started with the first race, bright and early at 11:30 AM. Each race was a little bit different, and they ran about every 45 minutes or so. Just long enough to finish your drink, muscle your way to the bookmakers, place your bet, and start another drink. Did I mention they were selling champagne by the bottle?

Don was the big winner for the day, picking three winners. (We really should have listened more closely!) I was a bit less lucky. OK, well, very unlucky, as at least two of my horses came in second. It was like the racing gods were having a laugh at my expense. Then again, I had decided early on that since I didn't know much about racing, or even how to decipher the program* I would just choose based on the name of the horse. Yep, maybe next time I will put a bit more thought into it.

*An excerpt from the racing pages:
RACE 4: Montaon, blinkers first time; De Lago Mist, blinkers off first time, norton bit off first time, noseroll first time, races plates off first time, standard bit first time, Fire in the Night, winkers first time.
What?! I bet on De Lago Mist, since he seemed to have the most comments. He came in second. Pssh.

The crowd got bigger and bigger as the day wore on, and the people watching was fantastic. Women plan their outfits for this race for ages, and nothing like bad weather was going to stop them from showing off this year's creation. Hats and fascinators (the feathery bits that look like they belong on a hat, but are just clipped into your hair) were everywhere, and more than once were lost to the wind. Since I had made an effort to put together an outfit for the race, I was pretty impressed. I was also laughing to myself when I saw girls wearing sundresses covered in goosebumps because they were too silly to bring a sweater. (The weather was my justification for not buying a new outfit in the end anyway, I figured that all I was going to do was cover it up!)

By the time the 9th was finished, we had just about had it. The excitement of the day (and standing) had worn us out and so we did what every Aussie does in times like these- go to the pub. A couple of games of pool, some dinner, and cab ride home were just about the perfect ending to a busy day.

Vocab of the Day
Lary: obnoxious, loud. Refers equally to people as to objects.

At the races we saw some really lary suits on a group of guys that ended up looking like a box of crayons when they walked together.

1 comment:

grahamanda said...

Without question your best blog to date, though I admit to being a bit biased about such matters. I laughed, I cried, I wanted to place a wager myself.