A few weeks ago, we spent the weekend in Rutherglen on invitation from friends of ours. They, and a group of their friends, have been going to this little country town every year for the past twenty (or so), as annually, the wineries around the town hold a tasting event. You pay some money, get a glass, travel from winery to winery, taste their wines, eat good food and generally enjoy yourself. Which we did.
At the same time, in a town not far away, there is a day of horse racing. Some of the men in the group felt like going to watch, and since I had never been to a horse race, I figured I’d join them. I was also curious about this sport, that – to me – is just an excuse to combine three of Australia’s favourite pastimes: being outdoors, drinking and betting.
As you might have guessed from the introduction, I don’t know much about horse racing. My knowledge is limited to the following summary: A number of horses are put into a box, the front doors are opened at the same time, said horses run as fast as they can down a long stretch of grass being ridden by jockeys in colourful clothes, and whoever crosses the line first, wins. So far so simple.
I also know that, for some reason, a large crowd of people tend to go, and they tend to dress up in fancy clothes to watch this (or rather, to see and be seen by other people). Oh, and there is a public holiday in Melbourne, just because there is a horse race on (the so called Melbourne Cup Day). And that a lot of betting goes on at a race track. But would that be the case in rural Victoria, almost on the border to New South Wales?
The answer is Yes and No. Yes, there was still a (relatively) large number of people watching. The dress code, though, is clearly more relaxed out here in the country.
What about the betting, though? Well, as this is clearly part of the reason why there are horse races in the first place, of course this happens here as well. And since I had never participated in sports betting before before, I thought it would be fun to try. So, following the guidance of my fellow race go-ers, I took the plunge and invested all of AU$ 10,-. Big money!
So we made our way to the area of the race course where the official betting takes place – conveniently located right next to the bar, so that you can either celebrate your victory, or drown your sorrows, as appropriate. Here I got a short introduction into the different sorts of bets that you can place: betting on a horse to win, betting on multiple horses to make it into the top positions in order, placing a variable trifecta (meaning betting on four horses to make up the top three spots), or any number of other options.
Alea iacta est – the die is been cast. With a large amount of money riding on the outcome of the race, we made our way to the course to watch the action. The game is on.
Unfortunately, only one of the four horses I had bet on actually made it into the top three. I guess that’s what the professional punters call “tuition money”.
Non the less, enjoying the atmosphere, being outside, having a beer and a laugh – all in all not a bad way to spend the afternoon.