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An afternoon at the races

August 8, 2022

For most of the 2000s I shared first a flat in Stoke Newington, then a house in Walthamstow with Ben, a younger-than-me (straightest ever) gay horse racing journalist. We got on great, despite our politics (which we tended to avoid discussing) being completely different. 

Oddly, not once in all those years did we ever go to a horse race together. And it struck me that this would be a great thing to do together while I was over. No special races on, but he reckoned Kempton Park, not far outside London would be a good bet.

While we were living in Stokey, when I was between jobs and sometimes as a favour, I worked shifts at our local. And that was how I got to know Tony and his partner Rhidian. The four of us became quite good chums. (After helping us with the move to Walthamstow, they were our first dinner guests in our new house.)

As Ben could get multiple passes and as Tony had never been to the races, we decided we’d all go. (I haven’t actually been to a horse race since someone took me to Belmont Park when I was 20.)

Met up at Waterloo at 11am (god, I’d forgotten Ben was so tall!) and made our way to Kempton. Straight off the train into the track car park, then through the gates to be greeted by a life size statue of Desert Orchid, a much loved national hunt horse affectionately known as Dessie. 

We walk past (without me noticing until after the races) another equine statue. 

It’s a pity I didn’t notice, because this is the circle where horses are paraded before their races and where the winners are awarded their prizes. Would have been nice to see them up closer than I will during the afternoon. Oh, well.

I’ve come with plans to place three bets. One of them is for Matt, who’s studied the form and decided Crackovia in the 3pm is his best bet. The other two are for me. I don’t study form. I just go by the names. Are there any that catch my eye? Which names do I like best? There’s one in the 1:30 race that has the same name as a friend’s lovely cat, so that seems as good a reason as any. Then there’s Ray’s The One in the last race. I have a mate on the island called Ray. Good enough. Tony has a look at Ben’s Racing Post and decides, using my system, which names he likes best. We do, of course, check with Ben that these aren’t the worst possible horses to choose. 

Tony’s slow off the mark and doesn’t get a bet down on his horse in the first race. It wins. Seems to bode well for his system though. Unfortunately it didn’t.

The horse Tony didn’t bet on winning the first race.

As for my bets, well… The jockey fell off the first horse long before the race was over. Matt’s horse Crackovia romped home to win by a number of lengths. (Wish I’d put my own fiver on him.) And, whilst there might be a day when Ray was the one, this day isn’t it: eighth out of twelve.

I’d like to think I came out £2.50 ahead on the day, but of course I can’t, because I have to give Matt his winnings. What I did was enrich a bookie by ten quid. And that’s a perfectly okay amount to spend on a lovely afternoon with old mates.k

And now it’s time to hustle back to London for Monday, part two.

From → UK 2022

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