Monday, 9 March 2009
Best Shot Monday: The Adelaide Cup Edition
Last week Brittany asked me if I would answer some questions for her class on Culture as I was the only person she knew who lived in an alternate culture to the US. Well my answers are probably a bit disappointing but they did get me to thinking.
For example, one question concerned our holidays and festivals. Which do we celebrate? Well, aside from the usual Western Christian, commercially driven spend-fests and guts-ups, Australia specialises in celebrating Horse Races. Yes, it's true. The Nation stops on the first Tuesday in November when they run the Melbourne Cup and in South Australia we keep the dream alive with our Adelaide Cup long weekend, now held in March. As I was answering Brittany's questions and pondering the ethos of a nation which so highly reveres its gambling that everyone gets a day off work to go and indulge, I recalled a conversation I'd had with the Baby Angel just last week.
BA: Have you ever been to the races Mum?
Me: Yes indeed, I looove the races, although I haven't been since before you were born. It's
great fun. A great 'day out'.
BA: *sigh* I'd like to go to the races so I could wear a feather.
Me: (what the.....?) A feather?
BA: Yea, in my hair. You know, like the ladies do.
And so I decided, we'd go to The Cup.
The Baby Angel's friend Miss Priss was staying over and the two of them were beside themselves with excitement. They were so beside themselves that it took them two hours to get ready and it was 2.30pm before we set off for the Morphettville Race track.
Three Excellent things which happened to us at The Races.
1. Because we were so late we got a park close to the gates (someone had already left!) and the ticket people had left so the park was free!
2. As I was trying to figure out the location of the nearest ATM because the ticket office wouldn't take credit, a man came out and gave me his ticket!
3. Children under 16 were free!
We were in. "Now," I explained to my eager pupils, "we need to get a Race Guide. This is the bible which gives you all the form for the day and on which we need to base our decisions." In the last minute decision to attend, I hadn't even checked the times of the races. For all I knew, the Cup could have already run, but from the look of the crowds and the general atmosphere of excitement I thought we were just in time (no comments from you AFM!).
Do you think there was a Race Guide to be had at 3.15pm at Morphettville on Adelaide Cup Day?
We were to be reduced to borrowing books off other punters and finding spare form guides lying around under bar tables. Will this encourage me to be on time in future? Don't be ridiculous.
Undaunted by lack of information, I explained the tricky principles of picking horses to my two young protegees:
previous 'form', form at this track, over this distance, in this weather, carrying more or less weight, barrier draw, jockey, trainer. The endless permutations which affect the outcome of a race were covered in today's 'Gambling(Horses) 101' class.
"But Mum, we don't know any of these things because we haven't got a Race Guide,' protested The BA, not unreasonably.
"Never mind," I said,"we'll go to plan B; see what other people are betting on."
We headed for the Betting Ring.
I love the Ring. I love 'shopping' for the best odds; I love seeing the numbers flicker over as big bets go on; I love forcing my way to the front, to the man with the leather bag and barking phrases like, "A dollar each way on number 4, race 8 at Adelaide!"
The girls were slightly less enamoured to begin with. It was crowded and noisy, they were overwhelmed by the action: people on phones, people studying form and the tote boards, people carrying drinks and chips and spilling them down your back. Good times.
I settled on a bet for our first race. Diplomatic Force was at seven to one, somewhere in the middle of the betting field. I had no idea which barrier it had drawn, what length the race was or whether it had run at the track before but I liked the odds and I needed to demonstrate the method for placing a bet so I had a dollar each way and we made our way out to the track to watch the race.
With the obligatory glass of champagne.
It is at this point in the proceedings that I wish to have a little whinge.
The subject of my whinge is the SA Jockey Club who run the event. In their wisdom they had decided, for this prestigious and once a year event when people who do not usually come to the races make a big effort to get all dolled up and come out for the day, to increase the members area, effectively preventing Joe Public from getting anywhere near the track. We discovered this as we made our way out towards the fence where, usually, the punters would press together, straining for a glimpse of the flying hooves and dust laden air. Bastards. How do they expect to encourage people to attend the races if they prevent them from getting amogst the excitement at race time? Short sighted if you ask me.
Still, we weren't to be discouraged. I asked the marshall where we could go to see the race and he gesticulated vaguely towards an area just across the way. It all looked a bit well set up to me but I followed his directions and we found ourselves on a nice piece of grass with tables and chairs, right next to the finish line. Cool. They could keep the grandstand. We pulled up some chairs and made ourselves at home. Before too long, the horses for the next race were brought out onto the track. They came right past us! Brilliant.That's my horse!
We took pictures of each other. I call this one 'Blurry is Best'. A nice man with a media pass around his neck came up to us and offered to take a shot of us altogether (it's on the BA's camera). The grass was starting to fill up.
We heard a fellow spectator call over to a well dressed man near us "Hey KG! Got any tips?" Our heads swivelled as one. 'KG' Cunningham the well known and often controversial Adelaide radio personality stood metres away from us.
I thought about it. I thought about the endless weekends I had been forced to listen to his dulcet tones blaring from our kitchen radio, and the radio in the study and the radio in the shed! I thought about how devastated Himself was when KG was forcibly retired recently and I bit the bullet.
"KG? I'm sorry to disturb you this afternoon, and please say no if you want to, but could I get your picture with my daughter?"
The 'elder statesman of our airwaves' face lit up. "Of course." he beamed. "I'd be delighted."
We chatted to all and sundry around us and were bowled over with excitement as No 4, Diplomatic Force came home strongly in the 8th! A win! My first bet in about 15 years and I had a win!
After consulting with our new acquaintances (and their Race Guide), I took the girls back to the Betting Ring with $4.00 each in their hot little hands. Now, how to spend it? The Adelaide Cup is a 2 mile race (3600m) and most of the horses had only run 2600m maximum. It is anyone's race.
The BA went for 'Sweet Sister', Miss Priss took 'Glistening' and 'Ladies In Luck' even though I admonished her for 'betting against herself'. I went for a middle of the road odds 'Miss Pavlova' and we dashed back to our 'spot' to watch the featured race.
They wouldn't let us in.
In case you hadn't put two and two together, we had somehow wandered past the official and got ourselves into the Press and Media area. No wonder we had such a great view!
There was no going back I'm afraid. We were 'out in the cold'. Never mind. I took the opportunity to take a few race day images.
We had no luck on The Cup but we had a great day. We had a second place on the last race before we decided to call it a day; and what says 'Cup Day' more eloquently than a girl in high heels with really sore feet?
My subject initially rejected my approach to capture her feet. After some fast talking she agreed but I was trying to be quick so the shadows are really hard. I wish I'd had time to do more with this shot.
"Am I going to be in the paper?" she shrieked as I took the shot.
No, sorry mate, just on a little inconsequential blog.
We steeled ourselves for the exodus as the last race finished and the crowds began to move to the exits. There we saw this very good idea. Not sure whether the girls were there in the interests of public safety, or to chat up a copper.
Two More Excellent Things Which Happened to Us at the Races.
1. We walked to the car, got in, did a bit of manoeuvring to get out of our 'parked in' position and ......drove right out. NO waiting!!
2. I won $9.80
We also came across a stretch Hummer on our way out and I couldn't help but notice the 'Hall of Mirrors' effect.
We left the event, happy punters. The girls patted a big police grey on the way out.
("I'll have $30 on that one," slurred the witty drunk as he staggered past.)
We calculated our losses ($6.00 for a plastic glass of champagne) and revelled in our brush with celebrity. We watched the fashions as they left and noted the state of the girls' feet!
Oh. And just to ensure my children are completely au fait with gambling, Himself taught them how to play poker last night!!
My Best Shot is my daughter with KG.
Check Tracy's site for more stunning Best Shot Monday pictures.