We went to the point-to-point races in Badbury Rings during the start of Spring here. It was an experience and a half!
So much action and energy, with the bookies lined up before a massive crowd of beer-drinking, bellowing, clued-up betters!
I had never placed bets before, and never in such an old-fashioned way. Each bookie would manually take your bet, and the blackboards that showed the odds would frequently change – dusters and chalk flying.
Among the crowds of people migrating between the race track and the parade ring, you could hear tactical language spoken in stressed and nervous voices. Between these conversations of casually-dressed men, were the rather wealthy betters who laughed off hundreds of pounds worth of losses.
Needless to say, my £10 worth of bets vanished without any return!
Picking a horse to bet on is difficult. Having a horse-rich life, I thought this would be an advantage to me. In fact, thoroughbreds are a completely different animal – I don’t think they should even be called horses, frankly. Because they are racing machines, engineered by man over hundreds of years.
So I picked the horses that looked the most calm, and the heaviest. Why? Because I have forever picked the quieter and bulkier horses to ride myself as they tend to be ‘safer’ and more level-headed.
That is not a good tactic here at the races, though. You need to pick the athletic horses who are not sweaty in the parade ring, nor are they half-asleep. Always check out their history too. Don’t take notice of which colours you like, or which ‘lucky’ numbers they are wearing, or whose name you prefer – these won’t help you here! This is a tactical game of chance.
My ethics and morals were in the back of my mind the entire time – that racing is cruel. But having never been to the races before, I wanted to see it for myself. It is a sport fuelled by money, and it can be brutal watching the horses fall and dump their riders, or see horses struggling to breathe. It’s not always pleasant to see.
Nevertheless, I happily accepted this world for a day. I was taken back by the atmosphere, which had the most incredible energy that I enjoyed. Particularly watching the jockeys’ expressions as they approached the finish line.