Almanac Horseracing – Four characters in search of a racecourse

 

With apologies to Luigi Pirandello, today’s wacky antics are brought to us by four characters in search of a racecourse.

 

How about we call our four funsters Kerry aka Kezza, John aka Macca, Greg aka Goose and Roger aka your author if for no better reason than these are their real names. Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to overlook the obvious, huh?

 

Tuesday’s is a clear, sunny, late autumn sunrise over Corio Bay. Our Geelong-based fab four feel a keen sense of excitement in the crisp morning air. Their body clocks are all in unison telling them this is the first week of May and that can only mean one thing – the Warrnambool May racing carnival is upon them.

 

Alas, like racecourses around the country, there will be none of the bumper crowds of recent years because of COVID-19 restrictions. But racing types are resilient and resourceful creatures. The Warrnambool Racing Club, to its eternal credit, has devised a specially modified program to proceed on a crowd-free basis.

 

The usual 30 race program over three days has been reduced to 17 races over two days – all the jumps races on the Tuesday and all the flat races on the Wednesday. How sensible.

 

And our four punting pals have to be equally agile as they quickly try to get the hang of Houseparty.

 

“Can you hear me Tommy?” Goose starts out, in a nod to Tommy Lahiff from Harry Beitzel’s erstwhile Saturday arvo footy commentary panel on 3KZ in the 1970s and 1980s.

 

“Yeah, I’ve got you and Macca but no Kezza. Oh, hang on, he has just appeared. G’day Kez!”

 

“Wait, I had him a minute ago, too, but now I’ve lost Macca…and I can hear you, Rog, but I can’t see you any more.”

 

Oh dear, five minutes pass while our ageing social media warriors establish their virtual communications.

 

Never mind. This is an important part of the experience after all. In years to come it will become another background to the carnival story like that yarn by John Harms about the Holy Spirit congregation from North Ringwood on a real train journey to Warrnambool in 2014. *

 

But our boys recall their own carnival anecdotes too. There was that much celebrated time when a female friend unexpectedly flung her arms around your bewildered author, planted a big kiss and continued walking arm-in-arm. Sadly, twenty metres later and around the nearest corner, she just as quickly de-snuggled and explained her story.

 

“That was for the benefit of that bloke back there in the navy jacket. I don’t want to see him again.”

 

Then, of course, there was the infamous ‘drunk condoms in the marquee’ incident from 1998, the forgotten tickets fiasco of 2005, the surprise quaddie collect from the Petrel Hotel social club in 2008 which the lads hadn’t realised they were part of until the following weekend, the flat battery episode of 2010, and the time Macca’s book group was reading Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu in 2015.

 

From the speed camera near the Terang golf course all the way to the Allansford pub that year, the car’s passengers were treated to Macca’s selected readings. Kezza later quietly confided to your author that we were almost certainly the only punters on course who had taken in half an hour of Proust earlier that day. Unfortunately, spotting Proust-related omens in horse names later on proved to be both extremely difficult and financially unrewarding.

 

However the virtual conference eventually runs without any further hitches. Phone betting accounts at the ready. Check. Form guides and scratchings all good. Check. Foxtel Sports and Channel 78 warmed up. Check. Chilled glasses taken out of the freezers. Check. Alcoholic beverages of choice well stocked up. Check.

 

What could possibly go wrong?

 

“Anyone had any luck with the early part of the card?”

 

“Nup.”

 

“Nor here, your Honour.”

 

“I had that thing that ran third in the previous, but only for a win.”

 

“I’ve had two Goosefectas.” (Translation: a trifecta outcome so named by our foursome after the eponymous but sometimes luckless Goose where the selections finish first, second and fourth, the last of these not always but quite often in a close photo finish with third just to prolong the agony.)

 

“And I snagged the trilopta in the first race.” (Translation: another trifecta result referred to by the gang where the selections finish first, second and last.)

 

Between races, just to live the real experience, the conversation turns to food, particularly the wide assortment available in that colourful lane of food caravans immediately behind the members’ stand which Kezza once named ‘Diagon Alley’ after the busy cramped laneway in Harry Potter. A marvellously mixed jumble of smells – pies, tomato sauce, chips, pizzas, dim sum, coffee, hot dogs, tacos, Vietnamese noodles, more chips, beer, baked potatoes with sauerkraut and a new Indian stall with its intoxicating aroma of spices.

 

 

 

Macca then leads with his chin, suggesting the nice ex-Californian man who runs the coffee van gets his three votes. “Best coffee outside the Vic market.”

 

“Oh I dunno, that Vietnamese joint goes OK,” says Kezza, only to be contradicted by Goose who declares his ongoing love of the popular locally baked Chitticks pies.

 

“As I have often said before, Chitticks of Warrnambool and Clarkes of Mortlake are equal winners of Victoria’s best pie – by a country mile.”

 

Following the Brierly Steeplechase there is further punting analysis after the Ballarat-trained Getting Leggie greets the judge.

 

“Bloody hell, mine fell over on the flat when another horse ran into it!”

 

“And I almost had another Goosefecta but, the way I’m going, I can’t even get one of them.”

 

The collective outcome seems disturbingly like those of previous races. Different details but same net result.

 

Day One later concludes with the raging favourite Ablaze winning the Grand Annual and the Eric Musgrove-trained long shot Gobstopper narrowly beating the Gai Waterhouse favourite Runaway in the Galleywood Hurdle. Coronet Bay trainer beats one of the big names. That’s jumps racing.

 

The collective punting ledger is showing a loss. But there is always tomorrow.

 

…(Wednesday)…

 

Absolute belter of a day for the 2020 Warrnambool Cup. Nothing like the usual wet weather most of associate with the May carnival.

 

The capricious weather gods can be heard giggling in the clouds as bright sunshine streams down on the eagerly awaited, recently completed, new WRC members’ grandstand – which is empty. It seems eerily reminiscent of Sir Humphrey Appleby’s new hospital that derived all its efficiencies from having no patients.

 

At least today’s hook up gets going with minimal fuss. The four musketeers quickly find their correct quadrants on their computer screens, not unlike the opening visuals from The Brady Bunch.

 

However, shortly after the Neville Wilson Handicap a familiar tale of woe emerges.

 

“I had the hard one there but I missed the second favourite.”

 

“I had that one but missed the long shot.”

 

“Guys, between us we had all the numbers,” says Goose.

 

Reflective silence.

 

“Hey, I’ve got a great idea. You know, like that time where Superman asks the bad guy why he didn’t use his powers for good rather than evil? Why don’t we each pick a number in the remaining events and take a four-horse box trifecta?”

 

“Like that episode of Sesame Street about cooperation?”

 

“Got it in one, big boy.”

 

An hour and a bit later and it’s just like the finish of an Enid Blyton story. Think here, despite whatever trials and tribulations Dick and Fanny (sic) have been through in the rest of the book, the last land to appear at the top of the Faraway Tree before Connie, their cousin from the city, has to go home is the ‘Land of Treats’. Everyone lives happily ever after.

 

(Regular readers may recall my 16 December FA column where it was suggested that Guinness has its origins deep inside Enid B’s ‘Land of Treats’.)

 

Order Of Command bravely carries top weight and favouritism to win the Wangoom Handicap, aka the Newmarket of the Bush, while the well-backed young rising stayer Too Close The Sun leads all the way to take out the Warrnambool Cup. He is now destined for the Andrew Ramsden Handicap at Flemington in a fortnight, a distance race which carries a ballot exemption for the Melbourne Cup for the winner.

 

In the case of our punting pals, the ‘Land of Treats’ of today’s racing ends with winners as all four applaud the benefits of punting co-operation and collectivism. The trifecta collects are modest but satisfying. Yesterday’s losses are a distant memory as today’s wins easily compensate, creating real happiness in a virtual setting.

 

“Great idea, Goose. How come we haven’t done that before?”

 

Nobody seems to know the answer.

 

 

* Read the John Harms story about Warrnambool in 2014 here.

 

Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

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Comments

  1. Is this the Foreword to a revised/alternative/competing version of JTH’s ‘Memoirs of a Mug Punter’?

  2. Liam Hauser says

    Instead of “Can you hear me Tommy”, Goose should have said “Tommy can you hear me?”
    This would have been an inadvertent but fine salute to The Who’s classic 1969 album Tommy.
    Incidentally, a few years ago when I was working at a newspaper, one of the journalists used a recording device and a headset when interviewing people over the phone. When she’d set it up and start talking, she’d start by asking “can you hear me?” She’d usually say their first name as well. So, there was one time I heard her say “Tommy can you hear me?”
    I laughed and laughed. The journalist was born in 1995, and she had no idea of the album Tommy. But after I heard her say “Tommy can you hear me”, I wished she’d follow up with “Can you feel me near you, Tommy can you see me, Can I help to cheer you, oooo Tommy…” If she’d done this, I wonder if the bloke she was talking to would have cottoned on?

  3. Roger- that’s a fun yarn and the dialogue invests it with an immediacy that really propels it. Without previously having the language it seems I’ve had a few goosefectas along the way too! Throw in Dick and Fanny and Sir Humphrey (more intertextual overlap there than I’d ever considered) and you’ve made me extra keen to get to the races again, whenever this might be.

  4. Goosefecta and Trilopta have been added to the lexicon.

    Terrific photo too.

  5. Well played, Roger.
    A most enjoyable read.
    Good luck at the Bool in 2021

  6. roger lowrey says

    Thanks everyone. We had fun doing it although, since I suspect the novelty will wear off fairly quickly, we are sure as hell going to get trackside at the ‘Bool as soon as we are lawfully able to do so. Can’t wait to see the new stand.

    BTW glad to know we have added Goosefecta and Trilopta to the almanac parlance. We now propose to start discreet lobbying with the good folk at the Macquarie Dictionary.

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