Guineas Day….. Again

Guineas Day Kate Painting

pen, ink and digital drawing

It’s Guineas Day…..

and I am at the park, again. You could say that I’m on the outside looking in. With a game of cricket taking place on the oval before me and thousands of frocked up racegoers celebrating the carnival of horses just beyond the ground, I wondered if somehow I should be feeling a bit left out.

That’s not the case. There was a ticket for me. I chose not to go.

Instead, I’m revelling in the fact that I am not at something, going somewhere or doing something. Today I am with my nine year old, Hugo. He wanted me to come with him to the park so he could watch The Thousand Guineas from the footy oval; it backs on to the track and offers several, superb vantage points.

Hugo climbs the scoreboard ladder. This gives him the elevation he needs to look over the municipal green, tin fence and to peer across the track. Here, for a few sacred, microseconds he catches the pummelling of hooves and the flash of heart pounding excitement as the field of three year old thoroughbreds pass him on the bend just 200 meters from the start.

He is so close. He can see and hear throaty utterances, cracking whips and spraying chunks of turf as horses and riders pass in a heaving, galloping cluster.

Back at home his older sister records the race on her phone. She will replay and search the footage until she finds her brother waving from the scoreboard over the back fence.

If she finds him, it will be proof that he exists.


Time is passing too quickly, slipping away with no chance of a firm grasp, let alone a tight hold. I wish it would slow down.

It’s October. We are well down the track and heading into the home turn, again. Things are getting tight and a feverish pace seems to be descending around me. I will it to not envelope or throw me from my own saddle. I want a clear run into the final straight.

I wish it was still April.


A bit later, and back at home, my phone rings, it’s the other half.

Hi honey, any chance of a lift from the track?

Oh yeah, alright, I’ll meet you at the roundabout, shortly.

He could certainly walk, but this is an established ritual that I am reluctant to disrupt.

I am greeted with a tired sigh and not the high spirited, jubiliant pronouncements of a year ago. Pineapples adorn our takeaway pizza in small pieces, not in crispy notes, and the kids take delight in replaying footage of the race for their father on an iPad.

Can you see me, Can you see me Dad? Thats me looking over the fence.

Yes, of course. We can see you, Hugo.


He is a blurry, non descript pixel, but it is him, undoubtedly, he exists.


  1. Glorious Kate. I remember my grandparents taking us kids on Saturday drives 50 years ago and sometimes ending up at the 7 furlong start at the Victoria Park racecourse in the Adelaide parklands. You capture the sweat, power and excitement of those childhood memories of a horse race (long before punting) beautifully.
    I went back and revisited your article on the 2013 Guineas Day.
    Hmm… you think there might be a pattern emerging here?

  2. Kate Birrell says

    Yes its a bit of a sequel Peter and I guess a reflection of another year almost gone.

    You have probably worked out that I am not a punter but in various ways am somewhat surrounded and fascinated by it. In my own childhood there was the odd trip to a country meeting, but more vividly the sound of racing coming from the radio in my grandparents kitchen. Love the sound of a race call and as a kid, I was entranced by the colours on a form guide or inside a TAB.

    Love living near the track too, there is a rich local history associated with Caulfield. My neighbour has memories of Pharlap being shot at a couple of streets away and memories of Scobie who lived nearby.

  3. Love it Kate

  4. Excellent, Kate.
    You beautifully captured that desperate need to be noticed which many kids possess:
    “Did you see me?”, “Can you see me?”, “Look what I’m doing!” etc.

  5. Not just kids, Smokie.
    Great images via words & other tools, Kate.

  6. ER, I had the exact same thought.

    I once stood by the massive bunker at the fourth at Sandwich during the Brit Open in the hope I would be spotted in faraway Australia.–George-s/Royal-St-Georges-4.htm

    Love it Kate. Evocative, thought-provoking.

    Also love that a 50 is a pineapple. Bring back the Grey Nurse – abandoned because they were too easy to photo copy I believe. Crio may know something of the punters slipping one counterfeit one in a bundle of ten?

    I also like how when you watch races from outside the track you’re not quite part of it.

  7. Thanks all

  8. Kate – wonderful images and lovely, wistful words. Sometimes being seen is scary.

    During the June 2013 Ashes a mate was home in the Barossa, on the lounge, glass in hand, late night with the cricket on. During the rain delay, highlights from the ’89 series were shown. There was an extended shot of the Lords crowd, zeroing in on, yep, my 25 years younger mate (with cup)!

  9. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    Drive past there often Kate, but your pic is more lifelike that the real thing, love it

  10. Kate Birrell says

    yes, it’s a fairly bland looking ground Swish, not quite as picturesque as others. And not a patch on Sydney grounds which often have the white picket fences around the edge. None the less it is a good spot for a bit of recreation. And well patronised by locals.

    Mickey, being seen is scary, even as adults, and even in posting here. I remember opening my first social media account a few years ago and feeling a bit confronted and self conscious. funny, that awkwardness does pass, although i do still feel it, especially when showing artwork in public.

  11. Malcolm Rulebook Ashwood says

    Great stuff Kate love all the meanings of the article ( loved the pineapple pizza note part )

  12. I love this Kate. I love it because it is so removed from the world.

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