Guineas Day at Belmont (North)

Saturday can’t make up its mind in Perth.  Morning showers give way to sunshine, but there is a chill south westerly breeze blowing up the river from Freemantle (that is the authorised ABC spelling from the intro to Jenniifer Byyrne’s Book Show interview with Tiim Wiinton).

But my mind is already made up.  I spend a couple of hours in the morning editing wonderful Almanac pieces to put up on the website.  Sometimes it only takes a half hour, but Yvette has loaded her piece with glorious pictures of American college football and friends.  I love looking at them, but it takes a little time to render each of them into the web page format.  Other writers appear to have mislaid the spelling and grammar checker from their Word software.  You know who you are.

Still no matter.  All the pieces are a joy, and I am not rushing anywhere today.  My mate Ken picks me up at lunchtime, and we head to the nearby Maylands Public Golf Course for our regular round with the usual suspects.  We are only playing 9 holes, but when we get to the tee we find a half dozen groups queuing in front of us.

They have closed down Burswood (the golf course – not the casino; more’s the pity) to start construction of the new football stadium.  The overflow of golfers is crowding all the nearby public courses like Maylands; so half hour delays from the scheduled tee time are becoming de rigeur.  We practice missing 6 footers on the putting green; and then wander off to witness other miscreants drive the narrow tree-lined fairway (we are hitting off the 10th).

There is a certain gallows humour to studying the swings and shots of fellow hackers.  It is like waiting your own turn for the hangman, and as other’s felonies are read out, thinking “jeez, at least I’m not as bad as him.”

We are engaging in the standard blokey banter, when the first reminder wafts in on the breeze.  It’s the unmistakeable cadence of the Australian racecaller buffeted in on the Freemantle Doctoor from Belmont Park race course’s PA, a kilometre away across the Swan River and the front nine of the golf course.  It’s the sound of a thousand front bars; Trans Australia Banks and pocket trannies.

“Yanna..…..yanna..……yanna…..yanna…YANNA…YANNA..YANNA..YANNA.YANNA.YANNA. YUNNO. Yanna..yanna..yanna…….yanna; yoto; an nu yinnaas yanna; yum yanna; an yanna.”

I can’t make out any of the names (thankfully), but the rhythm and tempo is unmistakeable.  I try to decipher the voice.  There was the lyric tenor of Bill Collins and Ian Craig.  The languorous raspy drawl of two packs a day and Joe Brown.  This is probably the basso profundo of Darren McCauley, but the wind ensures we are only getting impressions not details.

I know it’s Guineas Day from putting up Crio’s racing preview on the website on Thursday night.  It took me back to the great 3YO’s of my youth like Luskin Star and Manikato.  But the names in Crio’s piece mean nothing to me these days.

Long John and Prince Harada could be newly elected Palmer United Party Senators, for all I know.  Éclair Big Bang certainly sounds like Clive.

There was a time when I would have had the snorkel and flippers in the bottom of the golf bag, so I could swim across the river in time for the next race.  It cut a swathe of destruction through my life, so these days I studiously ignore the punt.  But you can’t completely unlearn the habits of a life time.  I tell newbie abstainers that “these days I don’t think about the races, but sometimes the races still think about me.”

My turn at the teebox tumbrel arrives, and I top my drive 50 metres straight (thankfully) down the middle.  I repeat the shot.  Adjust stance.  Chunk my third and fourth a similar distance.  Rehearsing my errors on the slow march between disasters; searching for clues.  Got it.  I’m swaying as usual, pushing my head forward past the ball in the rush of my downswing.  My fifth shot arcs elegantly the remaining 150 metres onto the front edge of the green, and I respectably two putt for a triple bogey 7.

Not what I was hoping for, but I have found an acceptable rhythm and technique after a hesitant opening.  There is a steady run of bogeys that I count as my par these days, for most of the succeeding holes.  The occasional waft of horses continues.  On the thirteenth we all notice the sweet fetid smell of horse shit and hay.

“Belmont on the right, or the mounted police stables on the left?” I ask Ken.  “I reckon it’s the cops horses, they’re closer,” Ken advises.  He was the General Manager of the Police Union for a decade, so he knows a rotten smell when he sniffs one.

I par the last 2 holes, with a birdie putt on the last just rimming out.  Acceptable after a slow start, but hardly inspiring.  As the clubs are loaded in the boot I hear another familiar sound.

“Ta da dut; da da dut: ta da dut; dar dar,” the recorded trumpeter echoes across the car park.  The horses are entering the mounting yard for the fifth at Belmont.  We are entering the bar for our first.

The standard convivialities follow over the next hour.  I total the damage.  I’ve broken 50 (just) shots on the golf course; and totalled the same score in the wallet for a round of golf and a round of beers.

A good day on the putt.  I hope all Almanackers had a similar score on the punt.




  1. mickey randall says

    Peter- there’s something in a lazy round of golf that generates a good narrative- the unfailing sporting tragedy, the life-like rhythms, the apt metaphors, that always works for me. It’s probably because a round of golf is rarely only about the round of golf.

    Loved the wit and insights that peppered your laconic prose!

  2. Thanks Mick, very kind. I hope a few readers that are struggling with life’s problems get the message that you don’t have to be a ‘mug’ to have a problem. Be it booze, drugs, gambling, depression there is a slippery slope no matter how clever you are. The only weakness is covering it up and thinking you can tough it out.
    I wouldn’t swap getting the next 10 Melbourne quaddies for the simple pleasures of golf, the Almanac, family and friends. But I nearly did. It can suck you in with adrenalin, ego and the thrill/remorse of the chase.
    Saturday was an unexpected reminder. Cheers.

  3. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Well written article Peter B and seeing the Headline and not being a racing person had glossed over it was only going to check Mickey R comment that I read the article and it is a succinct reminder of lifes demons which are different for all of us I finally admitted to myself a problem with booze and have gone 9 months with out a drink at times this is bloody difficult to fit in socially another times is fine
    Life is about being honest to yourself and sourcing and acting on the appropriate help
    Thanks Peter B

  4. Luke Reynolds says

    Great stuff Peter. Be careful with the golf though. Can be highly addictive with plenty of highs and lows too.

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