At the races

While Serena Williams was winning Wimbledon for the nth time, daughter and I were strolling through Chester. It happened to be race day. We arrived on the road by the race course and leaned against a convenient wall with a good view of the course at 2.45.

The rows of bookies’ boards showed the next race to be in twenty minutes, so we waited and took in the jolly scene. Drinking, eating junk food and chatting seemed to be the main occupations. Men wore suits, some in groups where drinking a pint of beer down in one seemed a popular activity. Some of the younger women wore skimpy attire that appeared rather inappropriate, given both the cool wind and the inelegance of the parts uncovered. This was no Ascot.

There was a certain fascination in observing the changing odds on the bookies’ boards. Eventually we placed notional bets and awaited the race. Number 6 ‘Sovereign’ seemed a good choice given the Brexit situation.

The race started somewhere invisible to us, and eventually the horses appeared in the distance at the far side of the circular course. They gradually came round the bend and then suddenly they were upon us, all effort and straining, pounding of hooves, excitement in the crowd. Yes, it was exciting! Number 6 was there in the mêlée, around fourth and seemed to be gaining.

After that ten seconds of excitement, it was suddenly all over. From our angle we couldn’t see who had won. It turned out that ‘Sovereign Debt’ came in second – the bookies’ boards had not been not wide enough for the full name. All that waiting for ten seconds of excitement!

But maybe better than my first racing experience, 52 years ago in 1964. The last ‘Lincolnshire Handicap’ was being run in Lincoln (after that it moved to Doncaster). This provided a good excuse to go to my first horse races. I wandered through the crowds soaking the slightly seedy atmosphere, had a drink and a sausage roll, placed a bet based on a ‘tip’ someone had given me – ‘Linca’ seemed appropriate. I waited around the crowded finish line, saw nothing of the race except the last second or two as a great pounding of hooves was followed by a load of horses suddenly flashing by. Who on earth had won? Well it wasn’t Linca! Arriving home I was dog sick from the sausage roll, and vowed never to go racing again.

I guess the point is showing off, drinking and gambling – and that ten seconds of excitement!

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