Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The Gambler

This weekend I went to see The Person. Have I ever told you how annoying long distance relationships are? No? Well they are. The last time I saw him was when I ran the Race for Life. 3 whole weeks ago. Rubbish.

It was The Person’s birthday last week so I was going down laden with presents. Wrapped in Lego wrapping paper. And I got him a Batman birthday card. Did I mention he was 29?

Saturday was going to see a first for me. We would be visiting Haydock Park racecourse. For what better way to celebrate being 29 than throwing all your money away? It was a first time for both of us although I think it’s safe to say our levels of excitement were fairly different on the way there.

You see, I’m just not a gambler. I’m too boring sensible. I cannot wrap my head around why you would throw your money away on a bet. It’s like standing on the street, feeding £10 notes into the grate and letting it flow down the sewer. I go to the casino and stand there wanting to weep as people lose hundreds of pounds – you don’t want that hundred pounds? That’s fine, but I beg of you, give it to me, don’t give it to the croupier! I went to Vegas and still couldn’t pluck up the courage to gamble. I was eventually persuaded to go on a slot machine and came out $1.50 up thank you very much. But proper gambling? Can’t get my head around it.

The Person was much more excited about it. Obviously, it was his idea. He’d bought his racing post. He’d watched videos about betting online. He was prepared.

I begrudgingly put £10 aside to have a gamble with. Once it was gone then I’d be done gambling for the day and I was ok with that.

The Fashion
We were in the Tattersalls Enclosure which is a pretty good place to be. Not the totally cheap end of the scale but not the super fancy enclosure either. This enclosure doesn’t have a dress code which meant there was a whole spectrum of outfits to gawp at from people dressed in their scruffs to people poured in to lycra bodycon.

And the shoes. Oh the shoes. Now you know me, I like a good heel but some of these women were walking around with elaborate pieces of scaffolding strapped to their ankles. I have no idea how they were doing it. And indeed, by the end of the day, they weren’t doing it, they were gingerly walking over the gravel of the car park, holding their shoes in their hands.

The Betting
Apparently we weren’t there to pass judgement on other women but to place money on horses. The Person had read his Racing Post, looked at the Racing Card and carefully selected his winner. I perused the list and went “Hahahahahahahaha. That horse is called Rent Free. I wish I lived Rent Free. I’m going to bet on that one.” Off I toddled to the tote and put my bet on.

(Aside. Why do they say that it’s a £2 minimum bet if you’re betting each way and then charge you £4? Surely that means the minimum bet is £4? Why do they make it so confusing?!)

The other reason Tattersalls Enclosure is good is that you’re pretty close to the finishing line. Excitement is abound as you watch the horses on the big screen, flicking your gaze between it and the little brown dots on the other side of the course. Then they get closer. And closer. And people start getting louder. And louder. And then BOOM they’ve gone past you and you’re so over-excited and they’re running so bloody fast and you don’t have your glasses on so you actually have no idea which horse came first.

So you can imagine the scream that came out of my ever so delicate gob when I realised that Rent Free won the race. Not 2nd, not 3rd. 1st. And the odds? 16-1. Off I skipped to the booth and came back with a very large grin on my face after the lady handed me £35 back. Hurrah.

The Person’s horse came in last.

This was good. I could now use my winnings to play and I wouldn’t be ‘wasting’ money as such. The next race featured a horse that had the same surname as my sister. Obviously I should bet on it. So I did and it came in 2nd. My head nearly fell off at that point although I was rather disappointed to discover that I only made 40p on that bet. Gutted.

The Person’s horse refused to enter its stall at the beginning of the race.

I quit while I was ahead at that point and my luck did actually run out – I placed a couple more bets but didn’t win anything but I still came out with £27 (and let’s not forget the 40p) which I was pleased with. And don't feel bad, The Person did eventually win in the end (but not as much as me. Just saying.).

The alcohol
Obviously I didn’t come out up overall because I drank copious amounts of alcohol throughout the day. Please note I was not drunk. I was not one of the people requiring medical attention by the end of the day. I did not get so drunk I took most of my clothes off. I did not get so drunk I fell over and cracked my head open. All of which were antics I saw. It's beyond me why you would pay £22 to get into the races and then get plastered on very expensive alcohol and finish your day in hospital – you can do that for much much less money in town!

The alcohol is expensive but if you’ve been to a gig, it won’t make you raise your eyebrows too much. It’s just one of those things you have to suck up and get on with.

The conclusion
- To conclude the races is actually a pretty good day out but not that much fun when you’re not betting and even less fun when you’re losing.
- But it might be worth the entrance fee alone just to see some of the sights.
- Have a walk around at the beginning to scope things out, that way you won’t realise right at the end of the day that you could have been in the paddock seeing the horses a little closer – damnit.
- The Racing Post is not that helpful, it had predicted the winners of 6 of the 8 races and didn’t get a single one right. Much better to follow my tip of picking ones with funny names.*

*I accept no responsibility for the loss of money if you follow this method of betting


  1. Oh I'm the same with gambling, hate the thought that I've thrown money away! We go to Newcastle Races every year with work but it's a hospitality thing, so free to get in and free food and booze (tho I'm usually driving), so I set aside a certain amount of money and think of it as having paid for my day out, even if I lose it all - but I mostly end up breaking even :)

    What are you going to spend your £27.40 on?

  2. When I was very young, my dad (who loved horse racing... The girls from his bookies came to his funeral!!!) taught me how to read racing form :-) I do occasionally go for the funny name option though, and for the grand national is the jockey with the nicest colours on lol

  3. I like your method of picking winners, its one I use myself on the rare occasion (the epsom derby, cos I used to live there) that I put money on a race.
    hope the birthday person enjoyed his day.
    joy xx

  4. Haha sounds like a good day! We always bet on the Grand National & I always pick my horses like u did :)

  5. I've been to the dogs a couple of times and it is really good fun - and a lot cheaper than horses. I always go on names too!

  6. Studying form does work to a certain extent, especially with jump racing so that you can try to work out whether the horse likes that type of course or ground, but there's always so much luck involved. Nice names is just as good a system as any other. My mum once picked 5 out of 6 winners on the basis of how powerful the horses' bums were. It worked!

    I go racing a fair bit but I still can't bring myself to bet big. I allocate myself the same amount of dosh as I would for a normal day/night out and I don't spend more than that. Usually end up in profit :)

  7. Oooh, Iwent to a day at the races for teh first time EVER not so long ago. After initially feeling a bit "meh" about it, I was really getting into it all! We did bet, but always each way and about £3 maximum. We finished up about £10 up which suited me! I'd definitely go again.
    I personally go for the coloured jerseys I like the most when selecting a horse, although we did have a tipster in giving us advice based on the form.
    Like Alex says, one method is probabaly just as accurate as any otehr really!

    xxx Maddie

  8. Yeahy! Winning is always good! Sounds like you had a wicked day! Just reading up on you and hope all is well! Miss not being in regular contact! I hate dongles...super speed internet connection rocks so much more! You seem to be having a great summer and year though! xxx

  9. A brilliant analysis of your day! Really interesting!
    Totally understand the long term relationship difficulty- I was in Indonesia for a year whilst my ex-boyfriend was in England and we had to survive on MSN, phone, letters and 2 weeks together in January!

  10. Well done you! I like a bet on the Grand National but that is about it. I went to the races at Sandown with my old old company and it was fun. We had free bets so that was a bonus - and I won. Yay! x


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