My Grandfather Charlie was a mathematical genius but, for some reason, he could never work out why he used to holiday out our place while his bookmaker partied in Fiji.
It didn’t take me long to work it out, and I’m someone who often adds the same figures twice and gets a different result each time: betting on horses is a sure fire way to lose money.
Charlie wasn’t alone though. As a boy I recall numerous Saturday afternoons visiting Nana’s place, and all the adults would be seated around the kitchen table. Well, I’m assuming they were all there, because all that was visible in the smog of cigarette smoke were their legs under the table, surrounded by empty beer bottles, cigarette butts and torn up Best Bets pages.
The results of each race would be met with groans, or, very occasionally, a ragged cheer. Sometimes a voice would utter mysterious phrases like, ‘Dead cert at Armidale’ or, ‘Grey Lady for the trifecta!’ Mostly though, what I heard was complaints about useless jockeys, broken down nags, dodgy trainers or conspiracies involving big betting syndicates; the bitter cry of the sore loser.
When Charlie visited us, he’d hole up in a little room next to the kitchen, which also rather handily contained the beer fridge. Only once did he emerge from this garret, blinking in the daylight, yelling, “I got the quinella!” I stood there wondering if it was some sort of deadly illness until he explained, “I’ve won two grand!” I shared this news with my father who muttered, “Probably blew five grand getting it.”
To this day none of Charlies’ offspring bet on the horses; except for the Melbourne Cup. And true to form, none of us has ever picked a winner.
What are the odds on that?