Folks, next Tuesday marks the one hundred and fifty sixth time the Melbourne Cup stops our nation and, hopefully, the end of my thirty-seven-year sweeps losing streak.
My first flutter in a Melbourne Cup sweep was in 1980 when Beldale Ball beat my horse by three days and ten minutes. Obviously, it was called a ‘sweep’ because most of us got taken to the cleaners.
Since then, not one donkey I’ve drawn in a Melbourne Cup sweep has finished in the top ten. Seven were scratched before the race and one poor nag was shot on the track!
Backing the neddies obviously isn’t my ‘thing’, even though I’m genetically hardwired to lose money on the gee-gees, just like my grandfather. A bookmaker’s dream, Grandad loved a little flutter. I’m just grateful he never lived to punt in this golden age where simply tapping an app could make your bank balance vanish.
Oddly, the one race he didn’t like betting on was the Melbourne Cup. Every year he’d survey the field then announce, “Too many favourites, and too many foreign horses. It’s a mugs’ race!” then he’d dash off to fund his bookie’s next overseas holiday; it was something of a Melbourne Cup tradition.
Still, one year, I actually made the effort to park my backside trackside. The air tingled with the smell of perfume, beer, cigarette smoke and desperation. I bet on three races, then stood by the rail slapping my leg with a rolled-up copy of Best Bets urging my horses on, or in one case, to wake up.
Like the last horse I backed, I eventually limped home and called it quits.
But things clearly skipped a generation, because my daughters really enjoy going to the races. Admittedly, they’re only there for the fashion, friends, food and free plonk. On the rare occasions when they glimpse an actual racehorse, they must wonder what it’s doing there.
Anyway, next Tuesday I’ll have my thirty-eighth flutter on the sweeps, and if I finally crack the odds and select a winning ticket, I’ll try not to get on my high horse.