Ezy Reading: Bowing to the Gambling Gods
Macaroni Duvet. My brother swears it will win today, God willing.
Evan Kanarakis

Having spent a little time poring over the form guide the night before so
that I might at least be able to make an educated bet on this year's Melbourne Cup (read: watch me lose $200 on yet another longshot), I nodded politely,
handed my taxi driver a ten dollar bill and wondered if the horse he was actually referring to was 'Makybe Diva'. I'd accidentally sat on his onion bhaji
when I got into the cab though, so it did cross my mind that 'Macaroni Duvet' could well have also been some sort of Middle Eastern phrase to the effect of 'may the accursed infidel who ruined my lunch die a painful death at the hands of a giant rat, and may I be rid of this horrendous body odour that makes me smell like evil.'

Regardless, every year the Melbourne Cup inevitably brings out all sorts of would-be-tipsters and pundits who at the very least, for one day, play out the role of overnight experts on anything from track racing conditions to the appropriate mix of barley-to-carrots in a horse's daily diet.

Given the fact the Cup is competed by a field of roughly eight-hundred-thousand horses (maybe a tad less if some are scratched due to inclement weather) it's always going to be something of a lottery to pick a winner, though obviously running with a favourite or a valuable tip is the kind of thing less likely to make your wallet scream in anguish at the end of the day.

On my way to a bar at Circular Quay this past Tuesday to watch the 'race that stops a nation' ('... from working for three minutes but hopefully five hours if we can get boozed enough over lunch.') I heard at least half a dozen folks at pedestrian crossings and in sidewalk cafes espousing their various 'sure thing' tips for the Cup. Others annually prefer to drag out their assurance of a winning tip given to them by the guy they know that works in the stables at Flemington and who knows a guy who knows a jockey, whose sister knows a guy who makes saddles, and whose brother's sister's grandmother knows a guy who changed the muffler on Bart Cummings' car three months ago in Ashfield. That I've still never seen any of my friends end up running around the bar with a winning ticket in their hands and screaming the glories of this horseracing Deep Throat is another matter...

Then there's my buddy in Bathurst who swears by the comparative veracity of a horse's excrement prior to a race in determining the winner. The bigger the offending dump planted in the display ring, the bigger the chances of sure victory. It has something to do with lightening the load and being relaxed. Seriously. You haven't lived until you've seen a guy, eyes wide in excitement, abruptly push through a crowd at a racetrack while screaming 'Let me through to the bookies, for I've just seen a horse lay the most magnificent shit.' Not sure if you could apply this theory elsewhere but it's worth a thought:

'Hey, check it out... Maurice Green is taking a dump in the long jump pit. He's looking hot for this 100 metre final.'

But I digress...

Horseracing and I have an uneasy relationship. Somewhere over the past ten years I inherited my American grandmother's punting spirit, though I didn't necessarily inherit her uncanny luck when gambling. Generally, the horseracing gods will be tremendously kind to me in the first couple races of the day, rewarding me with enough money to pay for a fun day at the track, drink a couple beers, and pay for the taxi home. Which isn't a bad result. If, however, in about the fourth or fifth race I even think about trying to really get ahead, you could hand me Phar Lap in a race against eight syphilitic donkeys and Phar Lap would still inexplicably have an embolism in the final furlong. Bottom line, I don't know why, but I rarely win late in the race day.

With this kind of form behind me, you can understand my feelings of self-loathing when I decided to join some friends in investing in a racehorse a few years ago. I owned exactly 5% of Brockhoff and for two years I was quietly certain that the fact our horse had run in roughly twenty races and placed just once was due to my rotten luck. It didn't help that Brockhoff was also something of a jittery head-case, performed spectacularly in training and barrier trials, only to fall apart with nerves each time on race day. The noted jockey Shane Dye even rode him in his last Australian race before heading to Hong Kong. Brockhoff, no doubt inspired by the quality of jockey on his back, decided to start out of the gate sideways and ran into another horse, potentially crushing Shane's leg into oblivion before he managed to somehow regain control, save his leg, and guide the horse to a crowd-pleasing 7th place finish.

Happily, after another year or so, Brockhoff found his winning form under a new trainer, mustered up a few regional wins, and to this day still holds the track record in Bathurst over 1800 metres, his most celebrated day as a champion before retiring due to injury late last year. I'm glad he had at least one great day in the sun. The thing is, in Bathurst that afternoon Brockhoff had competed in the feature race of the day 'late in the day' and was paying 14-1. Because I'm a betting idiot and have a habit of forgetting my dumb luck when I'm standing in front of a bookie, I decided to put down $100 each way. Needless to say, with an impossible win like that, covering all of my prior investments in the horse, and putting to rest the ghosts of at least a hundred failed late day bets, I'm probably not owed anything from betting for the rest of my life. And that's without even telling you about 'The Night of 17 Black' that my friend Chappo and I enjoyed at the Sydney Casino last year.

So with this all in mind, it was with a little trepidation that I stood at the TAB on Tuesday and tossed up whether or not to make a bet. Arguably I'd used up my winning reserves of good betting karma in Bathurst last year. The Cup is always late enough in the schedule of a racing day that I should already have retired to the bar instead of considering betting. And, as ever, I'd been flooded with about six hundred hot tips. My mother had even mentioned something the day before about a strong horse whose name derived from the archaeologist that discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen. Or something like that. Luckily I couldn't remember the horse's name. This was the same geography teacher who hit a massive trifecta last year when she played a combination of three numbers relating to the altitude of Europe's highest mountains...

In any event, just like every year, I disregarded all tips, form and my standard dumb luck and went with a longshot in the hope of making the day a little more exciting. As is my fate, Roman Arch didn't win, but a lazy afternoon drinking beers, surrounded by my friends in good spirits and watching the Melbourne Cup was excitement enough for one day.

And yes, I should have gone with Macaroni Duvet. Damn it.

Ezy Reading is updated every Monday.