I’ve never had a bad day at the track.
Sure, there have been frustrating days. Costly too. Afternoons where common sense ran a distant last. And sessions that led to a long walk home.
But it’s always fun. Sometimes in a perverse sort of way. Non-punting friends are shaking their heads again.
To help those poor unfortunates who prefer golf or scrabble on their Saturdays, I thought I’d compile a list of some memorable days at the races.
Every chance you won’t remember them. No Phar Laps or Black Caviars here. Just some personal favourites. Special racecourse visits, that still make me smile.
So here we go. Counting down my all-time top three Ripper Days at the track. Not including the ones I can’t remember.
*Ripper Memory Number 3 – Magic Millions Day 2003 .. Regimental Gal.
I have always had a love of Gold Coast racing. And nothing says surf and turf better than Magic Millions.
Singo used to call it Melbourne Cup day in shorts and thongs. A unique party atmosphere. In the middle of summer.
Back then, Shaun Dwyer was training out of Toowoomba. A fine horseman, who’d been having great success. But without the profile of Bart, Gai, and the Freedman boys.
I convinced the boss that it would be fun to follow a Queenslander trying to win the big race. Just maybe, we’d link up with a bunch of locals who could knock off the big guns.
Shaun was great. Incredibly generous with his time. He introduced me to the owners, and to a flying filly called Regimental Gal. More importantly, he confided in me that she was a huge chance.
On race day, the course was packed, as usual. We had a big crew, and no-one missed out on a cool drink.
Nothing unusual there. Except this year, I considered myself part of the team. Whether the team liked it or not.
She won, running away. One of Michael Rodd’s first big victories. When she saluted, I jumped in the air like she was mine. Possibly something to do with the 15 to 1.
After the race, I went down to congratulate Shaun and the rest of them. Hugged them, and possibly kissed someone. To their eternal credit, they didn’t have security drag me away. They even made me stay for an ale. I may or may not have sneaked into a photo.
The locals won the day. I was proud of them.
*Ripper Memory Number 2 – Melbourne Cup Day .. 2001
Going to the Cup for the first time is incredibly special. I’d been to Flemington, but not for Carnival week.
It’s like a cricket fan walking into Lords. Almost religious.
Derby Day was awesome. As I imagined it would be. Cup day? Simply spectacular.
We arrived early. Because everyone does. The big race was sponsored by Tooheys that year. What luck. It was decided that we should do the right thing, and support them straight away.
Hitting the bar, as the rest of the country was having breakfast, we encountered a snag. The sponsor’s product hadn’t been chilled. It was just sitting there, in cartons. What were they thinking? Hot beer was not the way we would be celebrating the great race.
So, our first drink of the day was that glorious product originating from the cane fields of Bundaberg. The Queenslanders were in town.
Somehow, I still remember the following hours. The colour and excitement of the day was more intoxicating than anything they served in glass.
Ethereal won the big one. She claimed a Caulfield/Melbourne Cup double. We cheered, and hugged, and laughed. And then caught a train home with 100,000 other people.
It should be compulsory for Australians to go to at least one Melbourne Cup in their lifetime. And if you’re a punter, you have to go to two. We’ll be back.
*Ripper Memory Number 1 – Beartracker wins at Eagle Farm – November 21, 2009
It wasn’t the biggest race of the year. Not even the feature of the day. In fact, it was Race One, on a pretty ordinary card at headquarters.
If you’d been there that day, you would have found a seat with ease. And there was no line up for drinks.
That humble Saturday, remains one of the greatest days in my life. The day a gritty gelding we had a part-share in, took the prize at Eagle Farm.
It was the mighty Beartracker’s main target. A 2400 metre Quality event. And so it was that a bunch of us gathered, to watch him go around.
Jason Holder rode like a man inspired. We stood and cheered in the stand, louder than anyone has ever cheered on a racecourse.
I doubt anyone could have been more excited. My face hurt from smiling. Jason may have been injured in the post-race hug. Rob Heathcote considered applying for a restraining order in the enclosure, to keep me away.
Members of our syndicate went into the Committee room, and drank tiny beers. The same place the greats had stood, and sipped. We gulped.
They finally kicked us out, to prepare for the next race. We found a nearby table, and continued the party. I can’t remember having more fun.
I can only imagine what the celebrations must be like after a Cup, or a Cox Plate. But for us, nothing could beat the feeling we had that afternoon at Eagle Farm.
So there you have it. Three golden moments. Just thinking about those great times makes me want to go straight to the track.
I’m sure you have your own memories. It’s the beauty of the racing game. We’re easily excited. And nothing beats a winner.