Every punter has a favourite racecourse.
Like others have pubs they swear by. Or pie shops. Places that make you smile. Especially if there’s free sauce.
For some, it’s the first track they visited.
My debut at the races was in Gosford. Not quite Royal Ascot. It didn’t matter. What a thrill for a young bloke, to see bookies and barmen, all on the same patch of dirt.
I know folk who grew up on racetracks. A great mate tells me of spending wonderful Saturdays at Eagle Farm as a kid. It doesn’t matter how much they change things. He still remembers the glory days, nearly half a century ago.
Others are fond of the course where they had their biggest win.
Obviously, that doesn’t apply to those of us who can’t remember their last decent collect. It may or may not have been ridden by Mick Dittman.
It’s true, that a special bond is created with the place that they hand over bundles of crisp fifties. Or so they tell me.
I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy the buzz of the track across this great land. They all have their attractions.
A bloke has had more fun at the Gold Coast than is legally allowed. Randwick and Flemington still take my breath away, with the ghosts of the greats hovering near the gates.
I won money at Cairns one day, and then listened to The Angels near the stables. A bunch of us lost all but the shirts on our backs at Bundaberg years ago, when the favourite in a big Sydney race fell in the back straight.
We mingled with Queensland’s biggest race crowd on Ipswich Cup day, and shivered in the freezing cold of Toowoomba in winter. Rums are compulsory to keep the blood pumping.
Eagle Farm on Stradbroke Day? It doesn’t get any better for a Queenslander. Extra points if you can make the walk back to the Hamilton Hotel.
But for all that, there’s something about Doomben. I’ve never been able to put my finger on exactly what it is, but I love the place.
Maybe because it’s a bit more compact. Always feels like there’s a crowd there, even on a quiet day.
Before they upgraded the old girl, you’d still find a decent spot close to the action. Food, drink, toilets and tote, all handy.
Unlike headquarters up the road, where Members rule, Doomben gave me the feel that the boys and girls in the public stands were having just as much fun.
It’s even better now. The new Members’ area is as good as you’ll find. If you can’t have a good time there you’re not fair dinkum.
My fondness for the place soared to new heights, fifty-three weeks ago. The day Black Caviar came to town. A day every one of us who saw her up close will never forget.
And so, to Doomben Cup Day. It’s not the highlight of the Winter Carnival. But it’s always hugely competitive. This year we have a Moody superstar, and a Kiwi hot shot. And the sentimental favourite Scenic Shot, with the inspirational Shane Scriven up top.
Don’t expect a Caviar roar if the old bloke salutes, but it won’t be far off.
Whatever the outcome, everyone there will have a bucket of fun. That’s what Doomben does to you.