An empty glass on raceday. Could this be the secret to successful punting?

June 15, 2013

In times gone by, it’s fair to say I’ve enjoyed a cool drink on a warm day. Sometimes, even on a cooler afternoon.

Those who’ve been following closely will know a medical hiccup has slowed me down in that regard of late. The big dry continues.

Several of my favourite activities would usually be carried out with an icy cold one. Or two.

There is no way a BBQ can be cooked without a beer. I believe it’s actually law. Here in Queensland anyway. Those in other states should make their own checks.

A day on the punt is no different. It’s what we do. At the track, brews will be had. The girls will find a decent chilled bottle. A win late in the day will send us to the top shelf.

At home, there are few finer things to do on a Saturday arvo than to raid the grog fridge while watching them run around. Break out the Smith chips and gherkin dip and you have the dictionary definition of Relax.

But professionals in the ranks will tell you there’s a downside to all this. That such consumption can lead to impaired judgement. And empty pockets.

It’s a theory I’ve always dismissed. Usually loudly. After the third shout.

Now, I’m not so sure. The last few weeks have shown me a very different way to approach the art of finding a winner.

I’ve been punting while sipping water. At one stage, there was even a cup of tea involved. Like one of those cardigan-wearing gents who arrives at the track at 8am to get the best table.

On each day, I’ve won late. Last race winners. Even a few trifectas. And not a hard luck story to have the most basic whinge about.

Can it be a co-incidence? For the first time since the great Bart was a silver-haired boy, I have cash at the end of the day.

I’m not missing races I have good things in. No ridiculous late changes from texting tipsters with less idea than me.

Because I’m stuck on the lounge, the winnings are staying in my account. Not being splashed over the bar somewhere. Or re-invested on the 1 dog later in the night.

Of course, it could all come crashing down today. In a perverse sort of way, I hope it does. I need an excuse to get back to normal in the weeks ahead. There’s a beer in the fridge with my name on it. I’m counting the days. Winning just isn’t as much fun, when you’re celebrating with Bushells.

Which carol should I sing next? Hic! The problem with getting Merry before Christmas.

December 24, 2011

Christmas Eve has changed so much.

These days, it’s all about the kids. Buzzing with excitement at home. Refusing to go to sleep.

Not so long ago, it was party time. We’d be buzzing. Until someone sent us home, before we fell asleep.

It seems most of the people I’ve known during my life have had a need to socialise the night before Christmas.

Footballers. Punters. Police officers. Media folk. All with a need to find a cool drink on December 24.

Over time, this has caused problems. There are those who see Christmas Eve as a quiet time, for reflection and cooking. Like Mum. And The Treasurer.

They both got in on the act, during a balmy night in Bundaberg many years ago.

Mum, bless her, had come to visit. It was quite a trip, for a woman of advancing years, who had rarely been on a plane. She was determined to see my new home town for herself.

My mother would never have admitted it, but I think she may have also been checking up on her new daughter-in-law’s housekeeping skills. The newly appointed Treasurer seemed to be very aware of this.

I was under instruction to be home on time. There was much to do, and my help was needed.

The trouble was, I had made friends within the local constabulary. Important for a journo in a strange place. And they had decided I was worthy of Christmas Eve drinks.

From memory, they kicked off early afternoon. A never-ending stream of icy cold beers. And the local product. Such generosity.

They nodded with sincerity when I explained the predicament waiting for me at home. And thrust another drink in my direction. Of course, they had no fear of the two women watching the kitchen clock. Easy to be tough, when you’re carrying a gun.

I was unarmed when I finally made it home. Unsteady feet shuffled me into the eye of the festive storm.

In desperation, I decided that music was my only hope. Christmas music. I broke into tune, encouraging the girls to follow my lead.

One thing I’ve picked up along the way, is that it’s difficult to stay angry at a drunken buffoon in the holiday season. Especially if he refuses to stop singing. So it was, that they both joined in.

A rare victory, thanks to ‘Jingle Bells’.

Fast forward to a different house, in a different time. Young children, so happy. But this year, Dad wasn’t singing.

I had been given the task of assembling a trampoline, in the dead of a Brisbane night. Many of you are now laughing.

It was impossible. I tried. I really did. But the bloody netting wouldn’t stretch over the metal bits. There had obviously been a mistake in the Chinese trampoline factory.

My neighbour at the time, a polite man enjoying his retirement years, decided he should offer a helping hand. Possibly to stop the stream of foul language coming from our yard.

He brought with him tools I had never seen. Items that did the job, quickly and professionally. It was a Christmas miracle, eventually adorned with a green bow.

There have been similar scenes most years since. Bungled assembly jobs. Help from a variety of quarters. With cool drinks taken at home instead.

It will be no different this year. Except with Christmas Eve falling on a Saturday, a man can have an afternoon punt as well. Yes, I’m already rehearsing ‘Silent Night’.

I’ve discovered the ideal Christmas party venue. Tinsel at the track. How could you not have fun?

December 10, 2011

I’m a big fan of having Christmas parties at the races. Unless you happen to be in prep school. Then the classroom is possibly still the pick.

For the rest of us, the track is the perfect venue. You can dress up, or down. Enjoy cool drinks in abundance, and with an ounce of luck, back a winner or three.

There’s always plenty of room. No noisy crowded corner of a city pub. And because it’s a midday start, you should be tucked in bed well before midnight. Unless you backed those three winners.

There have been some memorable stints in years gone by trackside over the holiday period. And a few that I have trouble remembering. I’m pretty sure all were great fun.

Going back a bit, we got our hands on a function room at the Gold Coast Turf club, for an end-of-year newsroom shindig. What a day it was.

We’d had a Punters’ Club running throughout the year, and incredibly, found ourselves with wads of cash. Those who are suggesting I had little to do with bet selections can leave the room.

Some of those present had only seen horses in movies. A few weren’t aware that the bit in the middle of the Friday newspaper is called a form guide. Still, they lined up, and bless them, bet on anything that moved.

My memory is a little hazy, but I seem to recall it was a warm, humid day. That would account for the amount of cool drinks that were directed our way. The waiter is apparently still claiming damages from the damage to his tray arm.

For all that, we still had money left come closing time. For the life of me, I can’t remember what we did with it. Possibly dinner and karaoke. The way any good Christmas party should end.

Come to think of it, isn’t it funny how racing constantly leads us to those wonderful singing machines? Or is that just me?

One of my great post-race day memories involves the Cup, a Melbourne restaurant, karaoke and a secret fridge full of cool drinks. I’ll tell you about it another day.

So, back to Christmas and the races. To show I’m not all talk, we’ve organised a festive get-together for next weekend. ‘Tis the season after all.

Seven old farts in ties. Long time mates from all over, who don’t get to see enough of each other. We’ll be gathering at Eagle Farm to share a Christmas tipple, and a few chuckles.

The plan is a simple one. We’ll gather around a large table, and after a healthy debate about who will shout first, begin bagging each other.

There will be embarrassing stories about one and all. Of course, most of the tales will be embellished. By them, not me.

We’ll share our tips, carefully scribbling in separate sections of our form guides. It goes without saying that no-one writes on another man’s page. Horrible luck. Everyone knows that.

We will spend some time arguing about what sort of joint betting we should do. We’ll pool some money. And later in the day, we’ll forget how much went in.

It’s exciting, and one day, we might actually win. Boy, won’t that be something.

We’ll forget to eat anything. Because we’ll be having too much fun. Too many stories to re-tell. Too many winners to be had. We’ll pay for that the following day.

After the tote windows close, and the barmen decide they’ve taken enough of our cash, we’ll think about our next destination.

This will prompt another heated discussion. No-one will be able to agree. It’s what we do.

Admit it, you’re jealous. You want to come with us, I know.

Sadly, you’re not allowed. No-one smarter, richer, funnier or better looking is permitted at our table.

But there’s a solution at hand. Organise your own group. Get the band back together, and head to the track.

Come and say hello if you make it. We’ll be easy to find. The old blokes bickering over a table of empties and losing tickets. And if you do, bring a bowl of hot chips. You can bet we’ll be starving.