It was a modern-day racing tragedy.
Two men, who should have backed a big winner, but didn’t. And took turns at kicking themselves.
We were only ever going to back one horse on Stradbroke Day last year. For months, we’d spruiked Sincero. Told our mates, and colleagues, and long-suffering families.
We giggled to each other about how clever we were. About the odds we’d pinch early. How we’d be ordering the specials at Chinese that night.
You see, we had secret info. My Great Mate was on the inside. He knows Sincero’s regular jockey, Chris O’Brien. They’re good buddies. The hoop rides for him down south.
The camp was supremely confident in the weeks before. This would be a raid that the Queenslanders wouldn’t see coming. Except we knew.
Then, two things occurred. Two shattering, confidence-sapping events.
Sincero flopped in his lead up run to the big race. Thrashed. The bookies wound his price out. We got nervous.
Then there was a change of jockey. O’Brien was no chance of making the weight. Our man was no longer in the saddle. Replaced for the grand final.
What happened next still haunts me. Some blamed it on our big Friday night. Too many brain cells lost.
Others thought we were just plain dills. Unable to follow a punting plan through. Not worthy of winning.
Hard to argue with any of that. Because on that Saturday, we stood in the Eagle Farm stand, and changed our minds. Just like that. Put our cash on something else. I can’t even remember what it was.
You know the rest. The black colours swept to the front. Two hearts sank. We both knew .. three hundred metres out. Home in a canter.
Those around us expressed shock at the ease of the win. “Who would have backed that?”, they asked. If only they knew.
It pains me to admit that I have form for going off the Stradbroke winner. In 2004, I had walked onto the track ready to launch into Bob Thompson’s colt, Thorn Park.
Similar circumstances. Declared it weeks before. Tipped it to all and sundry. And then, minutes out, changed my mind.
I can still see where I was standing. A tote line, in a fancy corporate tent. With too much time to think.
I had just been given a tip. For a donkey that would jump from a barrier so wide it was positioned in Racecourse Road.
I looked at the blinking odds on the TV above me, and got greedy. A juicy price, for a galloper being tipped by a judge way smarter than me.
And so I changed my mind. Just like that. You know the rest. The yellow colours swept to the front. Daylight second. For a punter, there’s no lower feeling.
I forgot that bitter lesson last year. Never again.
So, here it is. The golden rule for backing the Stradbroke winner. Stay solid. Stick with what you’ve liked for weeks. Don’t be swayed by others.
So what have I liked for weeks? The Snowden flying machine, Mental. An absolute special. Except for one tiny detail. It hasn’t made the field.
Instead, it will win a race earlier in the day at ridiculous odds. And leave me guessing again in the big one.
There’s no hope for me today, but it’s not too late for you. Back your own judgement. And if you a spot a bloke in a tote line, staring blankly at the TV above, throw him a tip. I need all the help I can get.