Wednesday, 7 November 2007

The Melbourne Cup

Australia's famous horse race took place on Tuesday. This is a great national event when everybody, and I mean everybody, stops work to watch or listen to the race. In the state of Victoria, it's a holiday. Elsewhere, every workplace has a sweep, a sort of raffle where you draw a horse, or horses, at random and chip in a bit of money. The resulting pot is divided among first, second, third, and last placegetters. Those who don't have a workplace, like us, have a choice of places to go and party, from clubs to hotels to community halls. We went to one of the last, the Mt Wilson village hall, to a lunch organised by my sister-in-law Judy and other locals. In the sweep, Michael drew the eventual winner, an outside chance by the appropriate name of "Efficient", so having invested the grand sum $6 on three tickets, we came home with $12. How good is that? as the Aussies like to say. The 2-mile long race was an exciting one this year as "Efficient", a striking dark-grey horse in a field of predominantly chestnuts, came streaking down the outside on the home straight to just beat out a chestnut called "Purple Moon".
In the course of watching the event on a large screen, I came across some unfamiliar words that I had to look up. Trifecta, Quinella and Exacta all describe certain betting tactics. If you bet the Trifecta, you select the first three horses in the exact order you expect them to finish; in the Exacta you nominate the first and second placegetters in the right order, while in the Quinella you pick the first two but don't have to specify any order. I somehow thought Quinella would have something to do with the number 5, but it derives from a Spanish word "quiniela" which is a game of chance. A different type of gambling, Keno, gets its name from the same source.
Peripheral to the horse-racing is the parade of fashion, especially among the women attendees, although men are also getting into it now with neon-coloured suits...and hair. It's one of few modern occasions keeping milliners in business, as it's de rigueur for women to wear a hat, the more eye-catching the better. (This holds true for many of the local events too, though thankfully not at our Mt Wilson get-together.) Male racegoers traditionally wear a yellow rosebud in their lapel.
The only person I was aware of who didn't stop work for the race, which occurs at 3 pm, was the young bloke installing our new rainwater tank, though he did say his mates had phoned him with the results. Since the tank went in we have had unprecedented rainfall so it is filling up nicely. More details about it to come in a future post.

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