The first thing I did when I got to Flemington on Saturday was to have a drink. Yes, I like a drink and yes, it was a hot day but that was only part of my motivation to consume strong liquor.

I did it because Wrights PR, the firm employed by the Victoria Racing Club to handle the massive media management of the spring carnival, said I couldn’t do it. Telling an Irishman with a cultural and racial predilection to alcohol that he can’t touch the hard stuff is a bit like waving a green rag at an Irish bull.

The final words on the back of my media pass read in fine print:

  • Accreditation is granted for WORKING purposes ONLY and is subject to compliance with the VRC’s accreditation terms and conditions. If accreditation is abused it will be removed and reported to your organisation.
  • Alcohol is not to be consumed by accredited persons.

Among the other 108,000 racegoers at Flemington for $1.5 million Victoria Derby classic, which has been running since 1855, I found little difficulty obtaining alcohol to consume.

THE HORSE

Monaco Consul is a brilliant bay colt who shares Coolmore shuttle stallion, High Chaparral, as a sire with So You Think. Both come from High Chaparral’s first foal crop in New Zealand and were foaled at Windsor Part Stud in NZ. His dam was Argante (by Star Way).

THE JOCKEY

Corey Brown rode a very good race to beat Nash Rawiller astride Extra Zero to the post by a length. I remember being quite angry with Brown at the time because Himself had a lot of lazy money riding on Extra Zero and he was looking forward to adding those extra zeros to his sky rocket. Bastard!

THE RECKONING

Perhaps it was the alcohol-fuelled heat haze that Himself was operating in at Headquarters that caused him to make so many poor decisions in the betting ring. He broke his cardinal rule to concentrate on the Victoria Derby feature race and let the other dross pass through to the keeper.

The only exception to be made to this iron law of punting was sending the turf accountant off to field the LKS Mackinnon Stakes, a race we have been partial too for many, many years. In rhyming slang, this race is known as “the glass of water” as that phrase rhymes with “mile and a quarter”, the distance that race was run at in the old money. LKS was a ‘benevolent disciplinarian’ whose family owned The Argus newspaper and a former chairman of the VRC. He was a mean Scots bastard very much like my turf accountant.

I have not seen the turf accountant since and suspect she has met with foul play at the hands of some other drunken bounder who had eyes only for her swollen purse. Still, I digress.

Having taken liquor and placed all my bets on the Victoria Derby, I took liquor again and wandered into the betting ring with a $50 note burning a hole in my pocket. This was not a good idea. It was Francesca Cumani wot made me do it. I caught sight of her on a screen spruiking The Comedian in the first race and I just had to have me some of it.

The nag came seventh in a nine horse race despite going out as a short-priced favourite. To cope with this minor set back, I again took liquor and plunged into the market for races two, three and four with straight bets on Light Vision (came 6th), Melito (came third) and Demerit (came 6th).

Normal people would probably see a pattern developing here and swear off the betting ring and the grog. But T P Maher is not a normal person. He is from Tipperary and Tipperary people know better than normal people about most things – but particularly about horses and grog.

I had come to Flemington to make my fortune and someone was going to have to pay for this conspiracy by the horses not to run in the order I had selected them in. I decided to employ the random scatter-gun technique on the last three races.

I selected three horses in race seven, two in race eight and one in the last with my last dollar. I then took liquor and left the course with as much dignity as I could muster.

None of the nags did any good. My trifecta in the Victoria Derby was missing the second place getter and consequently fell on its face. This is exactly how I ended up on Saturday night. Cest la mort. Q.E.D.

My tips for tomorrow: don’t drink and don’t bet.

PS: The turf accountant has just sent me this missive from her new home in the south of France:

I backed the Derby winner on account of the Moroney brothers’ excellence in preparing stayers — but showed appalling judgment in missing the winner of the Mackinnon Stakes (wfa 2000m).

This time-honored race is nearly always won by the horse coming out of the best form race — the Cox Plate. And on Saturday, that horse was the doughty West Australian Campaigner Scenic Shot, from the inestimable Morton stable. After Zipping decided to try to burrow his way to China at the barrier stalls, Scenic Shot was the only Cox Plate entrant remaining in the field, and the logical horse to back.

So we backed the favourite, Rangirangdoo (which means something flithy in Maori). Poor old Rangi was in as bad a mood as Zipping and refused to go a yard. We can forgive him, but not the accountant’s poor judgment. And did you see the smooth, silky run of Bart’s horse sliding effortlessly into third place?

That was the trial of a Melbourne Cup winner!

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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