Sunday, 13 December 2009

Australian travelloque: Going to the races, sort of...

Did 3 Nov 2009 hold any special significance for you? No? Well, I was in a land where this date was the day that the whole nation would come to a stop. No, make that TWO nations, not ONE. At least, for about three and a half minutes. We saw it for ourselves, first-hand, when we were at Walpole in Western Australia.

If I'm still not making much sense to you, well, let me elaborate. The date, 3 Nov 2009, fell on the first Tuesday in November and everyone in Australia - and New Zealand too - knows that it's Melbourne Cup Day.

Melbourne Cup, Australia's major thoroughbred horse race. A race for three-year-olds and over, over a distance of 3,200 metres. The richest and most prestigious "two-mile" handicap in the world and one of the richest turf races in the world. The event is held at around three o'clock (Australian Eastern Time) on the first Tuesday in November by the Victoria Racing Club on the Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne.

So there we were in Walpole, on the opposite end of the Australian continent. Though far removed from Melbourne, we were caught up just as much by the Cup fever. That was why I wanted to come back from the Valley Of The Giants before noon to a little bit of civilisation so that we could immerse ourselves in the horseracing excitement.

Back in July when I was considering Australia as a holiday destination for early November, Melbourne was still on my radar screen but then I realised that I could have some problem with staying in the Victorian capital. Therefore, I chose Perth instead. But all this while, I still had the Melbourne Cup in mind. I was telling myself that it wouldn't matter if we watched the race on television in Melbourne or Perth, as long as we could watch it live.

So there I was, holding two tickets in my hand. A small flutter on the horse, Viewed, owned by Dato Tan Chin Nam and trained by Bart Cummings. Nothing scientific about choosing Viewed to win, though, just thought that I'd want to do it and hope for the best.

When we arrived back at Walpole well before noon, the town was already deserted. Deserted of people, deserted of traffic. Some good sense made me head right up to the local watering hole at the other end of the town, located within the Walpole Hotel Motel. It was jam-packed with people who were lined up waiting to put their money down. Admittedly, we were at sea. So I asked Saw See to get a kind soul to help us place a bet.

Win, Place, Eachway, Quinella, Exacta, Trifecta, First4, Running Double, Quadrella, Triwin, Mystery Trifecta, All-Up .... almost all of these terms made no sense to us. So we left it to this person to decide for us. That's the extent of our expertise.

I don't remember much about the start of the race except for the people yelling and screaming themselves hoarse around us, as if yelling from faraway Walpole would make any difference to the horses at Flemington. Myself? I don't yell but inwardly, I was urging Viewed on but .... Viewed was far behind in the field. So much for my brief flutter at the races. However, the satisfaction of being able to watch the Melbourne Cup on TV was worth every penny spent on coming to Australia.

Would I want to watch the Melbourne Cup again? You bet! But I'd only want to do it again IF I can do so from the Flemington grounds. Now, that would be something extra special if it can happen, right?

Next: Northcliffe and Windy Harbour
Previous: Valley Of The Giants

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