Monday, November 3, 2008

The Big Day

So ... it's Tuesday, November 3rd. Big day. People all are over are going to stop and watch. No one can wait to hear the results.

That's right. I'm talking about the Melbourne Cup. The biggest horse race, and one of the biggest social events, in the whole of the Australian year. Or so I read: I wasn't yet in Australia myself when it happened last year -- I am always available to go next year, don't hesitate to ask, really, it's no trouble, I'd be happy to attend, we can leave in September to get good seats -- but I heard about it pretty much everywhere I went.

Horse racing... I know. It doesn't exactly compute for me either. But a lot of Australians seem to love it. Gambling, too -- there are betting parlors pretty much everywhere in Australia. One down the street from our tertian program, in a very sleepy, affluent suburb, and it looked sort of like a bigger version of a currency exchange/check cashing service. Not too flash, just some screens and some tables and a teller. Many pubs have sections for gambling, as well; in fact one of the other tertians from the States said it had been explained to him that a hotel in Australia is a bar that has a room or two to rent, but more significantly includes gambling. (I was at an Australian bar in New York not long ago called the Australian Hotel; sure enough, it wasn't our sort of hotel, but a grand pub.)

Anyway, even if you're not into horse racing, apparently this is the granddaddy superfunk soul master flash race. It's over 3200 meters long, to begin with. (In other words, just about 2 miles.) And on top of it, it's handicapped. So, faster horses have to wear additional weights to even out the odds. One horse who won the Cup, Carbine, in 1890, had to wear 66kg -- that's 145 pounds! -- in additional weight.

So, between its length and the handicapping it's crazy unpredictable. It also has a huge purse, over 5 million dollars. And it's been going since Abraham Lincoln was president - 1861.

I could go on. You know how I am. But I'll just leave you this link to a little photo slide show from the parade that preceded this year's ride tonight. And an old drawing (circa 1950) of people listening to the race (below). 3pm, first Tuesday of November, that's what you do.

And I'll try to report in tomorrow. I mean, what else will there be to write about tomorrow, after all?

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