Saturday, 28 May 2011

Musselburgh Racecourse

22nd August 2010

Musselburgh Races

As Daughter had over the previous year or so nurtured a passion for all things equestrian, I thought she and Son may appreciate a trip to Musselburgh Races.  The racecourse was holding one of their regular Family Fun Days, and all manner of diverting entertainments were promised.  

I was slightly uncomfortable about the close association between horse-racing and gambling, but felt this could be addressed with my customary tact, and I could possibly even use the event to highlight to S&D how financially unrewarding gambling generally is.  Now, I do not have any objections to gambling per se.  It can add a moderate frisson to any sporting event, as long as those indulging in it are aware it ultimately exists primarily to pay the bookmaker’s mortgage.

Never having been to a racecourse anywhere, I was quite intrigued over what to expect.  And I was not disappointed – there was ample parking nearby.  Inside there was a largish grandstand with terracing in front, a paddock to check out the horses, a big screen to view the race, and plenty of eating/drinking places.  Indeed, it looked to me as if that may be the main function of the whole set-up – to provide a congenial and entertaining atmosphere in which to have a meal.  Nothing wrong with that.

The Betting Ring.

Daughter ponders which horse she will buy with her gambling profits.

We had just missed the first race, so toddled along to the Parade Ring to cast a critical eye over the horses running in the next one.  Daughter used her extensive equestrian knowledge to pick out one she felt looked “happy”, so would “try really hard”.  Son took a rather more prosaic approach and choose one which was a “nice colour”.  We put a couple of quid each way on both of them, and took our places in the viewing area, where I felt confident S&D would both receive a lesson in the futility of betting. 

Well, bugger me, did the two horses not finish first and third!  We had only placed a small sum on each, and at each way (a third odds), plus both were fairly short odds.  But I nevertheless picked up a disconcertingly large fistful of notes from the tote Betting Shop.  I could see an avaricious glint in the eyes of both offspring as they viewed their easy-gotten gains, and I wondered if I had not just set both on a path to future gambling induced poverty.

Casting eyes over the horses for the third race, I suggested we just pick a horse each and cheer it on during the race without actually putting any bets on, as I argued, it would be quite expensive to bet on every race.  After a few grumbles this was agreed.  And, with a grim inevitability, Daughter’s choice strolled in first, and I was treated to that rough edge of her tongue inherited from her Mother.

Jockey Joe Fanning on Cat 'o Nine Tails (centre)
on his way to winning the 3:20, after I had
disuaded Daughter from placing a bet.  Was I popular?

A horse - what more can I say?
Thus it was half-an-hour later found me awaiting the commencement of the fourth race, clutching two betting slips praying we didn’t win again.  I had no idea how I was going to explain to Wife I had succeeded in converting both our children into committed gamblers in the space of an afternoon, whilst specifically attempting to do the opposite.  

Thankfully, the Law of Averages, began to operate in that small area of Musselburgh once more.  Normal service was maintained during the fifth race, after which S&D began to lose interest in the business and, after squandering the last of their profits on chips ‘n’ stuff, decided they wanted to go home 

Just before leaving for the day we stopped the car beside the starting point for one of the later races, and watched the horses being coerced into the gates.  I had never seen this bit so close before, and found the throbbing muscle and pent up energy quite impressive – and that was just the jockeys.  We tried to get a pic of the start, but it was over so quick.  

The doors clattered open, there was a blur of horse-flesh and racing silks, then a group of horses and riders could be glimpsed rapidly disappearing into the distance.  Twas funny to see Daughter, who was used to coaxing horses gradually from walking to trotting to cantering, staring open mouthed as these beasts flew to full gallop from a standing start in less than a second.  I don’t think horse-riding will ever be the same for her again.

We just manage to catch a blurred image of the slow starters.

The Grandstand, Musselburgh Racecourse.

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