They shouldn’t let people like me gamble

For most of us, the Melbourne Cup is the one day of the year when we pay any attention whatsoever to horseracing. It’s a public holiday in Victoria, and a virtual public holiday in NSW. But while I’m sure Melbourne Cup lunches are delightful (I’ve never been to one), and womankind seems to universally enjoy donning ridiculous hats for reasons I can’t fathom but dare not speculate over, for me the much-vaunted Race That Stops The Nation means only one thing. Going to the TAB, and losing money.

Sure, office sweeps are fun. But I usually have trouble finding 24 people to make up the rest of my sweep at my workplace. In fact, since I currently work from home, I came a whopping 23 people short of a proper sweep today.

It takes more than that to put me off an Aussie tradition, though, so I held a sweep anyway. And I still had fun drawing them out of the hat. And even better, my horse came in first. And second, and third, and last. Although when I did the maths, I didn’t do any better than breaking even on the $48 I laid out.

Which is a whole lot better than I did at the TAB. What with not having much of a workplace celebration, I usually watch the race down at a pub with a friend or two. And every year I promise myself I’m not going to have a flutter because I invariably lose. And then every year, with about ten minutes to go, I go slightly crazy and start placing bets with about ten minutes to go.

And this is a truly terrible thing to do. Because I generally haven’t read anything about it, what with not being the least bit interested and all, I’m relying entirely on guesswork. So I’ll back the favourite, and then a few other ones for random reasons. I bet on Glen Boss to win four in a row. I bet on Damian Oliver’s horse because, well, I’ve heard of him. But the stupid thing is that I back lots of horses for a small amount, meaning that I usually win something, but so little that I’m inevitably behind.

In fact, I went back and looked at the betting slips I had – a few different horses for $2 each way, and one of those $12 special bets that gives you a trifecta and then a bet each way. I realised, to my great dismay, that I’d chosen my horses so ridiculously badly that the only mathematical way I could come out ahead, given the horses I’d chosen, was if I’d fluked the trifecta.

For example, I actually had money for a place on both Pop Rock and Maybe Better, but won only $9 because they were too short-priced.

And who to tip? Well, Bono said Yeats would “bite the arse of any of the Australian horses that dare to run against it”. The mega-wealthy are always good at making money, and he’s into alleviating poverty, so I had a flutter on Yeats as well.

The annoying thing was that Bono was right, in a way. Yeats was ultimately in a position to bite several Australian horse’s arses – because he was behind them. (What a self-contradictory metaphor.) Secondly, Yeats did beat most of the Australian horses – but not the Japanese horses. Well, serves me right for listening to Bono – I won’t make that mistake again. World leaders politely ignore him when he comes to lecture them about his various causes, and now I know why.

Really, this whole day is peer pressure at its worst. I’m just trying to get on the winning bandwagon, like I did with Makybe Diva. Next year, I’m going to put some thought into my betting, so at least there’s a small chance of my winning something. But with such a long race, and so many horses, it’s pretty fair to conclude that no-one really knows anything.

Least of all me.

Dominic Knight