Sensational socialite, Candida Tottering de Prave, takes you gently by the hand and leads you through the rather perplexing practice that is racegoing…
When you’re at the races, have you ever noticed that there’s something just a little bit odd going on?
You can’t quite put your finger on why, but vast swathes of people are moving around the racecourse as one. It’s almost as if they are being directed by some all-powerful puppeteer, sending them this way and that.
I’m talking, my dear, about ‘The Circuit’ – an age-old tradition as close to the heart of racing as a large G&T usually is to my right hand.
You may, of course, choose not to follow the crowd. Your choice of course, and I would never judge… but before you decide on this adverse action you need to understand just what you a shunning.
The good thing about The Circuit is that a newcomer can join at any time – and so long as you keep a pleasant look on your face and act with confidence, you’ll fit in just fine.
Members of The Circuit can be found positioned near the paddock, commenting cleverly on the horses, carefully observing the jockeys for any hidden clues, wondering aloud if the champagne being served in the boxes is any better than the stuff you get in the Tattersalls Bar.
So far, so good – but just as soon as you settle down to watch the horses (and the people watching the horses), they’re off! At a Gallop. Heading towards the bookies and the Tote, or in these days of technology, frantically jabbing at mobile phones or one of those blackcurrant things.
This is where you really need to pay attention.
Once the bet has been placed (pennies or pounds, it really doesn’t matter, the anticipation is just the same), you need to follow the cues of those around you.
Relaxed and chatting, they pass the time of day with people they know and people they don’t.
A notable few may stand apart, too nervous to say much, pale of face and clenched of teeth, but the majority know that it’s the taking part that counts. And with the majority is where you want to be.
The race starts.
For a second there’s a hush, but slowly the noise grows and grows until a siren could go off and no-one would notice. Even the new girl (or boy) will find herself screaming at the very top of her lungs.
In fact, dear reader, if you have children, it’s a MARVELLOUS release… it’s not only OK to shriek, it’s positively expected of you. But then, I digress.
As the horses close in on the finishing line, twenty thousand people hold their breath. As the first horse passes the post, frenzy breaks out… People hug their surprised next-door neighbours in delight or commiseration; gasping into their race cards or reaching feebly for a cigarette.
As the crowd slowly catches its breath, it turns – as one.
A delighted few break into a canter, eager to collect their winnings.
The majority, and this is probably where you’ll be, weakly wend their way back to the parade ring to prepare for the next wave of exhilaration.
Exciting isn’t it? I feel spent just at the thought of it… in fact I might need a little lie down before I consider quite how to introduce you to the complicated concept of exactly what is meant by ‘the odds’.
by Candida Tottering de Prave