Sunday, September 13, 2020

Lee Pitts: Another Man’s Game


I went to Australia to get an education in foreign relations and I did. But it wasn’t at the schoolhouse… it was at the race track.

Horse racing is very popular in “The Land Down Under” and most every small Aussie town has their very own race track and our town was no exception. One weekend I made the very large mistake of attending the Armidale Jockey Club for a day at the races. Now, you must understand that Aussie horse racing is a little different than what you might be used to.

Not only do the horses run around the track in the opposite direction but the betting seems to be a little backwards also. As far as I could tell, all that was needed to be a bookie was a signboard to post your odds and a box to stand on. They odds on each horse were usually different with each bookie. If things were getting slow the traveling bookies would just change their odds.

The race horses belong to the local grazers or sheepherders. They are often ridden by a son or a daughter and in one race an eight year old stud might be racing against a four year old mare. As if that wasn’t incentive enough for the horses, the purse was often as high as $100. But despite these unbelievable payouts there were times when none of the horses would show up for a particular race. In fact, it happened on my very first race at the local track. But that did not deter the race fans who had already placed their bets… the race went off as scheduled without the ponies. The gun went off, the crowd urged on their favorites and the winners were posted. Then everybody tore up their tickets and got in line to place a bet for the next race.

I became quite a student of betting strategies. My favorite strategy belonged to a 250 pound sheep shearer who had arms the size of tree trunks. He would walk up to a bookie standing on a box, look down on him and say, “I want to bet a “fiver” on the winner in the next race.” I was standing next in line and that seemed a good strategy to me so I said the same thing. “Put a fiver on the winner for me too.” I never could figure out why he won his bet and I lost.


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