Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Say Neigh to Cheltenham



I'm not the type to scorn the pursuits and hobbies of others. I, after all, enjoy some things that others don't (tractor lawnmower racing, extreme bingo for example) and wouldn't appreciate being lectured to on their merits, or lack of, by anybody else. Therefore, this isn't aimed at genuine horse racing folk who get a massive kick out of the Cheltenham festival every year. Good luck to you all, I hope you enjoyed it.

But genuine racing fans exist distinct from the legion of perennial arrivistes who seep from the woodwork every March to suddenly become the biggest horse racing fans and experts in the whole world. For about four days. Then they go back to being accountants, taxi drivers, cleaners, doctors etc., and laughably, don't place a bet on another horse race until the same time next year. Well, apart from the Grand National.

Now I don't mind people getting swept up in the general rising tide of the moment. Not a bit. It's only natural that amid all the media coverage of Cheltenham, some Joe Soaps get carried along in the merry avalanche and have a few flutters. It's a bit of harmless craic, so long as you know your place as a basic luckster hoping to win the odd tenner and don't start to regard yourself as Mickey High Roller Big Balls Tipster Fucking Supreme.

What pisses me off is these mere tourists to the sport who suddenly think themselves to be qualified experts. Those who cluster in groups around TVs and drone knowledgeably about odds and jockeys and the soft ground and the stayers and the blinkers and the nosebands and the hot tips and how he lost at Lingfield and all that bollocks, when in reality they know damn all and read it all in the Racing Post that morning. The same ones who grin smugly at each other after a a race and go "I had him, got him at 7/1 this morning" with the unwritten subtext being "I have the knowledge. I am shrewd of mind and stout of heart, a flaming searing dare-devil with my wallet and a steel-trap observer of this science that is to some, random. But not I."

Fuckers the lot of 'em. I was in pain looking at all this unfolding in the office last week. I've never felt like such a curmudgeon in my whole life in the middle of the whole daftness but try as I might to pass it off as the kids enjoying themselves, I couldn't help myself. Watching bunches of temporarily simple-minded gurning fools roaring at a TV as part of some sort of pseudo-brotherhood made me want to scream. It's the same when I see muppets pretending to like football or understand it when they're really only there for some sort of perceived social pay off. But nothing ever makes me so actively angry as the whole Cheltenham bandwagon and the fools that dance around it enthused and frenzied like short-lived mayflies every year. I openly resented strangers accosting me in elevators and on streets to inquire if I knew the winner of the Queen Mother Champion Chase or if I had any luck at the bookies. Jasus.

Now I know I'm very cantankerous and grumpy about this and should probably just calm down and realise it's (mostly) men being men, trying to outdo each other with the 'my bet is bigger than yours, I won more than you' sort of stuff. Besides, basking in camaraderie's embrace or flirting just a tad with the devil in us all, by having a wee bet, has understandable attractions.

But nope, can't quite get there. You're all gobshites, sorry.