Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Horse to Remember

A weedy little bloke from some runt of a town in western NSW walked into a pub on a Carlton street corner one spring day. The regulars at the bar gave him the stare, but he went ahead and ordered a beer. His name was Kenny and he became a regular and some of the men started to recognize him. He bought beers for me and some mates and we got to ask him why he was in Melbourne.

This was not something he wanted to share with everybody, so he almost whispered it. "I'm here to back Galilee in the Cups," he said. This theme was constant for a week or two. He was an odd punter, always in the pub rather than at the racecourses or even the TAB. This was 1966, and this pub had never had a TV in the bar. But he kept having enough money to buy his share.

He disappeared on Caulfield Cup day, but was back with a major hangover and a lopsided grin the following Monday. Galilee had won and Kenny had won with the bookies. Over the next few days, my mates decided that Kenny knew something and decided they had to back Galilee in the Melbourne Cup. I was a student then, so the other guys elected me their representative to back the horse on Cup Day. I'd never been in a TAB or bet on anything, so this was a shock.

I did some reading and found that only five horses had won the cup double in the past 90 years. It seemed unlikely that it would happen this year. So I kept the money, avoided the TAB, drank as much as I could hold and discovered too late how treacherous horses and gambling can be when Galilee came home first. We never saw Kenny again, and I was lucky to see anything at all when my excited mates came to collect their winnings. I vowed to avoid horses and betting for the rest of my life. And I had to find a new pub.

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