I like to follow horse racing, and sometimes also like to have a little bet. Here’s a little tale about one little bet:
At this time of year, although the National Hunt season is moving towards a climax at Cheltenham and Aintree, there’s some excellent flat racing in Dubai. Every Thursday I like to see which British horses have been sent over; some of them will stay for the spectacular Dubai Carnival at the end of March. This week I was particularly excited about one horse, Wigmore Hall. He’s won with breathtaking ease in the past and what’s more he has a very pretty face! I’ve also been seeing regular and enthusiastic updates about his progress on Twitter, from his trainer, Michael Bell, and John Maxse, who regularly rides him in his work. I looked at the racecard- Wigmore Hall was in the last race at a quarter to seven. Oh no! Another horse I’m very fond of, and usually back, was in the same race. Presvis, trained by Luca Cumani, won this race (The Jebel Hatta Stakes) last year, and has already raced in Dubai this season. In fact I backed him, and watched open mouthed as he swept from last to first leaving the rest of the field looking like seaside donkeys in comparison. I couldn’t not back him, so I had to back them both, Presvis at 7/4 favourite, and Wigmore Hall a massive 12/1. It also made sense to have a reverse forecast- for the uninitiated that’s a bet that the two horses would finish the race first and second, either way round. All bets duly placed at lunchtime, I returned to work.
Unfortunately I wasn’t at home to watch the race live; after work I went to see three of my fellow poets performing at a local library for World Book Night. Not just any poets- the Birmingham Poet Laureate, Roy MacFarlane, engaging Polish performance poet Bohdan Piasecki and the inspirational and lovely Fatima Al Matar, from Kuwait via Scotland. A difficult choice, but I felt duty bound to support a local poetry event, especially with such a stellar line up.
A quarter to seven. The race was underway and I was just setting off to walk the mile or so home. I didn’t even look at the results when I got in, for some reason I waited. I got changed, I drank tea, I switched on the computer. Even then I didn’t look, I checked my emails first. Eventually, and strangely reluctantly, I clicked on the Sporting Life tab and went to ‘full results’. Clicked on Meydan, Dubai. Clicked on the first race, then worked my way slowly through the card, noting how other horses I was interested in had fared. ‘Prohibit’- 4th; ‘Bankable’- won; Dear old ‘Kasbah Bliss’- 4th; ‘Gitano Hernando’- 3rd. I had now crept up to the last race. 18:45. Click. Oh.
I moved the cursor to ‘watch full race’ to see for myself:
Presvis, dark blue colours with grey stars, gives the rest a head start, as usual. Wigmore Hall- pink and black silks- also towards the rear, just as one would expect. The race unfolds, final two furlongs and Presvis is making his run, once again scything through the field. Wigmore Hall, under Jamie Spencer, is taking an easier route down the outside but is still about three lengths down on Presvis. Other horses too are making their bid for victory, and a few yards out there’s almost a line of five abreast, but Presvis is prevailing and gets his head clearly in front. Here comes Wigmore Hall- almost flying! Spencer must feel so exhilarated to ride this horse! It must be close to sitting on Pegasus! At the post, Wigmore Hall has his head in front in a scintillating finish. But Presvis isn’t second. In the last stride of the race another horse, racing between the two of them, pushed his way into second place, splitting my forecast. Presvis was third. I was thrilled by the finish; my heart was bursting for Wigmore Hall, and everyone connected with him. Gosh he’s such a lovely creature, and they say he’ll come on for the run. And I did have a return on my single bet at 12/1. Presvis once again showed a stunning ‘turn of foot’ bettered only by the victor in his turbo-charged run through the field. But one other horse, racing just in front of these two and starting his run before them, had stolen second place. The horse? The one that turned what I thought was a clever and astute forecast into scrap paper, as I was leaving a spoken word poetry event, over three thousand miles away? Trained by Saeed Bin Suroor and ridden by Frankie Dettori, it was called Poet’s Voice.