If I had a dollar for every time someone looked at me accusingly and suggested I (as in, every American ever) killed Phar Lap, well, I would’ve made a few bucks this week.
Because, of course, this week saw the running of the Melbourne Cup, “the race that stops the nation”. It’s a massive horse race in Melbourne, which featured many over the top hats, a lot of workplace betting, and Charles and Camilla, who stopped to mingle with their former convict brethren on their tour of the Southern Hemisphere.
The race is held in such high regard that the entire state of Victoria enjoys a public holiday, so that the Victorians can get eat, drink, gamble, and be merry, without letting a little thing like the 8 hour work day stop them from frivolity and reckless abandon. There has been a push in NSW to make race day a public holiday here as well. I’m not one to complain about days off work, but shutting down an entire country for a horse race that lasts under a minute seems like overkill. However, this is coming from a country that gets the Queen’s birthday (yes, the queen) off as holiday, something that the British public doesn’t even get.
Despite the misfortune of having to actually go to work, and, well, work, this past Tuesday, there still seemed to be a large number of people getting in the spirit of the race. A few colleagues and I had a pub lunch, (as none of us were Aussie) to see what all the fuss was about. Even at noon (the race didn’t start till about 3), but the place was chock full of girls in party frocks and fascinators, teetering in heels and guzzling champagne, a few guys dressed as jockeys, and all the tvs were blasted pre race odds and trivia. Later that afternoon, an office party was thrown. In what you would expect from an office get together, it featured awkward small talk, cheese platters, and the viewing of the actual race on an outdated computer monitor, which froze repeatedly for the entire 30 seconds of the race. So that’s my Melbourne Cup experience- an Aussie tradition which the Aussies seem very happy to continue to uphold. I’m ok with that, as long as I don’t have to wear a race hat.
For what it’s worth:
a. The favorite (Americain) didn’t win. But then again, they rarely ever do. Not to mention that his jockey had just been called out for betting against his own horse in a previous race-doesn’t really inspire confidence. Instead, a horse called Green Moon won. Racing against fellow horses Zabeelionaire, Niwot, and Kelinni, he might also win the title of least ridiculous name.
b. No, Black Caviar wasn’t in the race. I thought that too, don’t worry.
c. It was never proven that Phar Lap, a famous Australian champion racehorse, was poisoned by the Americans in an act of sabotage. But try telling that to Australians.
(Pictures courtesy of theroar.com.au)