Sunday, October 16 (Day 45)
Sleeping in a van in a car park might sound like a bit of a nightmare but this feels like pure luxury after some of the dorm-mented hostels I’ve slept in.
I slip into George-Michael’s hostel and find them in absolute bits. For once I feel very good and kick them out of bed so that we can get ourselves to today’s horse racing.
I nip in their hostel shower and this is what I find:
I’m sure there must be some prisons that are cleaner than the wash room and showers at this particular Auckland hostel.
Today’s horse racing meeting is a perfect opportunity to escape downtown Auckland for the afternoon ahead of tonight’s All Blacks match. General admissions is free and there’s a beautiful strip of lush green grass for the three of us to sunbathe, work off our hangovers and study the race card. I’ve gone for Mont St. Michel in the first race solely on the basis that the French have had so much luck at the world cup that a horse with a French name is bound to win. My five dollar filly races out of the stalls and takes an early lead. Half way through the race it opens up a five-length lead. I could be laughing here as my selection is the rank 50-1 outsider. 250 dollars will do nicely. As the twelve horses race to the finishing line Mont St. Michel seems to be waning. FFS! It’s come last!!
Michael, who has spent the whole afternoon moaning about his hangover, suddenly bolts up and declares he’s confident of a winner. Sure enough his horse comes in at 6-1 and he’s 60 dollars up. George, meanwhile, is throwing cash at donkeys.
The Welsh rugby team are also here and get a big cheer from the three of us as they wave down from the members’ balcony. Like us they obviously realise this is about the best rugby-free zone in Auckland today.
My last selection for the day, ‘the Fox’, leads its race out of the stalls, over 18 jumps, and for 2470 metres of the 2475. My grandfather introduced me to horse racing. He absolutely loved the sport. So much so in fact, that he must have read every horse racing novel that Dick Francis ever wrote. I was always amazed at my Gramp’s ability to choose horses that lead entire races only to be pipped at the post by a nose. Seems like I have inherited my Gramp’s canny knack for consistently backing losers.