Tag Archives: horses

A Grand (National) Day Out

10 Apr

For the weekend, I popped home for the weekend to watch The Grand National. The most famous steeplechase in the world is possibly the only event that I have placed a bet on in my life. I am discounting the times when we have gone to the races or even the greyhound races as a family and have done our own “in-house” betting; in which we each put a pound in and the winner gets to keep the money in the pot.

Going to the races live was not a opportunity that I was going to miss. I sorted out an outfit with a dress and hat that I already had. I decided to buy a new pair of shoes (without a heel) so that I would be able to comfortably walk around and enjoy the day without the agony and worry about staying in hills all day. More on this later…

thumbnail_IMG_5123On the day of the race, the weather was glorious and that is not an understatement. There was not a cloud in the sky and the sun was out in style. The metaphorical cloud on the horizon was the fact that several rail companies in the north west were striking on the final day of the National – the day that we had tickets for. Luckily, there were still trains from Liverpool Central to Aintree at the time of the day when we needed it. No other trains were running at all. It was quite funny to see the train schedules on the screens in the train station and all of the trains going to Aintree and nowhere else.

We arrived in good spirits and soaked up the atmosphere while we waited for the racing to begin. There is a walking tour of the actual race course that you can do before the races start but my new shoes were already being to rub and hurt me like crazy so I gave that one a miss. It was also possible to see where Red Rum, the most famous horse to ever run in the National, was buried near the Finishing Post.

I didn’t bet on the first race because I was a bit indecisive and I realised that the races aren’t as exciting when you know that you will not benefit financially from one of the horses crossing the line first. For the second race, I put a fiver on Finian’s Oscar to win. I chose the horse because it reminded me of Finigan’s Wake, the novel by James Joyce. The luck of the Irish was on my side because I won 18 pound, 75 pence when the horse crossed the line first. And it was much more exciting to watch as the race enfolded.

I won another 6 pound on the next race and then I guess my luck ran out because I didn’t win a penny after that. It was still exciting though. The atmosphere when The Grand National finally got underway was thrilling. After two false starts and a lot of groaning and disgruntled spectators, the crowd erupted in excitement. It is always difficult to work out which horses have fallen, who is still in the race and if there is still some chance of financial gain at the end of it. But without the benefit of the TV and the list of the horses who have fallen popping up on the screen, it is virtually impossible. No surprise that there was no final win for me.

Meanwhile my feet were painful and blistered. I had managed to cope in the knowledge that I would just need to get the train, then the bus and I would be able to the shoes off and put my trainers on. Luckily I didn’t have to wait that long as there were people handing out flip-flops to ladies, like me who had worn unsuitable shoes for the day. The best thing was they were free! I would have paid a lot of money for those flip-flops if they had made me. The relief was instant and I was a lot more comfortable on the way home.

On the Sunday, I caught the train and headed timage1o Manchester, where I met my brother and his kids and we drove to my mum’s house. I was treated to a lovely, and unexpected Sunday Roast, and we went for a walk to feed the ducks. On the way back, we managed to see some lambs who had been born only a few hours before.
All to soon, as it always seems to be, it was Monday morning and I was back at the airport again, queuing to have my bag scanned and waiting for the plane to be ready to head back to Switzerland and back to work…

White Turf, 2017

15 Feb

On the weekend I headed to St Moritz for the first race day of White Turf. White Turf is an international annual horse race that takes place over three weekends in February. The event has been taking place since 1907.

This is no normal horse race like the Grand National and Ascot. The race takes place on the frozen St Moritz Lake. The horses are actually racing on snow and ice. In some of the races the jockeys are actually pulled along behind the horse on skis. It is one of those things that you need to see before you believe it. I have no idea who came up with this as an idea for these races but somehow it works.

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It really is mind-blowing that the races are being run on a lake. I have never been to St Moritz in the summer so I can’t imagine how it will look like in the summer. It is hard to visualise the whole area green rather than white – I have made a promise to myself that I will re-visit in the summer to compare the two seasons in the same place. Of course, there have been occasions when the races have been cancelled because the weather has been too warm and the snow and ice has begun to melt.

The races are always a spectacle, as are the spectators. For as far as the eye can see: botox, moon boots and fur. There are the occasional dogs in handbags as well if you look hard enough. So even between the races, there is entertainment on hand. You just have to look around.

This year in St Moritz the World Ski Championships are also taking place and in the stand behind us was some of the US Ski team who weren’t competing on that day. I can’t say that I recognised any of them. But it was possible to see the piste where the races took place from where we were in the valley.

This year I even had a flutter. I img_4702don’t understand the betting odds and I am pretty sure that they don’t work the same way as they do in the UK. Someone once told me that you should never bet more than you can afford to lose. I bet 5 CHF, the cost of a coffee. The race is infinitely more exciting when you have something at stake, even if the amount you stand to win is not all that high. I didn’t win though.

In April, I will be going to the Grand National in Liverpool. Although there is a chance that this race will also take place on ice and snow (you never know with the British weather), I will definitely be swotting up on my racing odds. Whether studying the racing form is better than just choosing a horse with a good sounding name remains to be seen….