Jenny - Clean


WITH all these upset results in sport and racing around the country, my old mate Ginger was on the blower light-heartedly suggesting we should take an overdue break and head to Pakistan for a holiday.

“If you have the right contacts over there they give you a newspaper with the results of the race meeting as you walk onto the track. It’s like the cricket, you can’t lose,” Ginger joked.

Sounds perfect but it was a bit rich coming from him. If we all adopted Ginger’s approach to betting in Australia we would be doing the form, selecting the ones we think are specials, then backing them to lose. As I’ve told you many times before he hasn’t lost in months following that formula.

But his Pakistan joke did bring back memories for Ginger and I of the time we holidayed in The Philippines and went to the races in Manila with our good mate Stretch.

At the time we were all working as racing writers in Australia and we were given a contact of a PR lady with one of the major tracks to get us a brief into the members for the day. I’ll never forget it. Her name was Tess Milka and she beckoned us into her office with a big smile.

“We are so pleased to have you here from Australia for a visit and I have organized each of you a couple of mounts at the meeting,” Tess announced. Unfortunately she had mistaken ‘racing writers’ for ‘racing riders’ and thought we were keen for some on-track, rather than off-track action.

We did think the penny would have dropped when she saw the size of us. Stretch was well over six feet and Ginger in those days tipped the scales at close to 20 stone. And when you see the size of the racehorses they send around in the Philippines I doubt even the strongest steed would have survived the shortest trip with either aboard.

Saturday arrived and we headed out of our hotel on Roxas Boulevard overlooking the magnificent Manila Bay and told the cabbie, dreadlocks and all, to take us to the races. He gave us a strange look but after Ginger did his imitation of riding a horse we felt the message had got through.

‘You want go horse race track,’ he said. Spot on and off we went through the smog and traffic, weaving our way to an afternoon of booze and betting – cashed up, all we needed was a tip.

Just under an hour later we arrived at the track. We paid the fare and headed to the entrance thinking we were either a fair bit early for the first or the locals were waiting until late to arrive.

It was soon obvious to us that there was no racing to be run here this day and to our dismay we were told that there were two racetracks in Manila and that the cabbie had taken us to the wrong one. The other, as it turned out, was on the other side of this sprawling city.

We finally hailed another cab and went through the same ritual before arriving at our destination three hours later than expected. It seemed though that the crowd was just starting to build. We actually had to fight our way through the turn styles.

The first three races had been run by the time we rendezvoused with our host, a likeable little man from the club committee had been saddled with the chore of entertaining us for the day and soon had us comfortably settled into a spectacular and palatial air-conditioned private box overlooking the track where anything we wanted – including winners – were to be laid on.

‘How many races will be run today,’ Stretch inquired politely, tonguing for a cold one which he normally had well before now. ‘Not sure,’ came the reply. ‘We will probably run 12 or 14 then come back tomorrow and run the rest until we get through the entire card.’

Stretch quickly ordered three San Miguels, the local brew, which unfortunately weren’t cold enough for his liking. ‘Could we get colder bottles please?’ he asked the waiter, who looked just a shade smarter than Manuel from Fawlty Towers. He duly returned with three glasses filled with ice.

Our host announced that he had organized for lunch to be served shortly – it came in courses, a dozen at least. He discreetly provided each of us with a set of selections to bet on in each race and suggested we take these in quinellas as there might not be as much value backing them to win. We all thought, when in Rome etc.

As we gazed across the track there were peasants working in the rice paddies in the in-field and on a big fence in the back straight before the home turn was a large vertical white line which caught our eyes.

‘What’s that line for,’ Ginger asked. ‘That’s the point of no return,’ came the reply. From what we could glean it was no-holds-barred up to that point but from there on in no interference would be tolerated by the stewards. You didn’t need George Moore’s whistle over there - just knock’em down before reaching the business end of proceedings.

Four races later and we had collected on every one. The beer was tasting better by the bottle. How long had this been going on? Ginger reckoned we had discovered a punting Eutopia.

We were joined by a couple of high profile officials from back home in OZ who were being looked after in a nearby private box and pretty surprised and embarrassed to see us.

They were obviously having a real good time – each had in tow a local lass whose attire suggested she would look more at home dancing on one of the bars in the red light district.

‘I thought they were holidaying over here with their wives,’ Ginger whispered as one approached, looking a little sheepish at having been what you might describe as caught with his fingers or whatever in the cookie jar.

‘Didn’t expect to see you guys here,’ he laughed. Obviously, we thought. ‘We’re having a terrific time. The wives have gone shopping with our credit cards so we decided to have a bit of fun ourselves. Mum’s the word though. Have you got the tips? The good thing is they hardly ever lose.’

Had we actually found a pot of gold at the end of the punting rainbow? ‘I never want to leave,’ Ginger declared after collecting our seventh successive quinella. We finally realized that we were being far too cautious with our investments.

I hadn’t seen anything like it since I visited the States and went to a prominent harness racing track where a friend was employed. He provided me with ‘the special of the night’ and it just led in a procession and duly saluted. It was the best ‘boat race’ I’d seen in a long time but the sudden boost to my finances could not have arrived at a better time.

But back to Manila and as the power of the punt, fuelled by an endless supply of San Miguel took control, the three of us were feeling 10 feet tall and bullet-proof.

Below us in the public grandstand, the locals seemed to be indulging in everything from their own form of two-up to cock-fighting. The winning continued into the night. We were almost oblivious to the track lighting being turned on. Then all of a sudden disaster struck. WE ACTUALLY LOST ON A RACE.

There was a big commotion at the entrance to the private box and before the next race was run our committee host ushered a couple of official looking dudes into our presence. Believe it or not, he told us they were stewards who were here to apologize because the result didn’t work according to the tips that we were given.

‘If only this happened at home,’ quipped Ginger. ‘Can you just image Sherriff Shreck or Marshall Murrihy being ordered to the private boxes to explain to guests why the result didn’t go as they expected.

But back to reality and we were assured that several jockeys would be suspended for not doing what they were told. We were so stunned by the events that unfolded that the three of us sat there in disbelief. That was the only race we lost on that day.

We bet well into the night – until they declared racing stumps – and headed back to our hotel, pleasantly pissed, pockets filled, holiday paid for, expecting to awake the next morning and find that the whole thing was a bad dream. We decided not to return for the remainder of the meeting the next day in case it was.

It’s been a while since I’ve penned a Horsing Around column but with the Wednesday Whinge on this web site constantly inundated with complaints about favorites being beaten and the peril of the punt, I thought it might be a timely subject.

Things have obviously changed in Philippines racing these days but it’s something that my mates and I will never forget. It makes losing at home a lot more fun but let me assure you, the more you Getaway and Go Racing, the more you discover how much better our racing in Australia is and nothing compares with our magnificent Spring carnival – no matter how hard it is to back a winner.


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