Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 24th 2014 Contents "Oh God be gracious and bless us
today. Amen." Surely the gods are
with us? But no. The oddly named
Slewjero, our last bet of the day, is
pipped at the post.
As we leave, my friend tells me
her fiancé s father in Ireland was a
racehorse trainer but was paralysed
in a fall. Goodness, I think, what an
insensitive choice of activity I ve
chosen for this day out.
To cap off the best of British luck
I seem to have brought, we discover
our car battery is dead, as we left
the lights on. The heavens open
again and we fear nobody will stop
to help. But two East Indian brothers,
car lovers, happily take out the bat-
tery of their vintage Ford and get us
going again, while I shield them with
two umbrellas. We thank them and
promise we will return to buy them
drinks at the next race meet.
"It s only good karma," my friend
says. And we re off.
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, July 24, 2014
Stable hands walk racehorses through the paddocks in
wet conditions ahead of a race at the Santa Rosa Park
race club in Arima. PHOTO: JOSHUA SURTEES
"This is the track, isn t it, rather than the
races ?" my friend says, surveying the Santa Rosa
Park race club in Arima. "Like when a dad gets
home from a night shift at the factory and says
to his wife, I m going down to the track. I don t
know when I ll be back."
Images of whisky-soaked Charles Bukowski
novels come flooding back---the broke writer head-
ing to the track in LA to win a few hundred bucks
to pay his rent or debts---a seedy underworld of
illegal bookmakers who ll take your car until you
pay up. Bukowski s characters studied the form
guide before placing bets, but when we look at
the numbers and weights, it s completely incom-
I ask a man what the letters mean and he says
it indicates whether the horse is wearing a visor,
blinkers or has its tongue tied. "Ahhh!" I say, as
though this piece of information will make any
difference to my choice of horses.
I m betting on names alone and I ve already
spotted a certain winner in the next race, Black
Genius. The laughing woman at the kiosk tells me
the odds on Black Genius are 25-1 and rolls her
eyes, trying to dissuade me. But I will not be dis-
suaded. I m determined to lose at least $100 here
A $20 deficit is promptly registered in my wallet
as Black Genius trots in last, by some distance.
I blame the ground. The rain is relentless and
the sand is sodden. The scoreboard describes the
going as "sloppy turf," a suitable name for a
Bukowski short story.
Rain rolls in from the hills, which are visible
one moment, obscured with cloud the next. On
our way here we drove straight past the course
without seeing it, such was the intensity of the
deluge. I d left Port-of-Spain in a maxi from City
Gate and the John Lennon song Imagine had come
on the radio. Instinctively I d rewritten the words
of the chorus in my head: "You may sa-aa-y I m
Arima. But I m not the only one." I was pleased
with it and thought about how best to employ it,
but I was distracted by a gentleman talking to me.
The further east you go from town, the friendlier
people are, I find. The same applies to south.
"You know where you re going after you get to
the maxi stand?" the man asks me, making sure
I don t get lost. I tell him my friend is meeting
In the event, she is delayed and I wait by the
Dial admiring the handsome Arima folk doing
their Saturday shopping. People ask me directions.
When I tell them I m from London they smile.
I listen to the Syrians outside their clothes shop,
speaking Arabic. I think about the Syrian Consul,
a few doors down, with his poster of Bashar al-
Assad on the wall.
I wonder if the racecourse will be like Ascot or
Epsom, but it s more like the track my aunt once
took me to in Paris, where the punters were
unshaven but at least, potentially, bathed.
In Arima, the locals are armed with pens and
programmes. Televisions inside the stand show
races from Saratoga, New York and Woodbine,
Toronto, and people whoop and cheer. I wonder
if, like at the World Cup, people are changing alle-
giance, minute by minute, as a new next horse
takes the lead.
We wander over to the paddock. The horses
look reasonably fit, the jockeys thin, the trainers
fat. One trainer, who seems to have three horses
in each race, hands his business card to my friend.
It has a picture of an aggressive-looking hawk
and describes him as an insurance adviser. I wonder
if it s the jockeys or horses that command the
higher insurance premiums.
We spot a mark in the same place on each horse s
rear, where the whip lands.
A watery sun peeps through and a double rain-
bow appears. Perhaps there s a pot of gold waiting
at the end? We see a sign written on a chalkboard,
A day at the races
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