Monday, 16 April 2012

Grand National Tragedy

The Grand National for many a year has been my favorite race.

I used to beg my dad to make a bet for me when I couldn't go in to the bookies myself. As I got older, the thought of walking into a place filled with aging men, leaning on counters staring blankly at TV screens, betting slips strewn around their feet, a cigarette hanging from their mouth (before the smoking inside a public place ban), the tinge of stale beer clinging to the smoky air as their eyes swiveled to watch you approach the till, well, just didn't appeal - surprisingly!

But living next door to William Hill (we owned a sweet shop) meant that I knew everyone who hailed that place as their 'temple', so my fears and mild embarrassment soon abated.

I would read with a certain amount of frenzy the pages on Saturday morning of the race about the latest odds, the kind of ground (good, soft), the age of the horse, if the horse liked jumping more did I just rely on 'ah, he's wearing number 6, yeah I'll go for that one' or 'that name sounds good,' oh no, I did my research.

Last year I placed my bets online praising modern technology for once and this year, was no different. Unfortunately, I didn't win as I have done practically every year that I've placed a bet; each horse I backed fell. Worse still, two had to be put down - again. And despite Aintree making some improvements, the fences are still too high, there are too many horses racing and I think this may be my final year of betting.

As much as I love the majesty of this fine sport, I love the animals too. And I know there are those who say if a horse doesn't want to jump he won't, yet I can't help but feel that I've placed a bet on the death of these horses. Yes, that does sound a tad over dramatic, but that's how I'm feeling right now.

And who knows, next year as April approaches, and they've made the course really safe, I may well glance a causal eye over the form and make an imaginary bet.

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