The Thirds v The Dogs
After the Thirds' painful performance against a grubby Burwood A team, it was time to regroup and blow off some steam at the Wentworth Park dog track. The Thirds were well represented with AdamB and Neil first to arrive, with Neil’s flatmate Dac, followed by AdamF, MikeB and Mrs MikeB (who’s name I won’t even attempt to spell), Richard and Mrs Richard (Jackie), followed later by Fergal and Mrs Fergal (Mona) and with support from the Firsts with Nick ‘the birthday boy’ Hopkins, Keith, Browny, and Browny’s voluptuous flatmate Terri (if we were all as close to our flatmates as Browny is to his we would never, ever, ever be cold again). Unfortunately, we had one disappointment before kick off, with John and Mrs John unable to attend, due to Mrs John being injured.
The first thing that everyone noticed inside the stadium was the beautiful soccer pitch in the middle of the racetrack - it’s so flat and smooth it looks like a Subbuteo pitch (and for that matter the goals looked a bit like Subbuteo goals too - cheap and nasty). Mental note: next time take some balls. The two dodgy kebab vans had not yet been closed down by the environmental health dept, so things were looking set for a good evening’s entertainment.
Everyone started studying the form in detail, and everyone made exactly the same three comments when the rabbits had a warm up lap:
1) Do they really go that fast?
2) Oh look, there’s two of them!
3) The dogs must be really dumb to chase those things!
Neil got off to a great start with winners in the first two races. He swore by his tactics of picking a dog’s name that made some kind of personal connection, and shouting encouragement to the dogs as they passed by (until someone pointed out that the dogs are not actually aware of which number they wear, so shouting "Go on number 2" has absolutely no effect). This point was proven further in the third race when Neil’s choice came last - very, very last - so far behind the other dogs it should have been in the next race!
AdamB was having some sneaky success by checking out the dogs in the kennels before each race. Spurred on by the chance of easy money, the Balmain entourage went en masse to the kennels to have a look for the next race. A number of people commented on how embarrassed the number 8 dog looked having to wear an electric pink jersey. So we decided the number 8 was a dodgy bet and not worthy of our hard earned cash. He then proceeded to romp home a clear winner - obviously so embarrassed, he (Jedi Lightsabre) wanted to get the whole spectacle over with as quickly as possible.
Mrs Richard quietly scratched up a couple of winners which took her totally by surprise. Richard himself had a very sneaky $50 win with a 10-1 outsider, which triggered the same smug expression on his face as when he won at pool last week in the Annandale (for some reason a vision suddenly appeared before me - the rabbits had been replaced by two huge Mega Meat Lovers' Pizzas, and Richard, dressed in the electric pink No 8 jersey, was chasing them around the track at double speed! Woof!).
Mrs Fergal got right into the spirit of it all and was attracted to dogs with an Irish background (such as To Be Sure from Londonderry) or dogs with classy names such as Beema Las Vegas and Bonnie Bubbles, who performed well enough to keep her Irish eyes smiling.
Nick the birthday boy had a very happy expression on his face all night and, after we’d all paid a visit indoors to look at the retired greyhounds up for adoption, (including one with only three legs that we all wanted to see race) Nick seemed to be overcome by compassion and for the remaining races only bet on dogs who had bandages or band-aids stuck to their legs. Whether this was planned or not is another question (especially as earlier in the evening he had related how in his youth he used to feed bread and toothpaste to seagulls to watch them explode), and he ended the evening with absolutely no dosh, but still looking insanely happy (Bacardi & Coke kind of happy).
Browny continued to stalk the kennels telling me he’d got a tip from the dog’s mouth (though personally I didn’t think the kennel maid was that ugly) and he and Terri seemed to be doing very nicely, thank you. Keith had decided the dogs were too risky and, like the rest of us, realised very quickly that studying the form was more often than not a complete waste of time. Even in the last race when one of the dogs was called Glasgow Magic he wasn’t tempted. But then again Keith is from Edinburgh.
AdamF placed some money in honour of his Dad, Stormin Norman, who has become the Thirds' unofficial tactical adviser (among his credentials are a life long love of football and a life long support of Everton - What the?) and bet on any dog whose name included Norman (such as Uncle Norm, Raw Norman). Unfortunately, the only winner he had all night was when he picked a race and placed a bet for Mrs AdamF (Kate) - so he went home a winner but without anything to show for it.
Towards the middle of the meeting, there was one race with Big Bad Jas on the card - Jas being the namesake of Mrs AdamB. So, in an act of faith spawned by VB and some of those dodgy kebabs, heavy bets were placed on the dog in question. Unfortunately, Big Bad Jas lived up to her name - or at least the Bad part! Big Bad Steve won that one instead.
Afterwards, we waved farewell to the Firsts, and the Thirds party headed to the Excelsior, where more alcohol was consumed and new friendships forged (including Neil’s attempts to borrow the rotund bouncer’s pony tail to cover his own follically challenged scalp). Unfortunately, the effect was far from convincing, and as one anonymous person commented, he would have looked better with one of the rabbits from the dog track on his head.
Off then to the Different Drummer, where many jugs of sangria were devoured. Richard and Mrs Richard sensibly were the first to leave. Mrs Fergal and Mrs MikeB sensibly relocated to sit at the bar, leaving Fergal, MikeB and the two Adams to continue to discuss the day’s football - after three jugs of sangria, they were talking long balls, short balls, wide balls - just talking balls basically.
My last memory of the night (by this time through undoubtedly blurred vision), was AdamB, swaying slightly with glass of sangria in hand, singing punk rock tunes very loudly (DUM, DUM, DUM, DUMMMM, DUM DUMMM) to be answered by AdamF, equally as loud, singing the theme tune from Z-Cars (DER, DER, DERRRRR. DE DER, DER, DER, DER). Fantastico!