Well. For the first time in my life I've placed a "proper" bet on the Grand National. When I say "proper", I mean officially rather than putting a quid in a pile and each member of the family having to pick a horse out of a hat to win the pot. Last year Mac scooped the £9 jackpot. Didn't quite make it to a bookies though. Can't quite shake off the image of sweaty, tattooed men all gazing up at a screen and urging on "old nags" and then kicking off, spitting and whinging when they lose.
It was all quite civilised in the end. Saskia got me started - she came in this morning with the paper and started looking at the runners and riders with all the authority of someone who spent her youth at Catford Dogs Track. I got quite excited at placing a bet but was worried that once I'd started I wouldn't be able to stop. I'd be betting on everything like my maternal Grandfather who would bet a days wages, along with his workmates, on the colour of the next car that pulled into the car park of the hotel he worked in. I'd end up feverishly betting on-line all day and all night, I'd be pouring our money down the drain and neglecting my child and my marriage. Saskia shut me up by pointing out that I do the Lottery twice a week and stick to my £2 a day limit. Hm. Well, sometimes I have a go on Thunderball too.......
Anyway. When I asked her how she was going to pick a horse she said "Pah, it's simple. You look at their odds, their probable jockey and don't forget the trainer. Haven't got a hope in hell if it's Joe Bloggs from Oxshott trying his hand at running a yard and only been in the business a week." she continued, pushing her glasses further up her nose. I got quite excited at this point, Saskia used to go out with a jockey but she found his height off-putting. Apparently he banned her from wearing any sort of heel and even then she was three inches shorter than him "I got a crick in my neck from stooping and, besides, he stank of horses" she announced at the time.
So, looking at the runners and riders and trainers and odds and then what? I was desperate to know. Sask looked a bit sheepish at this point and chewed on the end of her pen. "Well, and then, well.....y'know" she said, inching further along the sofa and peering at Loose Women on the telly. "Then, well, you choose.....well. Oh, okay, you choose the horse with the nicest sounding name or a name that means something to you!" she admitted, throwing her pen and the paper on the floor.
Hah! Random betting! I can do this. While Saskia logged on and joined a betting site, Mac and I pored over the paper. Hm. Horse name that means something. I had a strawberry yoghurt this morning so perhaps Bewleys Berry? Quite keen on gardening so Hedgehunter? Longshanks as Mac has long legs? Simon as it's the name of the postman? Some of these names though - makes you wonder what they're called in the stables. I can't imagine the owner of Numbersixvalverde calling out "Dinner, Numbersixvalverde!". Do they shorten it to Greenie? Sixie? Or perhaps it's like the Kennel Club. You've got the dog's Kennel Club name (we had a spaniel when I was younger and his KC name was Captain Vornick Chestnut. Don't ask.) but you call him a normal name at home. Captain Vornick Chestnut was more commonly known as Conker. So perhaps Numbersixvalverde is called Fred in the yard and Monkerhostin is called Neddy.
Looking at the list of non-declared riders got me quite excited. Model Son! I've got one of those so would have chosen that. Dublin Hunter to remind me of when I went to Dublin with Charlie and we spent the whole time hunting for a decent cappucino. I dragged my eyes back to the list of actual runners just as Saskia was entering her credit card details and announced that she'd registered. Using a highly scientific and well thought out method (no, not going to reveal our secrets) we chose our horses. Mac wanted to have a bet and so chose his horse by simply asking me to given him a number between 1 and 40. David rang just as Saskia was inputting all this information and said I could choose one for him. The responsibility! I managed to do this with little or no fuss....I simply chose a horse who was trained by somebody called David.
See? Who needs to study form!