The sport of kings

Trip Start Oct 23, 2006
Trip End Oct 25, 2007

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Flag of Korea Rep.  ,
Monday, April 9, 2007

"Delimanjoo - one please". You pay the elderly Korean lady and she hands you what you regard as perhaps the most underrated of Korean treats. Ping pong ball sized pastries filled with what you assume is custard - but it doesn't really matter. You love it. You wonder why you don't eat delimanjoo more often. But soon your thoughts shift to where you are, 'Seoul Racecourse Park' subway stop. You and Chris are going to the horse races. 

You never go to the races back home. Maybe you would if the authorities that be in Australia used catchy slogans such as "Life and Love With KRA" (Korea Racing Association). In your mind this phrase conjures images of well-dressed people enjoying a day at the pony's. Drinking, betting, laughing - winning. The reality is quite different. You scan the betting floor for young, well-to-do types, but you only see aging, poorly dressed types, for whom a day at the races is a day at work. They spread themselves out on the floor with their betting guides. You notice that alot of them don't even bother watching the race itself. Isn't this the most exhilarating part of going to the races?

You peruse the form guide from your huge, comfortablr chair in the foreigners lounge. From your seat you have an uninterrupted view of the entire course. You remark that at home this seat would be in the premium area - reserved for dignatries or life-long track members, not a bum like you. But you'll take it. Happily.

You dig the crazy horse names. The first thing you do when you get the form guide is scan each race for hilarious, silly names. Last time you were here you marvelled at names the calibre of "Fast Cat", "Lilt Cat" (what the hell is lilt?) and "Super Cat". Indeed, most of your betting choices are centred around these names. The sillier the better. You weren't let down this time either. "Rabbits", "Again Chance", "Convoy Commando" (your favourite) and "Wig", all get you chuckling to yourself. You wish that a funny name meant a fast horse.

One thing you have learnt about horse races in Korea is that the favourite almost constantly wins. It's uncanny, like the races are fixed or something. Betting on the favourite isn't something you enjoy doing - for one it is the smart choice, and two it takes all the fun out of betting in the first place. So your strategy revolves around combining a silly name with decent odds. This strategy is great for laughs, but you're haemorraging cash. You decide to bet on the favourite, just once, for some confidence, to feel like a winner, to get some money back. You figure it's a lock, the odds are that short, so you put it all on the win, screw the place. You don't win. You don't place. You're nowhere.

You're not at all confident. No wins for the day, and this is the last race. You bit the bullet and put your cash on No 10, "Panera". The fact that number 10 is your lucky number inevitably decided the matter. That plus the fact Chris had already out his cash on the other horse you had in mind. No point thinking about it anymore, the race has begun. You wonder if you should really care anyway, you only bet a couple of bucks on the race. "As long as Chris' horse doesn't beat mine..." you say to yourself.

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