I have a slightly ambivalent attitude towards horse racing. I can never quite decide whether I should or shouldn't support it.
I first shunned the sport in 1998 after I'd backed the winner in the National. Earth Summit ridden by Carl Llewlyn. (I'd vaguely met the jockey as at that time he lived next door to a friend from uni in Wantage). I was overjoyed until I saw the front page of the Observer the following day. It carried a beautifully stark photo of a horse falling at a fence and the news that three horses had been put down. Stood on the Bethnal Green Road I declared I was not collecting my winnings. (C. told me after watching Everton in a scintillating nil-nil draw at Selhurst Park a few days later the tickets had been bought with the winners which he'd collected).
C. is a betting man and I have been drawn in on occasion since but none more so than Friday.
His running club organised a trip to Newmarket races - six evening races followed by Jools Holland and his band. I agreed to go as I put in very few appearances and I thought I owed it to C. to show I do still exist.
Well, after getting used to the unseasonably hot weather the British summer returned with a vengeance. The picnic was held under umbrellas and was eventually cut short. By the time Jools Holland was over (fantastic) I was frozen. My feet resembled lumps of ice. My lips so chapped as to be painful. Most people returned to the coach over an hour early in the hope of some warmth.
I had kidded myself that I wouldn't have a bet but you just can't resist when you're there. I decided on £5 per race for the six races and if I lost my £30 so be it.
The end result? My little money bag held £51.40 when I left. Two winners and two places. Not bad going for someone who didn't have a strategy and who now feels everso slightly guilty.