A tragic day, but one jewel in Ruby

AS A gambling novice, after a day on a high stool in a city centre pub in Cork, ‘studying’ the form like a monkey with an abacus, I ended the day’s racing yesterday with a recession-busting total of €15.36.

The problem was I started with €50.

But as ‘Fast Eddie’ Felsen told a young Tom Cruise in The Colour of Money: the cash you win is twice as sweet as that you’ve earned.

So — if you double my saccharine sweet, last-minute winnings — that’s only about €20 I’m down, really, isn’t it?

But not even Tommy Cruise — a man for the impossible mission after all — could’ve ultimately helped me to a happy ending.

On these pages you have champion jockeys and shrewd professional tipsters offering advice distilled in laboratory conditions. Years spent in the racing circuit, a lifetime of building contacts and an experienced eye for form adds up to a finely-balanced mathematical formula.

Sharing those column inches is the amateur — the plug who picks his bets depending on the colour of a jockey’s hat, if a nag shares the name of much-loved pet or a tip picked from the pocket of the chatting pair at the counter beside me. I was to be the control in this cruel scientific experiment.

But if you give an infinite amount of chimps an eternity with as many typewriters, one will eventually write Hamlet.

Alas, however, defeat I knew him well — initially.

I missed the first race at 1.30pm as the young woman in front of me at the ATM was trying to withdraw money using an Xtravision card, it seemed. For 10 minutes. The omens were pretty bad if I couldn’t even manage to get money out of my own bank. Paddy Power would prove trickier.

Go Native ultimately came in — an Irish winner in the Supreme Novice Hurdle; I had planned to have a cheeky punt on Kempes anyway.

‘El Matador’ Mario Kempes helped Argentina win the World Cup in 1978 — inadvertently buttressing the Fidela-led military junta. I’m not saying the sports editor is a dictator, but I could do with performing a little better than last year’s attempt.

If the Cheltenham Festival was a music festival it’d be Féile ’92. Loads of culchies — in shirts and ties rather than sleeveless Saw Doctors t-shirts, admittedly — who are on the lock for four days. Magic.

I, however, have jazz in my soul and boogied down past the Mason-Dixie Line to hitch my already-rocking, unhappy trailer to one I’msingingtheblues. He hit a bum note however, adding another verse to my tuneless dirge of a day.

The less said about Possol in the William Hill Trophy Handicap Chase the better. I was like Beamish — consistent but in a world gone mad.

And then came the 3.20 massacre. 3.20, Bloody 3.20. Forget Shakespeare; this was a Greek tragedy.

Maggie Thatcher once appeared on Saturday morning TV in the 80s during her time at no 10 — probably in the run up to an election. Like the rest of the guests she gave her verdict on the latest pop releases. Of the three, she wildly endorsed one single from the then hotly-tipped Thrashing Doves. Obviously the Iron Lady’s stamp of approval was a kiss of death to the band.

I did the same to the much fancied Binocular and poor Celestial Halo — who I unfairly saddled with a €5 flutter each.

In a thrilling finish for everyone else, my two boys and Tony McCoy’s Punjabi came up the hill together. Guess who won of the three?

In the next one, Jasper’s Dream — chosen as he shares a name with my sister’s Miniature Yorkie — and L’Ami because he was a banker, apparently, continued an embarrassing trend. There was something rotten in the state of Cheltenham.

And then redemption. Of sorts. My day had been like Shakespeare’s Danish play without the prince, until Irish Examiner columnist Ruby Walsh at last made a triumphant cameo appearance in the final act. He bounded home on Quevega before the curtain fell on my efforts.

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