Yesterday I took part in a horse race that held all the excitement of Grand Nationals from my childhood. Back in those days, my mother, egged on of course by her father, not to mention her Irish Toohey genes, would scan the newspaper for the odds and place half a crown on a promising horse. Then we would gather around the telly and watch with baited breath as the horses thundered round the racetrack and scream when they fell at Beecher’s Brook.
So, on the eve of this years Grand National, I decided to celebrate the old tradition by placing a bet on an Ebay horse. I’ve been looking for a nice picture to sit over the fireplace of our little gatehouse and wanting something in keeping with its era I researched the famous 19C animal painters.If I were rich I’d pick one by J.F. Herring and sons or failing that George Stubbs Lincolnshire Ox would fit the bill because it makes me laugh.
But, as I was brought up to be thrifty, (we never bet more than half a crown), I found instead a 5-inch watercolor horse on Ebay called Ginger.
I let Ginger walk around the paddock of my indecision for a week or two, eyed his form and checked out his fetlocks with the magnification tool. In the last half hour I decided I would place a bid. I was under no illusion about the JFH signature in the corner of the picture - this was clearly a Red Herring - certainly not a J.F. Herring - nevertheless I decided a small flutter was in order because regardless of his pedigree I liked his looks. I waited until the the race was in home stretch before entering - there had been a bit of a skirmish between two automatic bidders who had whipped and jockeyed each other along for a lap or two. I placed my bid ten minutes before the bell - all seemed well - one of the two previous contestants had fallen at a hurdle and I had a comfortable lead on the other who also seemed to have tired of the race. I was ten seconds from the finishing line and feeling the flush of imminent victory when a phantom bidder appeared and raced past. It was neck and neck towards the finishing line. Frantically I slapped down another ten dollars - but too late! I was pipped at the post and Ginger left the paddock with a different owner.