OPINION: Why do I get swept up in cup fever every year?


FOLKS, next Tuesday marks the 156th time the Melbourne Cup stops our nation and, hopefully, the end of my 37-year sweeps losing streak.

My first flutter in a Melbourne Cup sweep was in 1980 when Beldale Ball beat my horse by three days and 10 minutes. Obviously, it was called a sweep because most of us got taken to the cleaners.

Since then, not one donkey I've drawn in a Melbourne Cup sweep has finished in the top 10. Seven were scratched before the race and one poor nag was shot on the track.

Backing the neddies obviously isn't my thing.

I'm genetically hard-wired to lose money on the gee-gees, just like my grandfather. A bookmaker's dream, Grandad loved a flutter. I'm just grateful he never lived to punt in this golden age when tapping an app can make a bank balance vanish.

Oddly, the one race he didn't like betting on was the Melbourne Cup.

Every year he'd survey the field then announce, "Too many favourites, and too many foreign horses. It's a mug's race!"

Then he'd dash off to fund his bookie's next overseas holiday.

Still, one year, I actually made the effort to park my backside trackside. The air tingled with the smell of perfume, beer, cigarette smoke and desperation.

I bet on three races, then stood by the rail slapping my leg with a rolled-up copy of Best Bets, urging my horses on or, in one case, to wake up. Like the last horse I backed, I eventually limped home and called it quits.

But things clearly skipped a generation because my daughters enjoy the races.

Admittedly, they're only there for the fashion, friends, food and free plonk.

On the rare occasions when they glimpse an actual racehorse, they must wonder what it's doing there.

Anyway, on Tuesday I'll have my 38th flutter, and if I finally crack the odds and select a winning ticket, I'll try not to get on my high horse.

Topics:  gambling horse racing melboune cup on a lighter note weekend magazine

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