By Baz Ruddick Melbourne Cup day sits in society’s consciousness as one of those days where you can exercise your right to get drunk. And, lucky for you, you’re not going to get judged like you would any other day. It’s alright- society has okayed it with their Carlton Draught and Tom Waterhouse stamp of approval! T.V said so. Even Koshie and Mel were dressed up for the races…. Every year thousands of Australians part with their money and become racing enthusiasts for the day. People pretend they know something more about horses than the fact that they have four legs while they take the opportunity to don a suit/fancy hat, get shitfaced and wind up regrettably making out with someone before the sun even goes down. Believe me, sometimes you need the cover of darkness to hide your antics. But why do we celebrate the Melbourne Cup? What is there to celebrate? Do we celebrate because it is part of our Australian culture and heritage? Unlikely.
In my opinion we celebrate because we want an excuse to dress up and get drunk mid week. Don’t get me wrong, I am an alcohol enthusiast as much as the next bloke. I binge drank my way through a university degree and I stumbled my way around Sydney most weekends for about a year. Shamelessly, I even hit up backpacker nights mid-week (but that is a different issue altogether). When I drink I don’t need society’s seal of approval. I don’t dress up and pretend to take interest in an incredibly banal event. I don’t think this makes me any better, but I do relish the fact that I don’t care what people think about it. Today as I listened to the Melbourne Cup on the radio I heard someone say it was a great day for Gai Waterhouse, because ‘she has done so much for racing in this country’. They further went on to state that she really deserves to finally win the Melbourne Cup. I couldn’t stop thinking about the phrase – ‘done so much for racing’. The more I thought the more ridiculous it seemed. Doing ‘so much for racing’, was in fact doing very little at all. In the traditional, track side romantic suit wearing/ fascinator donning sense, racing is enjoyed once a year by many Australians, and many times a year by few Australians. The Melbourne Cup exists because a bunch of rich people have collectively spent millions of dollars on a bunch of poor animals that give a bunch of advertisers and bookmakers an event to make money from. It is an elite sport that is entirely dependent on wealth – nothing more. If you really want to see the real face of racing, then go check out your local TAB outlet on any day that isn’t Melbourne Cup. Day after day you will see dishevelled looking punters squandering away their hard earned money on the horses, the dogs, the trots and my best friend’s least favourite ‘the digital dogs’ (CGI greyhounds). So if this is the world of ‘racing’ that Gai Waterhouse contributes so much to, should she, or we, really be that proud? I say if you wake up in the morning and you want to get drunk- just go and do it. You can be like my neighbour and crack a bottle of red at 10 a.m. You don’t need to put on a suit and look nice. You don’t have to pretend to find horse racing interesting. Maybe you could combine it with a little gambling? A real wager – bet your mate that you can drink a cask of wine and race him around the block without throwing up. Call me a cynic, but I feel that celebrating nothing is better than celebrating the fact that a rich lady owns a nice horse. Image credit: Jordan.