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Horse racing is a betting man’s sport

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.It is animal and jockey against their opponents and the track. On the sidelines we have those playing the odds. DFA Reporter, Murray Swart, decided to put his money where is mouth is.

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Excitement is building up ahead of this weekend’s annual Flamingo Park Horse Race, set to take place just outside Kimberley, on the Boshof Road, this Saturday.

Today will see work at the venue begin in earnest as horse racing enthusiasts from across the country begin to set their sights on the Diamond City.

While this upcoming event is guaranteed to be a true spectacle for young and old alike, weekly competition, however, is common place at the track just outside the city.

Horse racing is a massive industry, employing thousands of people and generating millions of rands for the economy.

While I have spent countless hours watching sport, the big three in particular, I am clueless when it comes to this discipline.

As is the case every Monday, today is race day at Flamingo Park.

So, in the build-up to an event that has the makings of becoming a crown jewel in the sport of kings, I played hooky (in the name of research) and made my way to the track last Monday.

I spent the first four races feeling like an absolute fish out of water. Feeling completely overwhelmed, I watched the horses parade about before taking to the track, their every move scrutinised for any clue as to who might win.

The animals were then guided to the starting line, the gates would fly open and the race was on.

Anyone who correctly guessed the outcome and put their money where their mouth is, would walk away wealthier with their dividends paid out of the losses of those who got it all wrong.

I then bumped into a seasoned veteran of making such calculated risks, who told me that the only way to gain any true insight would be to dive right into the thick of things.

Having never been one for games of chance, I pulled out my last R100 note and stared at it until I could almost see the disapproval in Nelson Mandela’s eyes. Despite this, I turned to my gambling guru and asked him to show me how.

“Go to that guy over there and tell him you want a Swinger one and four for R100,” said the betting boffin.

The fifth race for the day, the Soccer 6 Merit Rated (MR) 71, was about to start and this was my first attempt at playing the ponies.

I was still lost in all the names, numbers and nuances of this new sporting experience but was hitting the ground running.

“You have bet R100 that horse number one, Elusive Singer, and horse number four, Kali’s King, will finish in the top three,” my mentor explained. “Look for the jockey wearing bright blue with a yellow collar and checked, diamond sleeves. That’s Elusive Singer.

“Kali’s King is the horse with the jockey wearing a green shirt with a broad red stripe, green sleeves and a red cap.”

Suddenly, the gates flew open and off they went. By the home stretch, it was still neck and neck but in the end, Kali’s King caused something of an upset and claimed his place in the winner’s circle. Elusive Singer followed closely in second place.

Call it beginner’s luck but I had won R450. Best R100 I have ever spent.

While I was tempted to go for broke, I had decided, beforehand, that I was willing to wave my initial investment goodbye but would pocket any winnings. When that first R100 was gone, so was I.

Race six was coming up and this time, my mentor asked for a threeway swinger, three, four and eight.

Since the chances of predicting correctly were exponentially reduced, the odds were dramatically improved, so I halved my first wager and only put down R50, this time. Horses seven, 12 and eight finished first second and third, respectively. My R50 was gone.

In the seventh race, we went for a swinger two and 13. My second attempt at betting on horses had dampened the thrill of the first so I only put down R20.

Once again, I said bye-bye to my bucks.

With two races remaining for the day, I was down to my last R30. “I have a feeling about this next race,” said the expert. “Play it all. Go for broke”

When the horses lined-up for the final race, my initial R100 was gone but at least I had my R350 winnings to dry the tears.

I was not taking any more chances. My winnings were staying safely in my pocket.

In contrast, my mentor dug nervously into his wallet and took out his last R300. “I came here with R500,” he said. “If I lose this, I’m broke.”

He hesitantly handed over the three, crisp, blue notes in exchange for a humble slip of paper, predicting the first three finishes.

I was glad that I was walking away wealthier than I had arrived.

Sadly, had I followed my gambling guru’s example, I would have walked away with 27 times more money than I had waged. Yes, his last bet was a winner.

I am happy with my R350, but would have been absolutely elated with nearly R10 000. But that’s the gamble . . .