One of the best things about my current job is that I get every fifth week off. That means that Jen and I can pick somewhere to visit and clear off for a holiday.
As it takes around four hours flying to get from Darwin to most of the places worth visiting in Australia, I had a look at the options to the north and for this trip we headed off to Singapore.
I’d read mixed reviews of the place, most of them mentioning that it was a bit dull. Sterile was a description that seemed to crop up. These people have obviously never been to somewhere like Billingham.
We stayed in Chinatown in an old hotel that tried to give the impression that its décor was based on a brothel. A sumptuous establishment from a century ago, that is, full of red velvet curtains, rather than the back room of a modern-day massage place with plastic covered mattresses and trafficked Chinese farm girls. I doubt the latter would go down well on Tripadvisor.
We landed early in the morning and after dropping off our bags took an MRT train to the north of the island and the Kranji racecourse. It was six dollars to get in to the general admission area, which is about three quid. That got us everywhere apart from the Gold Room, which requires a collared shirt and so ruled me out on sartorial grounds.
It was busy inside, with most of the punters choosing to watch the races on the televisions rather than through the windows of the grandstand or from out in the open air. It was amusing to watch people shouting home their horses on the televised races from Hong Kong and Australia that filled the gaps between live action, although I suppose that’s no different from me exclaiming “FFS” and yelling my disagreement with something someone has said on the news.
I started off by trying to do things properly and bought a form guide, before watching the horses make their circuits of the parade ring. I may as well not have bothered though as I’ve no real idea what I should be looking for as they walked around. None of them had an obvious limp, which would probably have been sufficient for me to rule them out, but apart from that none of them looked as if they were any faster than the others.
My selection process changed when I spotted that Alan Munro was riding. Maybe some of you remember him, he was the young lad who rode Generous to victory in the Derby back in the days when Colin Todd was in charge at the Boro and ‘ooh’ Andy Dibble was in his initial clean sheet spell on loan rather than the less successful return some years later. Does that seem a long time ago? It does to me. That’s because it was.
Anyway, on the basis that I couldn’t be arsed to read my form guide, I decided that life would be simpler if I just backed whatever horse Mr. Munro was riding. I realise he’s knocking on a bit but he must still be agile enough to ride horses or else he’d be doing something else by now. I’m sure Lester Piggott rode until he was about sixty and I doubt Alan Munro’s quite that old.
The racing was a mix of grass and polytrack. I watched some from outside and others from high up in the grandstand where I could benefit from the air-conditioning and take advantage of the food court. It was all cheap enough, with spring rolls for a dollar a go and coffee and coke not much more. There wasn’t any beer for sale, which seems strange for a race meeting.
We made a rare profit on the day, or at least on the six races that we stayed for, with Munro winning one and then coming in third on a sixty to one shot. As we made our way out, there were still people coming in. Perhaps they had just got out of church.