Monday, October 25, 2010

A Day At The Races

I'm back from Galway, got in last night after a full weekend of touring beautiful places like the Connemara and Kylemore Abbey on Saturday, and the Burren and the Cliffs of Moher on Sunday. But I'll write about that later, when I have more time.

Today, rather than work, my roommate and I went to the horse races. Yes, there is a racetrack just outside of Dublin, and the tram takes us right there. A friend of hers works for a TV company, so we got in for free as members of the "TV crew". It would have only cost 7 euro for students anyway, but hey, free is free.

It was really neat, and I've never been to the races before. First they parade the horses around the ring with the grooms, and the horses are very thin and very high-spirited. I'm used to fat little minis, and I've never seen a racehorse in racing condition before. Then the jockeys come out, and they are tiny little men! Really, actually, where do they get so many men who are so small, so fit, and so into horses that they can be professional jockeys? Can anyone answer this very important question for me? Where do jockeys come from? Do they breed them on a special farm like the racehorses? I must know.

Then the jockeys have to get up on these horses that are 3 times taller then they are; and they do this while the horse is still walking around the ring. It's funny: they grab the saddle, start bouncing alongside the horse, and then the groom gives them a leg up (literally lifts them onto the horse by one of their shins) so they can arrange themselves on the saddle.

Then they go out to the racecourse, way at the far side from the stands, and get put into stalls (easier said than done with many of these horses), and you have to watch the lineup and the start from the jumbotron screen because they are so far away. They start racing, and they look like matchbox cars heading around the far side of the ring, because all you can see over the fence are the different colored jockeys, and they keep themselves perfectly level atop the horse as it careens around the track. And they go wicked fast. It's actually very exciting -- we watched several races, and only in the second one did the favorite win, and in none of them did the one who had the lead for most of the time end up winning. One horse, or a few, would always overtake in the last stretch, and sometimes even be overtaken by someone else before they hit the finish. Then everyone headed back to the parade ring to see them come in and collect the trophies, before the whole thing started all over again for the next race. In total, everything took about 20 minutes.

Also, I tried to get a mint julep, but the bar didn't make cocktails, so I had to settle for a cognac. *Le sigh* I wanted to do something that seemed fitting for a horse race, since I don't bet and I don't follow horse-anything. I don't even know how to bet. It's all jargon that is totally foreign to me.

It was fun. I would go to a race again. I can see how people can spend the whole day at the races, meeting friends, socializing, wandering around, and spending money. It's like going to a ballgame -- only half of it is for the sport.

But next time, I want that mint julep.

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