Saturday, 4 April 2009

The Grand National

This afternoon I watched the Grand National horse-whipping contest on the television. I have no idea why, because I've never bet a single penny on a horse and have absolutely no interest in the whole absurd "business". It made me realise that I simply don't understand horse-whipping as a sport.

OK, I think I can grasp the basics. A number of horses have to run over a prescribed distance, with or without hedges to crash into, each of them with a very small person sitting on them and beating them furiously. The horse that gets to the end of the course first and is still carrying its minuscule tormentor is the winner, unless the stewards have put their money on the nag that came second in which case the first horse will be disqualified. That much is fairly comprehensible. But what's the point of it?

As far as I can tell the only point is to deprive idle speculators of a few quid and put that money into the pockets of hard working bookmakers (maybe they are still called "turf accountants", I always liked that fine example of linguistic whimsy). But is there any point other than the betting? Without betting would anyone have the slightest interest in watching potential cans of dog food and pots of glue running round in circles?

It all seems pretty pointless to me, particularly because the vast majority of those who have put a few quid on a race will lose and those that win might only get a tenner profit. Oh well, that's their choice I suppose.

There is a serious point to this. Although the whole thing seems utterly absurd to me, others derive pleasure from it. In the process money gets swilled through the system and people are employed as jockeys, bookies, starters and manure shovellers when otherwise they would have to find something sensible to do. No doubt this year's race will be followed by bleatings from humorless harridans in macrame smocks that it involves cruelty to dumb animals. But someone needs to provide jobs for the jockeys, so I'm not so quick to condemn it. It is a fine example of how private enterprise can create employment simply by tapping into gullibility at a price people are happy to pay because the thrill of following their £20 note round the course is, to them, worth the money.


james c said...


Well said.

Anonymous said...

the horses which lose their microscopic drivers tend to run round the course regardless, unless they've died in the tumble. so it's a fair guess that the nags actually enjoy the running and leaping. secondly, it's a dull, pointless once-a-year stupidity tax. but not this year, we picked the winner, our coupla quid got us £254! it was the missis, she liked the name because it sounded like "my mummy" - it's a science all right.

TheFatBigot said...

Spend it wisely Mr Mous.