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Sunday, January 28, 2007

A day at the races: Wellington Cup

Right here in Upper Hutt we have a very nice racecourse called Trentham. It's a horse track, just to clarify things a bit. Horse racing is quite popular here in New Zealand, perhaps not to quite the level that it was in the States back in the 1950's (so I am told, when it and boxing were two of the three most popular sports in the country), but it's definitely a large part of the sports coverage in the paper. There certainly is no shortage of 'punters', or those that like to place bets on the horses, so that's a big part of the appeal.

My friend Sarah, the newest vet where I work, sent me a text yesterday asking if I wanted to join her and her fiance at the track. It's always great to make new friends and this was a real 'two-fer' as I was also going to get to check out yet another bit of NZ culture that I have yet to see.

I have to admit, when she first texted me, I wasn't sure what kind of race it was. In my naivete I assumed it was a car race of some kind, as that is popular here as well. Also I had failed to discern just what kind of racecourse we have here in Upper Hutt, even though I've driven by it dozens of times. Such is the life of an absent-minded person like me!

Let's see, where was I ...

Oh yes. So I did get one clue in her text as to the nature of the type of race, as she mentioned that she still had to 'get all dressed up' and that I had a good couple of hours before they'd be up there. Still not 'getting the gist', I pressed on and decided to just get there and see what it was all about, for I was up for it no matter what was being raced: horses, cars, chariots, dogs, pigs - whatever.

Well, it was one hell of a day! The weather was just perfect, although once again I neglected to put on my sunblock. I really am living dangerously down here by not doing that, for there is a big fat hole in the ozone layer right over New Zealand so sunblock is a definite must. My current tomato-faced look serves as a glaring (and painful) reminder of just that, so let's hope this is the last time I get burned.

But when Sarah said she was getting all dressed up, she wasn't lying. It's a big tradition here, just like with the Kentucky Derby back home, for the women to not only get all gussied up but to incorporate large, showy hats with their ensemble. It's very cool! I have seen many attractive ladies down here in New Zealand so far, but wow there were some really ravishing women at the track yesterday. I think there was a race on, and there was definitely some hoo-ha over the horses that seemed to keep circling the track over and over, but I was a bit distracted by the crowd.

Actually that's not entirely true, I did spend most of my time chatting with Sarah and her fiance Simon, as well as their friends that were there as well. A couple were also vets, classmates of Sarah's, and others were friends from before vet school. Yet another group of friendly and funny people that I've met and I look forward to doing stuff with them again. I had to beg off going out with them afterwards as the money is a bit tight and I need to watch it for a while, so the race was enough splurging for yesterday.

Like many things you go to, the real point was to get out and enjoy the awesome weather and socialize and have a few drinks. The horses racing round us (we were in the infield) were just a pleasant distraction, every now and then serving up about 2 minutes of progressively more frantic shouting and cheering from the crowd as they (the horses) neared the finish line. From the sounds of it, lots of people made money, but an equal number lost quite a bit, too. As for the group I was in, one girl made enough money to pay for her drinks and food, so she was happy!

But they compared going to the Welly Cup with going to see the Rugby Sevens* or a game of cricket: you go to see the event, yes, but only during pauses of your conversation and perhaps whilst on the way to get another glass of wine or can of beer. I like the way these Kiwis think! Reminds me very much of how we Americans view baseball games. At least, the way this American does. I love the sport but I really do think that the reason so many of us love it is for the social atmosphere it provides. It's a great combination of getting out into the sunshine, hanging out with friends or family and indulging in a little beer and hot dog goodness.

Well it was another great weekend here in New Zealand, and I've been loving the past few things I've done but I've formed one bad habit: forgetting to bring my camera along. I didn't take it to Big Day Out, or around Tauranga, and now to the Wellington Cup. I promise to do better in the future and, of course, hopefully I'll do all these things again so I'll have a second chance at snapping some pics.
* I wish, wish, WISH I was going to this! Tickets sold out in FOURTEEN MINUTES. And I know why: it's easily one of the most popular events here in NZ. It's basically a huge two-day party downtown where mini-games of rugby (just 7 players a side) break out every now and then in the Cake Tin (Westpac Stadium). People get all dressed up in groups (pirates, angels/devils, men in drag - you get the idea) and just party down. But I have to work the weekend and anyways I'll try again next year.


Blogger Beechball * said...

You're not alone in the habit of forgetting to bring your camera... I too have formed that bad habit as of lately. Actually, it's not so much that I forget, and I just don't want to be bothered with it. For so long everyone stopped bringing 'their' cameras making me the one responsible for taking pictures and emailing them all out the next morning - forget it, now it's their turn; and have I seen on pictures since october? nope! Anywho, that entire scene (horseracing) seems surreal to even read about, and it definately reminds me of an old fashioned movie where everyone looks amazing in their gowns, corsets, fans, and suits with top hats on. I love that you're getting to see the world around you and that I get to hear about it through you. You're a great story teller (unlike myself, lol) so it's a pleasure to read about all the great experiences you've been having; keep it up Brandon! Take Care - and I gotta tell ya, if you do get to go to that event next year ( the rugby party thing) please... don't take pictures if you're in drag - I don't think I could handle seeing that. Unless it's hallowe'en, then bring it on! Tootles!

9:41 AM  
Blogger Brooksie said...

All right, Lyndsay, I guess I'll never upload that pic of me at a party in vet school with one of my friends. We went to a Halloween party in a group as the "Bud Light Ladies Night" pool players, from that hilarious commercial in the 80s. The one where a bunch of grizzly guys wanted cheap Bud Light so they posed as women (unsuccessfully) by going in drag. I had found some black fishnet tights, a pink cotton miniskirt and a sweet white turtleneck to wear - complete without shaving for two weeks. We were a lovely sight, I tell ya. Thanks again for the compliments and I'm only too happy to keep being your 'eye in the sky' down here in New Zealand!

1:03 PM  

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