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Soup of This Day #310: A Hot Night Flier And A Rainbow Rider

May 15, 2013

Black caviar
Black Caviar is Australia’s most successful race horse. The mare has recently retired having remained undefeated in all of her 25 starts. This image above is not of her, instead being of actual black caviar. It’s a horse d’oeuvre – Image: Saibo, 2010. Saibo is not affiliated with Longworth72. Image cropped by Longworth72.

I like Aaron Sorkin’s writing.


It’s only just mostly because I haven’t seen The Social Network or Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip. Also because he occasionally gets too sanctimonious, with much righteous chest thumping and a surfeit of noble brows.

Which is ok – Noble brows are something we should all aspire to have. Abraham Lincoln, arguably America’s greatest President, had a noble brow. As did John Curtin, arguably Australia’s greatest Prime Minister. There’s nothing wrong with a noble brow. It’s just that brows don’t get noble by being beaten.

Recently I was watching an episode of The Newsroom where 1 of the characters was issuing a rallying cry for American journalism and a defence of her beloved country:

‘That America is the only country on the planet that since its birth has said over and over and over that we can do better.’

Yeah. I’m not saying that it’s not true – It’s just a claim that is so impossibly grandiose that verifying it is about as easy as disproving it. Or getting a horse to discuss the news.

Mr Ed was fictional Wilbur. Maybe don’t smoke the special hay.

Still, for his faults, I like Sorkin. His relentless optimism is uplifting, a necessary tonic to the bitter and cynical morass that is the professional world. He’s Mr Smith who went to Washington and then decided to be a writer instead of a politician because filibusters don’t just make themselves up.

The yin to to Sorkin’s yang for me is Armando Iannucci, whose credits include the English political satire, The Thick Of It and the American political satire, Veep. Iannucci is not relentlessly optimistic – He’s not focussed, like Sorkin is, on how the world should be. He is instead a sharp cynic whose dark humour is painfully close to how the world may actually be.

I’m going to attempt to channel both approaches as I write about a sport that I struggle with.

Horse racing.

My take on equine sport features only a few bright spots holding back a murky gloom. For instance the equine events are the only 1s at the Olympics at which men and women can compete on equal hoofing.

They are also the only event at the Olympics in which men or women can have their teammate shot for getting injured.

Imagine that at the beach volleyball:

‘Say Bob, did I jut see you limp a bit after that last block?’


That’s probably not sustainable and the dramatic injury management protocols are just the 1st furlong of my objections.

There’s also the inherent conflict that arises out of having a sport that is by-and-large carried by gambling. Yep, horse racing without a wager is like organized crime without the breaking of the law. Or Jimmy Stewart going to Washington and having everyone agree with him right out of the gate.

So the racing industry is fair in cahoots with the wagering industry – The latter is like Anakin Skywalker at the end of Return of the Jedi – He wants to be good and to live on but he’s so damaged that he needs all of this cyborg stuff just to help him breathe. Take his helmet off for instance and he’s off to the knacker’s yard. The cyborg stuff is betting and it provides the very oxygen that keeps its hosting sport alive.

This relationship was highlighted of late by a compact but flamboyant gelding of a scandal that has threatened to kick Australian racing in the arse, sending it flying over the rail and into disrepute. A call of alleged events follows:

Going from Gate 1 is Gai Waterhouse, Australian horse-training royalty. She’s rather good at it and consequently lots of rich and knowledgeable owners pay her to guide their horses to 1st past the post. 1 of those owners is, or was, John Singleton, who drew an outside barrier for this particular event. Singo is an advertising tycoon known for his brash larrikinism and a love of the limelight – You can expect him to lead early and often with little thought to pacing himself. He has, or had, a stable of horses with Gai, 1 of whom is called More Joyous. More Joyous almost missed this contest, as the mare was apparently not 100% before the run.

Meanwhile, at Gate 2, taking an inside track was bookmaker Tom Waterhouse, Gai’s son. Tom is arguably Australia’s most prominent bookie, with a 7 figure endorsement deal via commercial TV broadcaster Channel 9. On that platform Tom has the ability to mingle with a number of sporting identities, including Andrew Johns, who consequently is drawn at the barrier next to Waterhouse Junior.

Johns is a Rugby League Immortal, which means that he is considered to be 1 of the greatest to have played the game. Or that he is a vampire. In which case he is a talkative vampire because after forming the opinion from a conversation with Tom that Singo’s horse was not right, he then passed this information on to Allan Robinson, a former jockey and mate of Singo’s. Johns also informed Eddie Hayson, a brothel owner.

Because that’s what this story needs – A brothel owner.

Anyway, Hayson mounted up out of Gate 4 while Robson sidled up next to Singo, taking the 5th and next-to last barrier.




Armando Iannucci would probably argue that the whole kerfuffle is pretty much just satirising itself at this point – A self-perpetuating omnishambles.

So I don’t like horse racing and maybe that’s not really an eloquent explanation of why.

Aaron Sorkin could write up an emotionally charged and poignant speech about why it’s on the edge of morality and maybe just a bit over the edge. He could even get Jeff Daniel’s Will McAvoy to do an hour long expose. This would create a nice kind of breaking-the-4th-wall synergy for a couple of reasons:

1. Jeff Daniels is a Michigan man and a keen follower of the Detroit Tigers and the Detroit Lions. He knows sport and doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would want to put down a wounded teammate. Even a tapped-out tiger or a lame lion and let’s be honest, that’s probably been a temptation for some Lion’s fans of late.

2.Jeff Daniels knows the horse racing industry having played a race horse owner in Sea Biscuit.

Hmmmmmm… Actually, now that I think about it that last 1 was Jeff Bridges. Which kind of nobbles that latter point.

Oh @#$%, my writing is lame…


A Hot Night Flier And A Rainbow Rider

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