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Chapter 5 – A Day At The Races

Even though Mary was still down, she was enthusiastic about Marcus going to Melbourne with Dave. “You still have your old suit, I will get it out for you” she said. On Friday Marcus went through the same ritual, buying the newspaper and picking his horses for the next day. The old lady was in fine voice, and this time had another lady sitting next to her who may have been even worse. They even teamed up to drown out the usually razor sharp comments by the old man. Marcus smiled and kept on looking at the form guide. Dave was excited about the next day, and he kept reminding Marcus about what to bring to their big day at the races.

On Saturday morning Marcus put on his old suit and was surprised. It still fit him really well, and Mary had even polished his leather shoes. Around nine am he heard the beeping of a horn outside. It was Dave and his wife, Trina. Dave jumped in, and after exchanging pleasantries with Trina they set off to Ballarat. They were early for the train and there was quite a chill in the air, and Marcus was glad that he brought his jacket with him. Dave had also pulled out one of his better outfits, and the pair were looking quite dapper.

The train arrived on time and the two men chose their seats. “You picked your horses for the day?” asked Dave.

“Yeah mate, I had a look yesterday”

“You going to actually have a bet?”

“Nah mate. This gambling thing is not for me. I'm happy to watch the races though”

“Your loss I guess” Dave said, smiling. “I've got five hundred bucks to burn today. It could be a good day”

“Here's hoping. As long as we don't have to walk home. It is a long walk”

They arrived at Flemington racecourse at around 11 am, a full hour before the first race. Marcus was blown away. People everywhere, women in hats and beautiful dresses, men dressed to the nines in suits and ties, the perfectly manicured racecourse. Marcus had never been to the races before, but but boy had he picked the right place for his debut. The grandstand was multi level, with bars and restaurants. He had never imagined that it would be so elaborate and was glad that he decided to wear his suit, he would have looked so out of place otherwise. They bought some food and decided to find a good seat in the grandstand before the first race.

Meanwhile, in one of the corporate boxes high in the grandstand, John Margate pondered over his many computer screens. He was one of the biggest and most renowned bookmakers in the country, just like his father and grandfather before him. “We took a huge hit last week” he remarked to one of his employees sitting next to him. “We need to get it back today or we may be in a little trouble”.

Marcus remained seated in the grandstand and guarded their seats while Dave went to put a bet on. There were two younger men sitting next to him. He overheard them talking about the upcoming race.

“I reckon Gilded Lily in this one” the shorter one said

“Too much weight. What about Vircex? It's won here before and it has a good jockey”

“Not sure. He hasn't won in a long time”

“Nah, I am going to back it”

“What about Archangel” remarked Marcus

The two men looked over at him. “No way mate” said the shorter one. “Country horse, never raced here, it's like fifty to one. No hope”. Marcus shrugged his shoulders and at that moment Dave returned. Sitting directly behind them, a stockily built man wearing sunglasses listened, a little bemused. 'Saturday experts' he thought, smiling to himself.

“That was one hell of a line, we need to get our bets on early” said Dave

“What did you back?”

“The favourite, can't see him getting beaten here really”

Marcus didn't reply and they settled back to watch the race. There was plenty of pace in the race, and the favourite Shining Bright leading but getting no peace in front. He looked like he would hang on however got swamped late by a wall of horses out wide. The winner of the race burst through the pack between horses and won by half a length running away.

“Shit, where did that come from. Let me have a look. Archangel, it was over sixty dollars to win. That would have been nice” said Dave

“Yeah would have been hey” answered Marcus.

He briefly glanced over at the two young men next to him and smiled. The smile was not returned. The man sitting behind them also saw this and chuckled gently. Soon it was time for race two, and once again Dave scurried off to get his bets on. The young men next to Marcus began debating between themselves again. One of them asked him “You going to fluke the winner of this race again mate?”

“I guess I got lucky that time hey. No crystal ball this time, the favourite, Mystique wins this one” replied Marcus

“Nah mate. Too short. I don't think he can win”

“Up to you” shrugged Marcus

The race started and the favourite drifted well back in the field. Upon straightening, the jockey pulled it to the outside and within a few strides it gathered in the leaders and won under a hold. This time Marcus didn't even look at the pair, he just chatted to Dave, who was no winners from two races so far.

“The day is still young” said Dave

“I'm sure you will be right mate”

As the day progressed, Marcus kept debating with the pair next to him, and come race six, he had picked every winner so far. The taller of the young men sitting next to him leaned over and said “Ok mate, I concede you are on a roll. I'm going to back the horse you think will win”

“Are you sure? I really like Misty Maiden in this race”

“Come again?”

“You heard me. Misty Maiden”

“You have got to be kidding me. Its one hundred and fifty to one. You are having a lend of me aren't you”

“Well, you asked”

“Go and back Ethiopia” he said to his friend, shaking his head.

Marcus was probably the only one not shocked when Misty Maiden won race six quite easily. Dave was looking miserable, he had not backed a single winner, not even a place. “Shit man, I'm going down the toilet here”. Marcus didn't mention that he had picked every winner so far, and Dave had not asked. At this point the young men next to him were starting to argue heatedly. “If you just listened to him, we would have cleaned up. Now we are over four grand down”

“Come on. How could anyone have backed that last one? He didn't even back it himself”

“Still, only a few bucks on it even and we were laughing”

“Whatever man”

The stockily built man sitting behind them however had started to really pay attention to Marcus. Surely no one could get that lucky. Fluke? Maybe not. It wasn't like he was picking every favourite and they were winning. Two of his predictions were sixty to one and one hundred and fifty to one. There had to be more to this. It was time to go an talk to the boss.

“Jimmy, how are you?” said John

“Not bad John, just been in the grandstand”

“Yeah tell me about it, its been brutal today, I'm getting hit pretty hard here”

“Yeah it's a tough day. Tell me John, do you know this person at all?” Jimmy showed John a picture on his mobile phone.

“Nah, can't say I do, who is it?”

“Buggered if I know, but you wouldn't believe it, this guy has picked every winner so far today”

“What do you mean? Every winner? What about that donkey, misty something?”

“Yes, even that one”

“Bullshit. No one could have seen that coming. Even the jockey was surprised as hell”

“No joke. He was talking to a couple of young blokes, I don't think he knows them. He is there with a mate of his who can't even pick his nose, but before each race he told these blokes who he thought would win” said Jimmy

“Mate you and I go a long way back. I have fixed races, I have bribed jockeys and trainers and half the time I still can't find the winner”

“Yeah I know. So what do you want to do about this here?” Jimmy gestured at is phone

“See if you can find him. Talk to him, maybe invite him up here for a drink. Be friendly, maybe we can get something out of him, see who he works for”

“You don't think he's just fluking it”

“Jimmy, how long have you been in this game?”

“I dunno, around 25 years or so I guess”

“Then you know the answer already. No one ever just flukes it like this”

“True. I will see if I can get him up here”

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