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Stan’s Stuff - Cup Fever: How to pick a winner - Stan’s tips

By Stan Stewart

I am not kidding. I’ve done it! Picked a 100 to 1 winner. My wife also has a method, and it works for her. Bookies beware!

I have never been to the Melbourne Cup. I had never bet on the Melbourne Cup. But in 2015 I picked a 100 to 1 winner and here is how I did it.

In the church and community centre I led, there were some very stylish older ladies. On the day of the Melbourne Cup, my wife phoned to say I had to go to the home of a friend at 4.00pm. When I entered the lounge room, I was surprised to see four older ladies (our friend was one of them) all wearing enormous hats - not only hats; they were decked out in their sparkly best gear. Clearly this was an occasion. They told me they did this every year on Melbourne Cup Day. The coffee table was laden with exotic tiny treats and bubbles flowed freely.

They asked me which was my horse. They were aghast when I told them I had not chosen a horse. In fact, I did not have the faintest idea of the names of any of the horses in the race. This was completely unacceptable to this quartet of glitterati. I was promptly presented with the names of all the horses in the race and told to pick one.

The list confused me. Twenty-four strange names, how could I choose one? Then one stood out as something of meaning to me. ‘Prince of Penzance’ grabbed my attention. As a teen I was conscripted into a high school production of the Gilbert and Sullivan musical “The Pirates of Penzance”. I was the Model Major General and as such, brought down the house (I think). ‘Prince of Penzance’ that’s my horse. “That horse has no chance” they chorused. It is not even a dim favourite.” The odds were 100 to 1, a sure sign to racing enthusiasts that this horse is a dud. However, my memories of Penzance were so strong they could not talk me out of it.

Close to the race time, Pauline arrived. The quartet ridiculed my choice. My wife supported me. “We must put $20 on that horse, sounds like a nice name for a horse,” she said. But not one of us knew how to place a bet and the race started.

Incredibly, Prince of Penzance won the race – won the Melbourne Cup at 100 to 1. We were all in shock. And then we saw the winner as the horse was being paraded around. “I think the jockey is a woman,” I said. And sure enough, the jockey was a woman, Michelle Payne the first and only female jockey to win Australia’s (and New Zealand’s) most prestigious horse race. We nearly won a lot of money – disappointing! But it was still grand to pick the winner. (Look for the inspiring movie “Ride like a Girl” a 2019 movie on Michelle, her family and this event..)

On a few occasions, our relatives have escorted us into a TAB (government regulated betting shop). Many screens displayed races from around the country. My wife was invited to choose a horse for various races. In this location, placing a bet was easy. When we left, she had more money than she had wagered – around $170, I think. When our relatives asked how she was able to choose winners, she said, “I chose horses with religious sounding names”. Religion was a principal interest for us.

Some of our relatives spend hours pouring over the form guide - long lists of races and horses and writing little notes to themselves. Honestly, I don’t know how they fare with their betting selections. They don’t talk about it. Our way of picking winners is quite different to theirs.

We chose the horses whose names were somehow connected to us. If the horse’s name reminded us of an event in our history, or our current interests, that was our hot favourite. I am thinking that bringing to mind these good memories made us winners before we placed a bet.

But let’s face it, memories are tricky. Memories of failures can haunt a person. And then what about the “ifonly” memories. Dwell on these and the black dog of depression will come yapping. However, on the other hand, memories that bring warmth are valuable - life giving - nothing to do with gambling.

I loved the couple of months of being in ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ - the school struggler working with all those brainy high-school kids. On the stage we were all the same, a kind of family. I had forgotten how good it felt; and this memory helped me pick a winner. I reckon memories that bring warmth are worth hanging onto - revisiting again and again. They are winners.

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