Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Royal Ascot Goat Races

It is hard to know where to start in describing the annual goat races at the swanky Munyonyo resort on the banks of Lake Victoria. I imagine when the event began the organisers had tongue firmly in cheek when naming the event after one of the UK's premier flat racing - and society - meetings at Ascot. Indeed comparing the two events would surely be futile? Ascot is of course defined by lavish hats (check), huge corporate tents (check), free-flowing booze (check), long networking lunches (check), gambling (check), excitable race commentary (check) and the finest thoroughbred horses (ah ha!). I'm sure thoroughbred goats do exist but they certainly weren't on show on Saturday. And needless to say even the lightest of jockeys would struggle to mount these farmyard animals.

After the first four races, and with my pocket considerably lighter due to that classic racing ailment of second-itis, it was time for the showpiece race of the afternoon, the Zain Gold Cup. Ten goats were to race three furlongs (or three circuits of the track) for a prize pool of 6 million shillings, or just under two thousand pounds. If only Walthamstow had caught onto this craze.

Having had little luck so far, and armed with a tip from a goat owner in the Pakistani telecoms corporate tent where our group was being hosted, it was time to head to the paddock to check out these racing demons for myself. Happily grazing on the sand dunes one fine young billy goat caught my eye. Wearing the Number 2 vest and straining at its leash, it looked primed for the race of its life. After thrusting my last battered notes into the hands of the friendly Tote lady I headed to a position near the winning line and waited for the off.

To my surprise with a circuit to go Number 2 was three lengths clear and pulling away from the chasing pack. As it rounded the last bend it seemed certain to win but, and herein lies the peril of goat racing, the grass on the home straight proved far too tasty for my goat's finely tuned racing mind. Losing a vital five seconds as it paused to snack, Number 2 was overtaken by the suspiciously muscular favourite, who stormed past to take the race following a photo finish. I'll let these photos do the rest of the talking.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I need some tips for the next meeting! I really hope the goats are not eaten afterwards!