Ever since I saw Julia Roberts in that famous brown polka dot dress in Pretty Woman I have been dreaming about one day going to the races or a Polo match. There is something particularly unattainable about these sports that attract beautiful, rich and famous people – maybe it’s the thrill of the bet for those who live in excess or maybe it is one of the very few occasions in our day and age where people still make a considerable amount of effort to look their best. Men put on their best suits and ladies spend endless days and nights in pursuit of their perfect designer outfit.
Growing up in Kazakhstan – a former Soviet Union republic I could never dream of ever experiencing something like that, if only having an idea of what those experiences would be like through movies and TV. Not only has it not crossed my mind but the very idea of one day living in a place where this is a weekend routine for some was not only highly unlikely but impossible in my world. Well here I am 15 years later and attending my very first racing event.
It started off as a regular rush around morning, unlike many people who attend these types of events I don’t have a personal stylist or a hair dresser to make me look fabulous – I rely on my own skills to go from 0 to a hero in as little time as possible.
Then the drive. Of course having a personal helicopter would help but my little Suzuki swift will have to do the trick for now. I am completely paranoid about the parking situation, I will admit parallel street parking is not my forte and walking a few km to the race in 4” inch heels is not my idea of fun. I am not a club member and there are no dedicated parking spots for me but luck is on my side and somehow I manage to squeeze into the first empty parking space I see. Confidently I stroll along the parking lot into the main gates of Rosehill Gardens race track.
I am overwhelmed. Wow and I mean WOW – I have never seen so many good looking and stylish people packed into a venue before. The whole thing looks like a huge wedding function. There are pretty women everywhere I look, drinking champagne and giving glimpses of those pearly white smiles. Men are certainly looking sharp in their suits, crispy white shirts and colourful ties.
Champagne glasses and laughter accompany me everywhere I go, people are chilling and having a great time. We are so lucky with the weather, it is a cool and overcast day and it’s just pleasant outside.
I feel pretty, I feel good (I am the one in white). I meet my friends, they all look stunning, we hang out together in a queue for a complimentary glass of bubble. We chat, we laugh and have a great time together.
We watch beautiful horses being paraded around the track, watch the races, post some fun pics on Facebook, we eat some Mexican food and we go up to the stalls for the last two races and then I see it…
I see it on the big screen, I see how six men are trying to drag a horse that is about to race into a gate, they pull it by the ear and drag it in with sheer force. My heart stops and I realise what really happens behind the scenes, behind the glamour and champagne bubbles, there is a lot of pain and suffering that these animals are subjected to on day to day basis. And suddenly none of this seems “Pretty” to me anymore.
Yes while it is true that human athletes also go far and beyond to achieve impressive results and many medals are gained through tears, pain and blood but there is one crucial difference between being a human athlete and a race horse. A human always has a choice to subject himself or herself through pain to become a well renowned athlete, while a horse is forced into submission…
While I certainly enjoyed catching up with my friends and looking all glammed for the day, this sport is not something I will be supporting in the future.
P.S at the time of completing this blog post, a well known horse by the name of Red Cadeaux has been injured in the most famous race of the Season – the Melbourne Cup 2015. And while ‘many’ are waiting patiently for news if the horse recovers, very few will step in to attempt to prevent these incidents from happening in the future. Last year, during the same race, two horses died from injuries.
As it turns out, I have reconsidered my “Pretty Woman” moment and in the future, I will need to find “Pretty” elsewhere..
Here are some links to some interesting articles on the real side of racing:
Thanks for tuning in and reading,
Maria Flash Photography