Let Sluzewiec become green again,
I will put the program in my pocket right away,
Binoculars decorate my chest handsomely,
Granpa had them during Japanese hostility.
[click the photo to enlarge]
People, people – river of people! They are spilling from the buses and trams, they are filling parking lots and pavements. Big, small, bucks and chavs. Mothers are pushing strollers with babies in them, and the grandchildren are walking under the arm with their trembling grandparents. Until we won’t come to this unusual show we won’t be able to fully understand how popular it is. They don’t put in on the billboards, nor in the television, the radio’s silent about it, and in the newspaper we can only find a tiny column with the organizer’s logo on it and a short schedule. Despite this media silence, every single resident of Warsaw knows where his feet are going to take him at least a couple of times this season. Stands with the event’s program are held every dozen or so meters starting from the entrance – the first one, the second one, the third and so on and so forth – standing in a row up to the place where the box offices begin. The first one stands right before the gate – program for 10 zl. Further, price is the same, but only naïve will fall for this – in the box offices program costs 5 zl… Once, the authorities have had put more effort into promoting this form of entertainment – the bus stop near the hippodrome until this very day is called “Wycigi (Races)”, and the prize for the Wielka Warszawska Race (The Great Warsaw Race) is being handed out by the City’s President. The event itself is considered one of the most prestigious among those to be seen at. And according to the old customs, gentlemen (in general) are wearing jackets, and the ladies are putting the fanciest hats on their heads. It is good manners to take your fiancé to the races (at least once a season), if you have one naturally. Those who are alone or are in a relationship with the ladies who are not into this kind of amusement, most frequently come with the group of friends. The elegance is mostly welcomed in this place, and class and propriety are essential – even the chavs who were mentioned earlier, act like true gentlemen. But the races didn’t avoid commercialization – behind the main tribune we can find bouncy castle and cotton candy, but the organizers have hidden those childish entertainments in a very clever manner and they are not visible from the main zone. You have to admit that this bouncy castle is fulfilling its mission, because there are not a lot of noisy children on the tribunes. They have also set popcorn stands, and for those who have forgotten to eat breakfast, there are grilled sausages. The idea is great, but the performance rather not impressive – paper plates, plastic flatware and umbrellas with the logo of secondary brewery are stealing some of this places’ prestige.
Race no. 1 – Dandolo – Opening’s Handikap – Winner: Newerly
Race no. 2 – winner: Marywil
Race no. 3 – Nagroda Skowronka (Skowronek’s Prize) – winner: Farha
Bomb up, Ladies and Gentlemen, bomb up!
You have to have that something to predict how the future is made up!
Every player thinks upon this nightmare:
How to bid – stud or mare?
[click the photo to enlarge]
There is a lot of time until the icing of the program’s cake occurs – The Wielka Warszawska Race, but today we have the season’s opening and the emotions are not smaller. On the contrary – today’s arousal amongst the fans is the effect of winter’s race fasting and everyone’s spinning nervously waiting for the first race. The spring has not yet come here for good, but the sun is very warm already. It’s the character of the Polish weather, that it’s heating up in April, but it rains in July. We, the Polish people, willing or not had to get use to it, but we still complain about it. Maybe we wouldn’t have to complain on such a special day as season’s opening if it weren’t for the fact that the sun was giving us a hard time while standing in the lines to the box offices. There were numerous complains, very much scolding – that there were not enough box offices, that the lines were too long. We could have bought the tickets earlier (and we didn’t know about that), via the internet and save ourselves standing in long queues. Fortunately, we have made it before the first race and went strictly to the bets’ tents equipped with the program books. To say that it was easy to get to the totalizator’s stands is to lie awfully. Entering the provisional carport that was hiding twenty stands was a great achievement. It’s hard to say who’s standing in line, and who is only analyzing the statistics displayed on the monitors hanging on the walls to make the best decision and to bet the right horse. Hedging in the labyrinth, jostling, we have finally got to the checkout counter.
Race no. 4 – winner: Uczitelka Tanca
Race no. 5 – Tomasz Dul’s Memorial- winner: Nikus
Race no. 6 – winner: Emossa
Crowd is waving in a tight mass, coming forward face to face,
See you later, we will meet next to the ticket place!
You know, the hairdresser, that played hard,
Came here barefoot, but left with the Mercdeses car!
[click the photo to enlarge]
We didn’t make it to see the horses from the first race before its begun, because they left the paddock when we were still waiting in line to get the tickets. We’ve decided to bet it in haphazard way, following the beauty of horses’ names. We have bet the first and the second place – Suo and Newerly; and it turns out to be reversed – Newerly is the first, and Suo the second. Now we’re running towards the barriers, because the bomb went up! The adrenaline was also high; very high. Aaaaand… Yes! Newerly is first! But Suo is last…. 12 zl was sacrificed on the gambling altar. The necessary toll to be paid by the begginer player, that is why we are not discouraged and remain in the game. This time we are running to the paddock. Horses are always making two laps during which you can assess each horses’ shape and humour. Pavich is shaking her head, she is standing on her back legs. It is a balky horse – I’m going to bet on him. He will outrun all the other horses, for sure. But right after him, there goes Felix – beautiful gray, I can surely say that he is the most beautiful horse of today’s tournament. I will bet on him as well! But wait a minute… There goes number 7 – Marywil – sorrel gelding, a three-year-old. He balked with his hooves standing in one place, just right before me, he turned his head towards me and bowed his head three times while lifting his front legs. After this bow he allowed the leader to tame himself and finished the ritual round around the paddock. It couldn’t be an accident! It was a sign! I will bet on Marywill as well! Quickly, to the tent to buy the bets, and then to the barriers! Bomb up! And I wasn’t wrong – in the middle of the 1800 meters distance Marywil is leading. Yeeees! Marywiiiiil!!! Good horse! Thanks to him my former bets were paid off. Should I play again? Ha! What kind of question is that! Of course I should! And I would have forgotten about Felix! Felix turned out to be so madcaped that despite several attempts he wouldn’t let anyone to get him into the starting gate, and in result he was disqualified. There’s nothing for me from his beauty if I’d lost 3 zl because of him. To the hell with that! It went for the hay! Until the end of the day I made it even, but the racing emotions are all worth it.
Race no. 7 – winner: Finalistka
Race no. 8 – winner: Tybet
Once the extraordinaire professor asked me ordinarily
Joking if I ever heard of Einstein,
And I just gazed up,
On the bomb, that flies up above the cloud:
„Einstein – I say – son of Aiax and Minerwa,
Six years ago won Sluzewiec’s derby!”
[click the photo to enlarge]
Some people come home with empty pockets. The floor is littered with the lost bets – 3 zl, 33 zl (the lowest bet is 3 zl, and the players very often bet multiplicity of that amount). There are also winning paper bets from which today’s price has already been collected. On the bench, next to me, there is a receipt for reception of 675 zl. Lucky guy. Or maybe professional player? The most experienced players endlessly analyze statistics of particular horses. When did he start his career, how many races did he win, when he was second, and when third, was it by the length of a head, of a neck or the whole body, from which mother he was born, which fahter, champion or not, and so on and so foth. Although I was watching horse races for the first time in my life, I knew that those tables are no good. All of the horses in a given race are in more or less the same age and in the same condition, and while comparing winners with their statistics I didn’t manage to find the misterious formula so desired by the „professionals” – the key to a fortune. The Holy Grail of the horce races remains unsolved mistery that the players will have to face another day. It is over for today. It’s time to finish up our sausages and collect the prizes. The lost receipts are supposed to be taken out of the covers, smashed and thrown into the garbage – not to bring bad luck while making another bets. Children are leaving the bouncy castle with cry, and the horses are returning to their stables. Over the track, instead of screams, there is only the sound of crickets, and from behind of the now closed VIP tribune one can hear laughs and clicking of the glasses – breeders and jockeys are celebrating the beginning of yet another season.
– Perhaps another glass of Moët & Chandon, Madame/Sir?
The song “Bomba w górę!” (Bomb up!) by Jarema Stępowski; translated by Dorota Dębska.