I don’t gamble, and I am against animal cruelty. So why, every April, do I dabble in the former and tolerate the latter?
The cause of my annual ethical lapse is a horse race. Not just any horse race. This one is ingrained in the British psyche. It is a unifying event. It ranks with The Beatles as one of Liverpool’s essential contributions to the fabric of British life.
Several countries have annual horse races that have broken beyond the usual confines of the sport to become national institutions. The Kentucky Derby, for instance. In Australia, the Melbourne Cup. In France, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe.
For the duration of those races, amateur gamblers pin their fortunes on a particular horse, and for two or three heart-stopping minutes the dominant sounds in bars and homes across the nation are the thunder of hooves and a TV commentary crescendoing to virtual hysteria.
England’s Grand National shares the attendant cultural trappings of the world’s other great races, but there is one significant difference. Whereas those races are short sprints over flat courses, the National (as it is familiarly known) is a grueling steeplechase.
Steeplechasing originated in Ireland in the 17th century. The reputed first race was cross-country, between two churches. The riders had to jump hedges and streams as they galloped to the finish, using the church steeple as a navigation aid.
Formal steeplechase races were staged on British and Irish courses from 1794 onward, with purpose-built fences and water jumps. The season traditionally runs through winter, when the softer ground makes jumping less hazardous for horses and riders.
Nevertheless, the races are tough, involving more than one lap of the course, with many jumps to be overcome. The toughest race of all is the Grand National, held on Liverpool’s Aintree Racecourse since 1839.
Over a distance of four miles and four furlongs, the 40 horses must jump 30 fences before the final heavy-legged gallop to the finish line. Few make it all the way around. Some unseat their riders and run on, getting in everyone else’s way. But also, with unsettling regularity, horses die.
Of all the Grand National racing odds, the most macabre is 73-1. That’s the likelihood of an individual horse being killed during the race — for every 73 participants, one dies. When you place a bet on the National, it is often more likely your chosen horse will die than win.
In 2012, I bet on the third favorite, Synchronized. He lost his rider at the infamous sixth fence, Becher’s Brook, and then fell catastrophically at the 11th. When the horses came round for the second lap, they were diverted around the fence, where a discrete tent had been erected. I knew what that meant: Synchronized was being euthanized.
With a betting stub bearing the doomed horse’s name, I felt complicit in the tragedy. And yet, this year, on April 6, I will again pore over the Grand National supplements, weighing up runners and riders before making my annual bet.
I understand why campaigners have long called for the National to be banned. Ordinarily, given my love of animals, I would add my voice to theirs. But ethical considerations are overwhelmed by the absolute elation I felt when Red Marauder triumphed in 2001, returning me a handsome payday at 40-1. The feeling is addictive. Without my annual betting outlet, could I resist the lure of other forms of gambling?
So I’ll be betting again this year, with the foremost hope they all get ’round safely. And that my chosen horse will do so first.
While winter still lingers, head to Hyatt Regency Salt Lake City for a trip filled with ski adventures and hotel indulgences in the heart of Salt Lake City, Utah. The City to Slopes offer includes a stay at the brand-new property and two, exclusive Salt Lake Ski Super Pass lift tickets per day. These tickets offer 20 percent in savings for access to Alta Ski Area, Brighton Resort, Snowbird and Solitude Mountain Resort.
Awareness about fair and sustainable travel continues to grow around the globe, with travelers everywhere considering a destination’s eco-friendly options before visiting. As public consciousness for this important aspect of tourism strengthens, tourists also look beyond just ecotourism and delve deeper into types of travel that allow them to respect the local culture, interact with locals and distribute benefits fairly.
The Lanesborough, one of London’s most luxurious properties and part of Oetker Collection, offers a romantic afternoon tea experience alongside a hotel stay just in time for Valentine’s Day. Available Feb. 11, 12 and 14, Valentine’s Afternoon Tea features Rosé Champagne and a rose cake to share with that special someone.
Nashville’s once-modest skyline continues to evolve as its luxury market grows. Lavish hotel properties are added to the landscape while acclaimed chefs stake claim in the robust culinary scene and premier cultural offerings round out the city’s repertoire.
A deadly 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Türkiye and Syria Feb. 6, with more than 11,000 fatalities thus far reported. That number is expected to grow as rescue operations continue.
It’s time to start dreaming of your next trip. Here’s some destination inspiration for you. Take a visual journey through Seattle, Washington, with us.
FXExpress Traveler of the Year Contest 2023
Ever wonder what could be more relaxing than a cruise at sea? I found the answer when I embarked on the inaugural sailing of Princess Cruises’ brand-new Medallion Class Discovery Princess. An indulgent massage and hours spent in the Enclave, the onboard spa’s thermal suite, brought both my mind and body to a state of blissful contentment, the ideal complement to active days in port.