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Last weekend, we had tickets to the very prestigious Indian Turf Invitation Cup. The Consulate has a new Gunny (commander of the Marine detachment/gunnery sergeant), and he’s already got enough important friends to pull in some tix. I think he’s been here three weeks. Amazing. Anyway, we won tickets from the CLO in the lucky draw, so on Saturday we suited up and headed over to the Mahalaxmi Racecourse.

Actually, that’s not exactly how it happened. What really happened was that DB2 threw a fit about wearing pants. Pants. See, the racecourse has a dress code. Coat and tie for men, similar for ladies, and no jeans or shorts for kids. DB2 has a personal code that he will not wear anything that is not elastic-waisted, old, and ratty. So the khaki pants I told him to wear caused an epic tantrum. I threatened: no dessert, you lose all electronics for the rest of your life, I will give all your toys to a street kid. I still don’t remember what got him to eventually stop, but he did, and then I told DB1 to get on something nice. A raised eyebrow was enough in his case, and he squeezed himself into a seersucker suit, informed me that this was the very last time ever he could possible wear it, and then, with both well-dressed children trailing with cranky looks on their faces, we headed off to the racecourse.

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The CLO had told us that there would be a lot of traffic, so that we should be early. Of course, we took him seriously and showed up at 12:30 for the party that was to start at 1 p.m. Bad move. We were literally the first people in the gate. Food stands were still setting up. Organizers were milling about. Luckily, we only had to wait about ten minutes until a few more people showed up. All Americans in our group, of course. We sat around and had lunch before heading to the stands.  We walked around a bit, and checked out the sign for all the stables and jerseys, the odds and results boards, and the betting windows.  All good info for later on.

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As we entered the stands area, a few drops of rain began to fall.

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Confusion reigned; it doesn’t rain in India at this time of year. Still, it wasn’t too bad, so we just took it as a short and welcome respite from the heat. The area in front of the stands was all grass, and we could walk right up to the edge of the track. The seats themselves were far back – we had guest passes, but no guest seats. We were in the very back of the first riser. There were all kind of important people a gate over, and we could see the buffet set-up, the paparazzi, and the free-flowing drinks. It made our warm Kingfisher beers and hockey-puck texture biscuits all the less satisfying.

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It’s not an event until a street dog crashes it.

At one point, some big Bollywood star who was there to present the winner’s trophy walked by with a massive entourage. Dharmendra, his name was. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dharmendra He used to be a big action star, but he is old now.

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He was followed in by a marching band and cheerleaders.  I still don’t understand the cheerleader thing.

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The trophy itself was pretty cool. We went down to take a picture and the DBs even managed to lay a pinky on it. Without being arrested.

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Before the first race, DiploDad and the DBs studied the racing guide and picked out some horses. The first race, DD picked a winner. Actually, he the picked the loser. His horse came in dead last. It’s a gift, I guess.

DB2 picked the next race. DB2s method of horse-picking is much like mine: go for the cool name. This is not, apparently, a valid method of picking a winner, and National Star came in second to last. When DB2 realized that his horse lost, he cried. Poor baby.

Race number three, DB1 picked his horse. He put money on Shivalik Star. The jockey was an Irish guy, and the jersey had a swastika on it. What an interesting combination.

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Anyway, we went down to the gate to watch the horses come in. When Shivalik Star passed, we cheered. I don’t think that the horse fully appreciated it. We went back up to the stands to watch the race. Shivalik Star pulled into first about one quarter of the way around the track and continued to maintain it, finally pulling a length ahead to cross the finish line first. DB1 was thrilled, and 150 Rupees richer. DB2 then cried some more, gnashed his teeth, and whined that DB1 always won.

Race number four, I decided that we had to keep peace, because not only was DB2 upset, DB1 was rubbing it in like lotion. Geez, thanks, dude. My plan was to put R50 on every horse. DD thought that wasn’t a good plan.

“That’s ridiculous. Just put R100 on the first two. One is bound to win. It’s practically guaranteed. The one or two pick in every other race has won.”

So I let him have at it, in spite of my doubts. We went down to the gate to watch the horses come in again and cheered for our two horses.

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Again, they seemed nonplussed. Gratitude, apparently, is not a horsey trait. We decided to stay down by the lawn this time and watch the horses cross the finish line.

The gun sounded and they were off. The race sounded really close; cheering and screaming was much more intense than normal. We watched with bated breath as they rounded the bend. Our horses came in second and third. The cheering was for an upset. Sigh.

We broke the news to DB2, who was again so sad that his horse didn’t win. I tried to tell him that my horse lost too, that it was OK to lose sometimes, but it’s hard to absorb a loss when you are six years old.

There were two more races left, but the rain had picked up and we were getting tired, so we called it a day. On the way out, DB1 said to me, “I didn’t know it would be so much fun!” DB2 snorted, clearly disagreeing with him. “I didn’t know it would be so much NOT fun!”

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