Friday 3 April 2009

A Flutter, Colours (Silks) and Lawyers ...

Dear Mr Postman - thank you for bringing us your latest positive letter .. we're looking forward to hearing some fun snippets about our annual Grand National horse race, that attracts so much attention ...

This is the time throughout England when people who wouldn't normally be seen dead having a flutter take part in office, pub, club etc sweepstakes on the outcome of the Grand National. Small amounts of money are put into the coffer (the same amount for everyone) and you draw a horse from a hat .. that's it .. until you're all together again and can see who won the pot .. or there are those who wouldn't normally be seen dead in a betting shop scuttling into these establishments and placing the family bets .. or more dangerously those placing bets via the internet - I'm sure you've participated in one of these .. or popped down to the local bookmakers.

The Grand National has become part of England's required viewing or listening - a once a year special .. everyone caught up in the history and duration of this great race. The colours, excitement, the fashion, the punters all out or watching to see how many fallers, who wins, who lasts the course ..

The horses race round two circuits of Aintree's National Course - over a distance of 4 1/2 miles; during the race they jump 30 high fences, including the Water-Jump, which is the only fence not covered with woven branches of spruce fir, The Chair and Becher's Brook - the other two most challenging fences - and are only jumped once.

There's so much press build up to the race .. once the 40 top Runners out of 150 have been selected .. with the odds constantly changing as the pundits take up their positions .. evaluating the horse, the trainer, the owner and the jockey placing their bets up to the last possible minute .. the race is off and the 40 Runners and Riders are distinguishable by their colours - their silks - as they race round the circuit ... however fewer than ten may finish!

The jockey's "silks" are the registered "colours" of the owner or trainer who employs them and may stem from medieval times when jousts were held between knights; the multifarious patterns of today may have been influenced by medieval traditions in Italy of street racing.

However the taking of "silk" is a rite of passage when a jockey is first able to don silken pants and colours in their first race ride, and it has a parallel in how lawyers are spoken of as "taking silk" .... another story for another day ...

Thank you Mr Postman .. again an interesting letter and like so many others, as a family we've always taken an interest in this annual race .. I wonder who will win this year ... have you any idea? ...


Giovanna Garcia said...

Hi Hilary

I would love to watch the race in person. I am looking forward to following in the story of the Jockey's Silk.
Thanks for sharing.
Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than No Action

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Gio thanks for commenting .. I thought this one might particularly resonate with you .. and yes I will do another about the "silks" ..

..though regrettably I am completely unknowledgeable about horses!! Just like the story and history surrounding the Grand National

Thanks for enjoying the post ..

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters

Unknown said...

Hi Hilary,

Oh yeah, I am familier with these jockey's silk. They are so colorful in races, especially in big ones. I would love to see the race as I saw the race in Tokyo and Kentucky.

Thank you for your post. Your story reminded me when I used to watch horse races in Tokyo.

Shaw Funami
Fill the Missing Link

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Shaw .. it's so interesting hearing your Japanese & American side of life too .. and that you used to watch as you lived near your course in Tokyo.

Thanks for sharing those times ..
Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters

Peter Baca said...

Hello Hilary,

Great followup story on the Grand National! The information on the Colours Silks was really fascinating.

The English brought horse racing to the U.S. also. There are some great horse races here the Kentuck Derby and the Preakness here. We also have a horse track in L.A. Santa Anita.

It may have all started with the Romans and their chariot races.!

Thank you for your wonderul post!

Pete Baca
The Car Enthusist Online

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Pete .. thanks for the thumbs up .. I was really interested in the silks story ..

I gather there are some great races in the States - a friend I met in the Acute Brain Injury ... when she, aged 21, was there!!! lives in Kentucky and I talk to her when I come over. Unfortunately I know v little about horses ..!!

It may well all have started with their chariot races - you're right .. I'll check .. and do another at some stage ..

Thanks so much for sharing my interest ..

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters