On Saturday afternoon I got a call from Donna asking what my Derby tip was. I told her Prized Icon. After we got off the phone I turned on the TV and watched the race. Sure enough Prized Icon came up the outside to record an upset win. I was upset too: I hadn’t backed it. A moment later my phone beeped. It was Donna. You’re unbelievable, she wrote.

It’s true, for 11 months of the year I would have no idea about horseracing, but come the Spring carnival I’m suddenly an expert. I say that with tongue in cheek, but evidence suggests it’s not far off the mark. I have an amazing record tipping winners of the Melbourne Cup – probably a dozen out of the last 20 winners, including the rank outsider last year, Prince of Penzance. 

That’s my stand-out race, but I do pretty well in the other races too, including with the multiples. I’d like to claim skill, or even insight. I do my homework, but half to admit that half my success is based on what I feel. I do all my research, mull it over, then I know it in my gut, and proceed. 

My grandmother was famously tinny when it came to horses, though she was always remarkably knowledgeable. My grandparents were great race goers and were members at Moonee Valley and frequent visitors to Flemington. As a kid staying with them I would watch them the evening before doing their research, my grandma making notes in her cramped handwriting. She was never more than a $0.50c each-way wager, but won thousands of dollars, including a big quaddie that financed a new kitchen. She was shrewd and had definite opinions (as she did about most things). She loved Peter Cook, couldn’t stand Roy Higgins, and even then thought ‘Black Bart’ was a sly genius.

I’m not particularly lucky. In fact in many ways the evidence seems to be to the contrary. But I reckon I seem to have inherited much of the tinniness, if not the skill from my grandmother. It’s at the stage I’m becoming notorious. Donna swears by me, and contacted me on Sunday to get my tips for the cup for that reason. I deliberated for a day and gave her my tips a day later. 

Like every year I have a main chance and a sly chance. I dislike betting on favourites, though sometimes it’s the one. I prefer to bet good value, with an considered outsider for luck. The outsider won me over $600 last year. In recent years I’ve also had a boxed trifecta. Last year I got 4 of the top 5 horses, but missed out. 

This year my tip was Almandin. My smoky was Grey Lion. I combined those with another 4 horses for my trifecta.

I worked yesterday. I snuck away from my desk to watch the last 20 seconds of the race in the common room. I arrived to watch 2 horses slugging it out down the main straight. It was a great contest, but I had no idea which 2 horses they were. Just when it looked like the inside horse might win the outside horse kicked again and won by the smallest of noses.

Then the results flashed up on screen – Almandin from Heartbreak City, with Hartnell coming in third, and with a very un-H-like whoop I exclaimed I’d won the trifecta. As well as the winner.

Sure enough a moment later my phone bipped once more. It was Donna. You’re unbelievable she wrote, you should be here. 

I was confident of winning something, but surprised all the same the same that the run continues. Happy too. I didn’t stake a lot – I don’t have the cash I used to – but still scored about $300.

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