SYDNEY - Occasionally I like to have a small flutter on the horses, usually with little success. But it’s a pleasant pursuit I continued through my PNG days and the infrequent win was always a cause of great delight.
The only time I won anything worthwhile was when former Papua New Guinea colonial politician John Pasquarelli (later Pauline Hansen's controversial adviser) advised me to back his horse, Luddenham Lass, which won.
Trevor Downs, owner of the Vanimo Hotel, also tipped me his horse, Binatang. It didn’t win but came second at odds of 100/1 so I still collected.
But my biggest pay-day ever in PNG was purely by accident. Back in the 1970s I used to regularly back a magnificent grey horse, Ming Dynasty and I had wagered on him when he won the Caulfield Cup in 1977.
Three years later, Ming was in the Caulfield again, but at nine years of age up against horses of the calibre of Kingston Town and Melbourne Cup winner Hyperno, he was given little chance.
The bookies sent him out at the beautiful odds of 66/1.
Anyway, I decided sentiment is not the go in punting so turned my back on Ming Dynasty’s and instead put my hard-earned on his full brother Star Dynasty who was also in the Cup.
From my vantage point on a stool at the bar of the Aviat Club in Moresby, I rang the bet through to bookie Jim Dwyer. There was a lot of background noise and Jim, who was a little hard of hearing, had trouble getting the details. However finally I got the bet on.
Well, you probably deduced what happened. That old Ming Dynasty, at the dazzling odds of 66/1, blitzed the field and easily won the Cup leaving me well and truly pissed off and urgently in need of another beer.
Three days later the account from Jim’s bookmakers shop arrived in the mail. At first I was tempted to tear it up but figured I’d still have to pay it so opened the envelope. To my surprise, instead of a debit slip was a cheque for more than $2,000.
Yes, you guessed it. Old Jim the bookie had misheard me over the phone and knowing that I had a soft spot for Ming Dynasty, assumed that was the horse I wanted to bet on.
Naturally I didn’t enlighten Jim about his mistake. I’m sensitive that way.
However, I had a hard time keeping a straight face when I next met him at the Aviat Club bar and he said, ”Well, Al, the old fellow got up, eh!”
I don’t know if Jim Dwyer’s bookie shop is still operating in Port Moresby but if it is and they read this, I have no intention of reimbursing them.