Friday, November 21, 2008


Originally uploaded by Paul J Everett

I spoke with a retired Norwegian oilman this evening. He was sturdily built with a grey scrubbing-brush moustache, a broad face and wide apart eyes. He had quit his job a few years ago after a company merger, leaving with a good redundancy payment and intending to go back to work after a short time off. Eight years later he now considers himself retired. His home is Norway, but he spends many months away, either in the Far East or at sea, sailing with friends. His preferred occupation these days is following the horses. A couple of months ago he placed a 105 kroner bet on a combination stake and won 640,000 kroner. Divide by ten and you have the value of this win in pounds sterling.

Most horse racing in Norway is not the traditional British-style horse-back riding, but what my Norwegian referred to as "trotting". The "trotting" horse pulls a light-weight carriage in which the driver sits. Many cities in Norway have "trotting" tracks and take it in turn to stage races on different days of the week. Bets are placed either in high street betting shops or on the internet. The typical bet is to predict the winner of a sequence of five races. If you're certain the winner will be one particular horse in each race, you bet on only one horse and your bet will be 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 x 1 kroner, or 1 kroner. But of course, you'll be very unlikely to win. More usually there will be some races you feel confident about the winner and others not so confident, so you'll bet that one of several horses in a particular race will win, then your bet depends on how many horses you fancy like this: 1 x 3 x 1 x 5 x 7 = 105 kroner.

This is the bet my Norwegian made when he had his big win. One of the horses he was certain would win belonged to an associate of his, a wealthy Norwegian race horse owner from Stavanger. When my Norwegian rang his friend to let him know the good news, and tell him that he had won by betting on his horse, the friend said: "Since when have I owned that horse?"

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