It was not the power of the tie that made his horses run faster but it was the belief that the tie was his lucky charm which enabled the horse to win given the natural ability of the equine star.
Superstitions are an inseparable part of horse racing. You may believe that all that is required for a horse to win is good pedigree, conformation and solid preparation besides the crucial component of ability. But in horse racing, even if the equine has all this, the owners of these powerful animals believe that they need to do more, possibly sit in the same place where they sat when their horses tasted success or repeat the same dress.
India’s biggest race horse owner Dr M A M Ramaswamy believed in lucky mascots and he had made it a point to wear the same tie for more than 30 years whenever his horses run in classic races. It was not the power of the tie that made his horses run faster but it was the belief that the tie was his lucky charm which enabled the horse to win given the natural ability of the equine star.
For a non-believer, some of the practices may appear bizarre but then this is what drives most race goers. Interestingly, quite a few of these superstitions are shared beliefs while some others are specific to the country of their origin and these determine what is lucky and what is not. In cricket, we have had Australian captain Bill Lawry who scored a century in the first Test against South Africa and he reportedly did not wash the clothes and wore the same dress right through the series lest the luck was washed away!
Similarly, our own Sunil Gavaskar was known to wear something new each time he went in to bat. Mohinder Amarnath always had a red hand kerchief dangling out from his hip pocket.
A horse shoe, especially the steel shoe, worn by an all-black horse is considered a lucky charm and you can see the horse shoe being nailed in front of a lot of houses. This belief is not exclusive to race goers. In India, horse has been a sign of power and prosperity and in the Hindu mythologies, horse is a recurring motif.
Many gamblers believe that sharing information may bring them bad luck and thus they develop negative traits of deceitfulness that makes them lie about their intentions. Some of the biggest race horse owners in the country, however philanthropic they may be outside the race course, are not so generous when it comes to sharing information on a possible winner.
Gamblers have greater trust in factors other than merit and they believe that playing a horse of a particular number can bring them luck which the psychologists put as cognitive error. If a gambler has been successful having started the day eating food at a particular restaurant, he may repeat the same practice till his luck runs out! Indians are big believers in superstitions, but Chinese being bigger gamblers, have a huge list of dos and don’ts before they venture out to gamble. They will never enter the gambling venue from the main entrance.
Indian race goers don’t count their profits before the end of day’s racing nor do they announce that they have made money. They keep saying that they have been hit by an evil eye so much so that they are losing all the time even if they have hit a jackpot. Some believe only in numerology and some others in astrology, mathematical factors and very few on the ability of a horse.
A curious onlooker can see a conflict of logic and irrational.
If a race goer has won on a consistent basis during a day, he would look at what transpired during the day and try to duplicate the same process the next day. I have often seen a punter change places each race in order to improve his vaastu. One of the leading trainers in Bangalore lost six bets in England in succession but was lucky with the seventh one. To the surprise of his colleague who was with him, he took out the ticket from his stockings! The trainer said that he had lost when he had put the ticket in his pockets and hence searched for a new place to keep the ticket for change of luck!
Gambling and superstition are inseparable. Indians have gambling in their genes. It may take different forms of expression like gambling on horses or on cricket or on shares. Man’s mind is like a store house of superstition; so much so that even if a man believes his own mind, even then he will create his own set of superstitions that he is sure to follow. The confidence for a gambler comes from the security of superstitions.