The 5 Stages of Grief at the Happy Valley Horse Races

I'm TELLING you, the second time's always the char...awh, darnit.
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Every Wednesday night, the Happy Valley Racecourses see hundreds of spectators, many of them present in the hopes of getting lucky. With a minimum bet of HKD 10, it’s pretty tempting for anyone to place a bet on a horse, with options such as betting which horse will win, or which horse will place in the top three. Many people come with a strategy to help them win some money. Or maybe some liquid luck (*cough* beer *cough*) does the trick. But not everyone goes home with a heavier wallet and a lighter load in their chest. And what these people go through can only be described by the psychological phenomenom known commonly as “The 5 Stages of Grief:”

1. Denial:

You enter the racecourse with your friends, feeling overly optimistic and utterly oblivious to the fact that there is a chance that maybe, quite possibly, there is a chance that you could lose. You pick your horse(s), purchase your ticket(s) and head to the stands. The first few minutes of the race is nerve-racking, but nothing compared to the last moments, where your heart is galloping as fast as the horses up in front… none of these horses being yours either. But you refuse to believe the numbers you see on the screen. The screen shows 7, 4 and 9 coming in first, second and third, respectively. You bet on 2 & 5, which you nicknamed “Chanel No. 5” back when you were feeling positively cocky. But no. This can’t be right? Oh but wait! You bet on your horse to PLACE. And your Chanel No. 5 came 4th place! See?! The number is right there on the board! And the board only shows the top 4 places! Okay, so you’ve won SOMETHING (even though your friends are trying to explain to you that’s not how it works), but you completely disregard your friends, and off you go to the counter to collect your “rightful” winnings…


2. Anger:

You knew it all along, but just didn’t want to accept it at that moment – you get nothing except a metaphorical slap to the face when the lady at the counter tells you to check your ticket properly. You are fuming as you slowly walk away from the counter, back to your friends who had also lost, but are somehow taking it so much better than you. You go on a full-fledged rant about how stupid the races and the whole system is. You don’t once blame yourself and your hasty judgement. You feel like you could strangle someone at the moment, and you hate seeing the gleeful faces of the people who won. Your anger has completely clouded your good judgement, and thus you’re now walking towards the ticket counter…


3. Bargaining:

… to purchase another ticket. Maybe second time’s the charm (you forget the saying is actually “third time’s a charm.” But whatever.). You’ve made a deal with yourself: you’ll win this one, just to break-even. No more after this round. Just to break-even. With that, you go off to the stands. But just as the races are about to start, you can’t stop doing calculations in your head. If you win this one, maybe it’ll be the start of a winning streak? Maybe you’ve got this in the bag? And imagine, just imagine if you win the next few? There’s so much you could do with your winnings. Shopping? Saving up for that trip? A huge round of drinks for all your friends tonight? The possibilities are endless! Your sunny optimism is back, but once again, the reality of the situation completely throws you…



4. Depression:

It’s over. It’s all over. But you feel too weak, too emotionally exhausted to feel anger. You just feel like an utter failure. Even though most of your friends didn’t too well tonight either, you feel like you’re in the centre of a circle of gloom. That everyone is staring at you, and laughing at you. Your had hoped oh so badly, and all your received in return was a kick in the gut by cruel, harsh reality. You hear your friends in a distance. They’re saying cheer up, let’s head out now. You feel numb as you walk out of the racecourse with your friends.



5. Acceptance:

You get to Wanchai. The numbness has worn out slightly, mostly due to the incessant reminders by your friends of what awaits just a tram ride away from the racecourse. You get to a bar, music coursing through the walls. The music makes way and enters your ears, and you feel a smile coming to your lips. Oh well, you think. The night could have gone a lot worse. But you’re here, with good company, so might as well enjoy it and make some memories tonight. And who knows? Maybe you might get lucky next time…



Featured image: Panaoramio/

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