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The Oracle
by [?]

No tram ever goes to Randwick races without him; he is always fat, hairy, and assertive; he is generally one of a party, and takes the centre of the stage all the time — collects and hands over the fares, adjusts the change, chaffs the conductor, crushes the thin, apologetic stranger next him into a pulp, and talks to the whole compartment as if they had asked for his opinion.

He knows all the trainers and owners, or takes care to give the impression that he does. He slowly and pompously hauls out his race book, and one of his satellites opens the ball by saying, in a deferential way:

“What do you like for the ‘urdles, Charley?”

The Oracle looks at the book and breathes heavily; no one else ventures to speak.

“Well,” he says, at last, “of course there’s only one in it — if he’s wanted. But that’s it — will they spin him? I don’t think they will. They’s only a lot o’ cuddies, any’ow.”

No one likes to expose his own ignorance by asking which horse he refers to as the “only one in it”; and the Oracle goes on to deal out some more wisdom in a loud voice.

“Billy K—- told me” (he probably hardly knows Billy K—- by sight) “Billy K—- told me that that bay ‘orse ran the best mile-an’-a-half ever done on Randwick yesterday; but I don’t give him a chance, for all that; that’s the worst of these trainers. They don’t know when their horses are well — half of ’em.”

Then a voice comes from behind him. It is that of the thin man, who is crushed out of sight by the bulk of the Oracle.

“I think,” says the thin man, “that that horse of Flannery’s ought to run well in the Handicap.”

The Oracle can’t stand this sort of thing at all. He gives a snort, wheels half-round and looks at the speaker. Then he turns back to the compartment full of people, and says: “No ‘ope.”

The thin man makes a last effort. “Well, they backed him last night, anyhow.”

“Who backed ‘im?” says the Oracle.

“In Tattersall’s,” says the thin man.

“I’m sure,” says the Oracle; and the thin man collapses.

On arrival at the course, the Oracle is in great form. Attended by his string of satellites, he plods from stall to stall staring at the horses. Their names are printed in big letters on the stalls, but the Oracle doesn’t let that stop his display of knowledge.

“‘Ere’s Blue Fire,” he says, stopping at that animal’s stall, and swinging his race book. “Good old Blue Fire!” he goes on loudly, as a little court collects. “Jimmy B—-” (mentioning a popular jockey) “told me he couldn’t have lost on Saturday week if he had only been ridden different. I had a good stake on him, too, that day. Lor’, the races that has been chucked away on this horse. They will not ride him right.”

A trainer who is standing by, civilly interposes. “This isn’t Blue Fire,” he says. “Blue Fire’s out walking about. This is a two-year-old filly that’s in the stall —-“

“Well, I can see that, can’t I,” says the Oracle, crushingly. “You don’t suppose I thought Blue Fire was a mare, did you?” and he moves off hurriedly.

“Now, look here, you chaps,” he says to his followers at last. “You wait here. I want to go and see a few of the talent, and it don’t do to have a crowd with you. There’s Jimmy M—- over there now” (pointing to a leading trainer). “I’ll get hold of him in a minute. He couldn’t tell me anything with so many about. Just you wait here.”

He crushes into a crowd that has gathered round the favourite’s stall, and overhears one hard-faced racing man say to another, “What do you like?” to which the other answers, “Well, either this or Royal Scot. I think I’ll put a bit on Royal Scot.” This is enough for the Oracle. He doesn’t know either of the men from Adam, or either of the horses from the great original pachyderm, but the information will do to go on with. He rejoins his followers, and looks very mysterious.