String theory by Joseph Gerard Polchinski

By Joseph Gerard Polchinski

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I’ll argue no more. I’ll simply explain why I consider Bernborough to be a better horse than Phar Lap. Bernborough was scratched from the 1946 Melbourne Cup a week before the event. Believing as I do that he would have won the Caulfield Cup comfortably if his rider had allowed him, I have no trouble in supposing that he could have won the Melbourne Cup as well. Assuming that he was entered for the Melbourne Cup of the following year and was allotted a weight a little more than Phar Lap’s weight in 1931, then I feel justified in my belief that Bernborough rivals Carbine in being our greatest horse.

All three adults in the room attended the race meeting, wherever it was. My father would have gone alone, as always. George and Bernadette Kelly, like thousands of other working-class couples in that era, would have dressed in their best clothes, he in a suit and tie and she in a coat and hat, and would have considered the outing their chief social event for the week. In the trams and trains that they travelled on, most of the passengers would have been racegoers or, if the season was winter, a mixture of racegoers and football followers, and the Kellys and their like would often, on their homeward journey, have had with strangers the sort of conversation that they had with my father on the Sunday in question.

When I first heard of Teddy, he was a widower and aged probably in his forties. He owned a comfortable house in the Travancore estate, in what was then the better part of Ascot Vale and not far from Flemington racecourse. He lived with his mother and Gerald, his only child. Teddy always drove a near-new car. He sent his son to Melbourne Grammar and later to university. When Teddy was in his fifties, so I heard afterwards, he married a much younger woman and became the father of at least two more children.

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