Despite owning a pair of silk pyjamas, I have never allowed anyone to photograph me wearing them – which is probably one of the main differences between Hugh Hefner and me. Hefner, the 91 year old founder of Playboy Magazine, died last week, prompting speculation that he’s unlikely to have found himself in a better place than the one he left behind on earth.
There are plenty of people who believe that Hefner will have been cast directly into the violent winds of the second circle of hell where, according to Dante, the lustful are blown back and forth for eternity – unable to enjoy peace or rest. For company he is likely to find Cleopatra and Helen of Troy, who had better watch out in case they end up wearing a pair of bunny ears and a white fluffy tail.
But that’s missing the point of the joke – which assumes that there’s nothing on offer in heaven that would surpass Hefner’s life at the Playboy Mansion in California. Which is where I have some sympathy for Mr Hefner. Not that I’ve had a lot of experience of life with bunny-girls, unlike one Clerk of the Course that I used to work with – who accepted the task of driving bunnies around Worcester city centre in an open-top sports car in order to promote Playboy’s race sponsorship.
The fact is that I’m struggling with the concept of an after-life without horseracing. Is it possible that there’s a better situation, in this dimension or the next, than having a job in racing? For a large portion of our lives, racing people exist in a glorious bubble, insulated from the malign influences of the outside world such as pornography and politics. Racing provides a fantasy land where we can curl up in our silk pyjamas and consider the major questions of life, such as: who will win the Grand National, now that One For Arthur is no longer going to make the line-up?
The Playboy empire started with magazines, extending to television, the internet and more – bringing pleasure to millions, while being frowned upon by lots of other millions who considered the whole enterprise to be downright seedy. Which, like it or not, is similar to how some people view horseracing. Our dedicated newspapers may occupy the bottom shelf of the newsagents instead of the top one, but racing also enjoys wall to wall coverage on several bespoke TV stations, bringing frivolous pleasure to the masses – although with fewer bunny costumes, which I think is a shame.
This Sunday’s racing at Kelso features a typically heavenly prospect – a £30,000, two-mile, steeplechase attracting a quality field headed by Simply Ned and Forest Bihan. Also declared is the Aintree Festival winner Double W’s and the multiple Cartmel winner Wisty. I’m looking forward to seeing Wisty, who jumps like the proverbial bunny, lead them a merry dance – he’s my selection for the weekend.
I’m also hoping to dodge the second circle of hell – my quest for big priced winners being more likely to land me in the third or fourth circles, reserved for the gluttonous and the greedy.