The betting ring’s answer to Victor Meldrew and six winning jollies.

Exeter 09/10/02

It was  cold, grey and damp at Haldon as the bookmakers set up their joints prior to racing. Generally their spirit and banter is lively and hopeful. Tales of the previous week’s gains and losses, short heads that cost and the made the day and hopes of short ones that might well get turned over in the six races to come abound.

Generally is obviously a generalisation and it would be fair to say that one west country bookmaker who’s name I shall not mention here has the reputation of being less than cheery, if smiles were pounds he would have been in the workhouse years ago. Although considered by many to be somewhat gruff and indeed likened by one wag as the Victor Meldrew of the racecourse, the gent is also liked by most and respected by all as a shrewd operator who hasn’t survived in the ring all those years by being anybody’s fool. Despite the guarded optimisium of his fellow layers he was of the opinion that they wouldn’t be getting much today.

It would take an extra half an hour to find out if our hero’s miserable predictions would come true as racing was delayed because of a non-starting ambulance.

‘We will probably wish it never arrived later’ was Meldrew’s comment when it eventually turned up.

When betting started the shrewdies wanted to be on Boxers Double and had little lumps on at 20/1 down to 8/1, the clever money stayed in the satchels or at least was given to the favourite backers as Carl Rafter steered home What Do You Know, the  9/4f to an all the way victory. He won well but only after a few hairy moments not least at the first flight. The gamble could only finish fifth.

Philip Hobbs trained Sammy Samba in the next, the punters sent him off 6/4f favourite and Tom Malone rode him to an effortless victory to follow up at his success at the previous meeting. The queues of winning punters were quite long, as were the faces of the bookmakers.

My Bold Boyo was sent off the 4/6f in the next. Trained by Kevin Bishop and ridden by Roddi Greene he proved to be the third winning favourite in a row.

The traditional hopeful demeanour of the bookies seemed to be wearing thin with one in particular, but they had no option but to get on with the next and hope for a change in fortunes.

It would have taken an act of God to stop Robert Alner’s Diletia  and he was seemingly having none of it, no slip ups and no hitched feet to save the battered bookies as 2/7 fourth favourite of the day cruised to an easy victory.

Kevin Bishop saddled the next favourite in the shape of aptly named 11/10f  Grave Doubts. One bookmaker’s floorman asked his boss if they could ‘get out [of trouble] on the day if this one got beaten’ the normally rosy cheeked and jolly front row regular replied that the only way to ‘get out’ today was by jumping in the river. Thankfully he didn’t follow up his words with actions as Roddi Greene provided himself and Kevin Bishop with a double on jolly number five.

The queues of winning punters were once again lengthy and none more so than at the seemly gloomiest and unsmiling joint.

Only three runners lined up in the last, Martin Pipe and Tony McCoy were in the trio but were not favourites, that was the last glimmer of hope for the layers, the unthinkable notion of the combo that is normally the financial thorn in their collective sides would come to their rescue. It was not to be as Paul Nicholls’ Il Capitano at 8/13 made it favourites 6 bookies 0 by beating the AP horse Maragun by a length.

As the punters gathered in the gloomy half- light to claim their winnings there seemed to be a glow emanating from the most unlikely of pitches, nobody could quite believe it. Punters queuing to draw from the bookmaker we affectionately likened to Meldrew  were greeted with a warm and happy smile as he peeled off notes in a fast and deliberate manner. This he continued to do until they all had gone. This situation was not lost on the other layers who mixed a look of misery with mystified on their faces. Noticing his counterparts’ looks of bemusement Meldrew looked up with a cheeky grin, reached into his raincoat pocket and produced a betting slip. The undisclosed amount had been placed on a six horse through the card unnamed favourite accumulator at Exeter. How much did the wily old fox win? He wouldn’t say, but as he drove off one onlooker observed that for it to produce a smile like that it must have been a nice few quid.

©Simon Nott

My book ‘Skint Mob – Tales From The Betting Ring’ is available now, please follow this link for details

Review from the Racing Post 23/03/14

Review from the Racing Post 23/03/14


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