Tales From The Betting Ring – Newbury 21/03/14


It was all fun and games in the betting ring down in Tatts before racing. After Ian of the Jack Bevan firm’s birthday celebrations at Exeter, this time it was turn of boss and fourth generation Metcalfe Paul. At 40 he is still a spring chicken compared to Ian. I arrived just after he’d been presented with a gift by his colleague Paul ‘Pickwick’ Gold. Paul G is renowned for his friendly demeanour and from this day on no doubt generosity will be added to those attributes when spoken fondly of. Anyone lucky enough to have been on nice holidays as Paul G has will have seen those tiddily Gin and Tonic drinks you get in the pricier seats on the plane to warmer climes. So I’m told in my case. Anyway, Paul G had apparently saved one of those cans and kept if for his pal so he could have a drink on him on his birthday. It’s safe to say Paul M was touched.

A rather bashful birthday boy.

A rather bashful birthday boy.

While on the subject of the Bevan firm, it seems I did Ian a disservice when reporting on his birthday. I related that the rascal bookies had got the course announcer to say it was his 70th when it was in fact his 60th.  The story doesn’t end there though. One punter who knows the firm so well he not only knew Paul Metcalfe’s father Ian but his father Harry and possibly even his father Percy, chipped in; ‘I know he’s not 70 or even 69’ he stated with some certainty after Ian had protested his age, our man’s crestfallen demeanour suddenly dissipated and was replaced by a swelled chest and a beaming grin. Not for all that long though as the veteran punter counter-punched with the line, ‘No he’s not that old, but one thing I know for certain, he’s definitely a pensioner.’

It has since come to light quite why the jovial Ian was quite so put out, he is in fact a sprightly 54. Ooops sorry Ian.

On the subject of Ian, he had been keeping himself busy rather than sulking. The first wager of the day had already been struck between our 54 year old mate and Graham who takes bets for Ivor Perry. Ian was clad in waterproofs and Graham his summer clobber. And argument, though not heated, had resulted in a five pound wager on if it would rain before 3.20 with Ian on the side of it raining, hence his protective gear. Both were bullish and expecting to draw at 3.21.

There was racing business to be done before that and an odds-on shot to get stuck into. Stuck into he was too Call Me Vic was backed from 5/6 into 8/11 but could only manage second behind the second-favourite My Wigwam Or Yours. Not a bad start for the bookies. Except one that is. He was filled-in by a bet for the third. A punter wandered up and had £150 each-way on Audacious Plan at 100/1, the form book will relate it finished third at 50/1. Nasty.

I was speaking to a guy who was working on the rails that day. He told me that he had been awoken at 7.30am on Saturday morning but a mate of his, veteran floorman ‘Mossy’. ‘He rang me to tell me that someone in the UK had won the Euro Millions draw the night before and wanted to know if it was me’ he explained incredulously. I know some people, myself included, did their cobblers at Cheltenham, but that really was clutching at straws Mossy. As we know the bookies had it spark off though some better than others it seems; ‘Orgasmic’ was one’s spicy description of it. That given, quite why some of them seem keen to pocket the refuse sacks handed out by racecourses these days for home rather than course use is beyond me, there’s frugal and then there’s that!

The second winner of the day wasn’t in the 2.40 it was at 2.37 when 54 year old Ian copped his fiver from Graham (age unknown). The glee on the Bevan joint as our man stood triumphant with both arms in the air in the pouring rain was something to behold. Graham’s protests that it could actually be defined as drizzle fell on deaf (and damp) ears.

Bet landed for rain-loving Ian (54)

Bet landed for rain-loving Ian (54)

The next winner was also one for the ring when Doctor Foxtrot obliged for them at 25/1, followed by 16/1 cracker Mister Newby. Things looked even rosier for the layers as the rain went on its way and the sun came out, Graham looked a little cheated, though was probably enjoying the brighter conditions.

‘Great business and excellent results’, gushed Paul Metcalfe (yes I did talk to other bookies but when you have set up a theme you may as well stick to it eh?). Yes fate was tempted, Thanks For Coming was a well-backed 5/1 shot winner of the next. That was only a softener, Volnay De Thaix and Paint The Clouds then obliged at 5/4 and 6/4 respectively. The last race was a ‘Hands and Heels’ race for conditional jockeys. One to get stuck into right? Well not if one of the riders is the talented Lizzy Kelly riding Horatio Hornblower for her father, the ‘Genius of George Nympton’ Nick Williams and it’s backed from 5/1 into 9/2cf and wins as it likes.

If you bet on 'Sun' you have to feel a bit miffed!

If you bet on ‘Sun’ you have to feel a bit miffed!

Maybe Paul shouldn’t have spoken so soon but I doubt he gave back enough to ruin his 40th party. Come to think of it I wasn’t invited along, probably just as well with a busy Saturday tomorrow.  I walked through the bottom bar in Members on my way out I noticed that other people were in full party mode. I couldn’t help noticing that there were a group of guys having a whale of a time cheering on one of their number sucking what looked like spilled beer through a straw from the floor, weird but as long as they were having fun.

Maybe they hadn’t been on the last few jollies…..

(c) Simon Nott

I have written a book about bookies, betting rings and the characters that inhabit them. It’s based on my adventures on racecourses since the late 1980′s. It has been getting some positive reviews. I have a few left, details of how to help my Cheltenham losses by buying one can be found here http://wp.me/p1dLbd-9n

Racing Ahead Magazine's review with postal purchasing details.

Racing Ahead Magazine’s review with postal purchasing details.

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