Tales From The Betting Ring – Kempton Park 06/09/14

Dizzee Rascal was performing after racing at Kempton and it appeared he was a very good draw with a seemingly non-racing crowd packing the racecourse. His attraction was just as well given that the Sunbury course were going head to head with Ascot just up the road. Imagine the crowd had they not clashed.

Early bird Dizzee fans bagged to the prime spot, no need for punting money.

Early bird Dizzee fans bagged to the prime spot, no need for punting money.

Given the lovely late-summer weather it was a bit confusing to the see the row of books (that managed to squeeze in around the the PA system) had their umbrellas up. On further investigation I was told that they were up not to protect from rain but the droppings of the legendary Kingston Parakeets that were perched on the stand above. The make things worse they had been feasting on blackberries, I needn’t go into any more detail I’m sure.

A 'bird's eye view'

A ‘bird’s eye view’

Near the end of the line, apparently out of bombing range, Peter O’Toole was sans brolly but sporting a new clerk. When I way new I mean new to him, Laurie who was tapping the keys behind the joint has been around racecourses since Lester was a lad. ‘The first day’s work on course I did was here on the rails’ he proudly informed me before adding ‘I worked for Alfred E Turner, after the war he was the biggest bookie in the country, even bigger than Billy Hill’. Was I to argue, I’m very interested in bookmaking history and was keen to hear his tales. I was somewhat confused though, even though Laurie is surely knocking on a bit, ‘after the war’ would make him into his 90’s. He was a little miffed when I asked him to clarify, it was 1964 not late 1945 this first day’s racing took place. ‘I got paid a fiver’ was his final bit of enlightenment. By the look on Peter’s face that came as quite a relief, the wages hadn’t gone up all that much in the interim years maybe?

Laurie looks for his pencil

Laurie looks for his pencil

The crowd may well have looked massive, especially for people that frequent the track on a regular basis throughout the winter, but they weren’t good for the bookies. There were a handful of bets of note and one of the offices did get involved in a very small way in one race but the people just generally  weren’t betting. Those that did were having a couple of quid on and that was it. Rocky fronting the Kelross firm was of the opinion that on days like today putting two group races on was a waste. Given the non-racing crowd the course could have hosted 8 maidens and they’d have been none the wiser. The ring got Home Of The Brave beaten in the fifth, it was an 11/1o favourite but the biggest bet he’d taken was £50.

Veteran layer Steve Gibbs had already packed up and left by then. The firm next to where his abandoned joint stood were doing no better business-wise and considered that they would have taken more bets on a Wednesday night at the track. They were huddled under their mushes taking more hits from the bombers above than bets from punters.

Steve Gibbs AWOL mid-way through a Saturday afternoon.

Steve Gibbs AWOL mid-way through a Saturday afternoon.

Those aren’t parakeets they are starlings Vicki the betting ring manager corrected me, whatever they were it appeared that they were great shots.

The rails books were generally free from aerial attack but a couple of them had vacated their pitches before the last.At least they got that right, the 11/4 jolly won the race. The ring had enjoyed some decent results but they are immaterial if you can’t take any money. Rocky said that they were reduced to laying the short ones on the machine because they couldn’t get them in the book in cash. Not a great summing up for number two pitch on the rails on a Saturday afternoon. Dizzee Rascal may well have brought in the people but it seems that doesn’t make them punters.

All quiet on the Western Front.

All quiet on the Western Front.

Not everyone was downbeat, ‘It beats working’ beamed Peter O’Toole, ‘I may even save up for a light board’, while the first comment is a given I think he was pulling my leg on the second.


I managed to set off home before Mr Rascal started to perform his popular hit tunes, at least it meant a flyer from the car park.

(C) Simon Nott

My  (Award Nominated but sadly unplaced) book ‘Skint Mob – Tales From The Betting Ring’ is a book about the bookies, punters and other wonderful characters I have met in my time on racecourses. There have been some nice reviews. 

Skint Mob! Tales From The Betting Ring. OUT NOW

If you’d like one you can buy a signed copy  direct  from me via paypal here 


It’s also available on Amazon and on Kindle.


Available on Nook


Available on Kobo



2 responses to this post.

  1. Great read as always . I quite the idea of the winners plus odds of each race being stated somewhere on the blog . Keep up the good work.


    • Thanks for that, yes I get your point there, I think I was trying to get across that business was so bad for the bookies that the results didn’t matter that much so take a different angle. In hindsight you are right and I will stick to the original formula. Thanks for taking the time to read the blogs and comment.


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