Horseracing and me
I don’t know how I first got into racing because there is no history of it in our family apart from the usual Grand National punt once a year, but it was definitely before I was 18 because my mum was all ready to march up to the local bookmakers and then call the police and gamblers anonymous in that order when I had lost the best part of my Friday pay-packet at said establishment. Oh for the days of staring at a speaker hoping to hear your horse making rapid late headway generally to no avail or all too late.
It was legal for me to have a bet by the time I first set foot on a racecourse, little did I know that they would one day become a second home to me. At least I started at the top, The Mackeson Gold Cup meeting at Cheltenham in 1983, I even remember the first bet, £5 win on Sweet Mandy with Ricky & Son of Portsmouth, she fell. It was shortly after that inaugural racecourse visit that I first had my writing published in the national sporting press, the letters page of The Sporting Life saying how much I enjoyed the day but the beer was too expensive.
I continued to go to the races until I joined the Army on the day before my 20th birthday in 1985, I was based in Bordon Hampshire and used that base to go racing, I used to love it marching out past the guardroom complete with binoculars and trilby of to Sandown Park, they thought I was more than a tad eccentric. I was there on the day John Francome trained his first winner, That’s Your Lot, at 25/1, needless to say I was on the odds-on favourite, but not to worry I was also on the telly, stood next to Big Mac, yes, I know, but I was very pleased to be seen at such a venue and my easily pleased mates were quite impressed too.
I was posted to Germany in 1986 and was the only squaddie on camp to have a regular order for the newly published Racing Post. Due to plenty of hours whiling away on guard duty I actually studied the form and believe it or not backed a few winners on the telephone accounts I had opened. My race going continued when I came home on leave, I planned one around the first ‘Festival of British Racing’ Saturday at Ascot and even managed to go racing at Stampede Park in Calgary when on R&R after an exercise in Canada. During this time I joined the MDM racing syndicate, we had some good horses, Tyrnippy and Rockmartin being the two that won the most races, though my theory that being an owner would lead to untold riches and huge coups landed was soon shattered.
I left the Army in March 1989. I started my own mobile steam cleaning business where I cleaned milk parlours and the like, I was pleased to get the job cleaning the stables at Exeter and Bath races. Sadly the business didn’t go too well, but racing was there to rescue me. I had a friend that used to help out a local bookie, he also liked a pint, so when a Taunton evening meeting clashed with a skittles match he gave me a call and asked if I would help out and take his place helping out bookmaker Jack Lynn. I had been going racing regularly when I should really have been working so knew what the job of floorman entailed. The first bet that was struck when I was working the floor was a monkey at 4/5, as luck would have it another bookmaker, Eddie Baxter, chalked up (yes chalked) the unusual price of 9/10, I informed my employers and after a quick dash from one joint to another the bet was laid off at the bigger price and I was taken on as 3rd choice workman for the Jack Lynn organisation. Luckily for me the other two guys did normal jobs, they were able to do the local meetings on week days but not the ones further away so I found myself going to places like Bath, Salisbury and Newbury midweek and getting paid, albeit modestly for it, the almost dream job.
I worked on a semi-regular basis for the Lynns until 1995, I went to Germany for the summer and on my return they had new staff so started to work for another Westcountry bookmaker, David Phillips. David used to go much further than the Lynns so I soon found myself at exotic places like Fontwell, Epsom and Worcester. Around this time I was sent a little magazine called Final Furlong, it was little more than a fanzine but I was keen to get into writing on horseracing so phoned them. That call resulted in my writing for a few issues under the pseudonym ‘The Scribbler’ a name I chose because I worked as a clerk for David. Final Furlong disappeared without a trace as did the last two cheques that I was owed but I had been published even it was probably a photocopier that did it. I soon offered my services to the local paper and thus became the horse racing correspondent for the Tiverton Gazette, this time in proper print. I continued to work for David and write for the Gazette until March 2000 when the day after the Cheltenham Festival I set off with a rucksack to see the world, a 13 hour flight later I was racing at Kranji Racecourse in Singapore and was very pleased to be there. In the year that followed I had many adventures in Malaysia, Thailand, where I had managed to win a few Bhat at the Bangkok Turf Club and Australia where I lost it all again when Martin Pipe’s Far Cry was pulled up in the Melbourne Cup with me in attendance.
I arrived back in the UK just in time to catch the Cheltenham Festival 2001 and recoup some funds but instead landed in an industry running scared of foot and mouth. A proper job ensued for that period which galvanised just how lucky I was to be in and how much I loved racecourse work. As soon as racing resumed I was back with David Phillips but he had curtailed his activities somewhat and gave me his blessing when I was offered a full time self employed post with top Tatterstalls layer Ivor Perry & Co. I took the commission and continue to work for them and occasionally other layers to the present day. I started as a floorman but now actively work on the joint taking the bets and calling clichés to attract the punters, and I love it, even when the weather’s horrible and we’ve driven hours to get there.
I started to cover the racing for the newly named
Mid Devon Gazette series again and was actively looking for national racing publications who might be interested in my work. I got my first national break when I read of a new Dennis publication
‘Inside Edge’ a gambling magazine, I contacted the editor and the result was a series of articles published in that new national title, mainly, much to the concern of my fellow bookies, on how to beat them! Although Inside Edge is now purely a poker magazine and I no longer write for them my old features can still be read in various places online. My Mid-Devon Gazette articles can also be found online, updated weekly, follow the links at the bottom of the page to find these if you are curious or just want a good read, excuse the trumpet tooting away.
Soon after, and flushed with success, I contacted another new title,
Racing Ahead and luckily was taken on to write a regular, ‘Tales From The Betting Ring’ article and then more recently ‘Westcountry Wire’. I continue to write both columns for the national monthly magazine that seems to be going from strength to strength.
My highest profile features to date followed in The Racing Post Weekender, I have covered the Cheltenham Festival and the Paddy Power meetings for the last two years, and additionally this year Royal Ascot and The Hennessey at Newbury, all of which I am in the diary to report from the betting ring on again this year. I have also written and had published some well received point to point features in The Weekender and hope to continue to do so.
So that’s it, up to date and still running. I am racing over 200 days a year and would write about each and every meeting given the opportunity. I am very keen to be commissioned thus! My real ambition is to have a regular weekly review of action from the betting ring and to become a more prolific horserace writer. I would also like the opportunity to contribute to features in race cards and racing annuals. Please email or call if you like my work and feel I could enhance your publication. I look forward to hearing from you, until then, see you on the turf.
"Horse Racing Betting" -
Inside edge website >>
"Bets the Bookies Hate" -
Inside edge website >>
"Horse Racing Betting" -
Total gambler website >>
"Horse Racing Ring" -
Bet Rescue website >>
"Betting Exchange Arbitrage" -
Bet Rescue website >>