Friday, 29 June 2012

Tales Of A 1980's Man Down Under - Jiggery-Pokery And Skulduggery In An Attempt To Beat The Bookies

Beat the bookies seemed to occupy the thoughts of many of my Australian friends. It was a war of attrition. A war which was unlikely to be won, but it had its victorious moments, before lurching into a headlong rout as horse after horse lost. You knew who was seriously up the creek, when they added the trots and dogs to their betting portfolio.

Of course there was the odd bit of skullduggery those days. Horses ran with all sorts of aids and hindrances.I've already mentioned the horse with the chalked white diamond which unfortunately started running down the nose during a thunderstorm after the race. There was the trotter who won a race at longer odds than he should have, because a newspaper had printed the wrong form and a commentator had given a wrong tip......allegedly. The dog who ran with a lead collar on, the dog and horse who had a bucket of water before the race, the dog who was given potato peelings, various tinctures and dodgy medecines and the dogs whose balls were squeezed by the handler as they were put into the traps, forcing them to come out sideways.

They were the halcyon days of material and inspiration for any Dick Francis.

Amazing jockeys like Handbrake Harry (White) and Autumn Leaves (nicknamed by punters because he had fallen off so often) were at the top of their game. There had just been a case of the Jigger, a way of putting an electric shock through the horse. The jockey was wired up to a battery which was concealed in the saddle. It was slightly suspicious when a horse who was lolloping along at the back of the field with a furlong to run, suddenly veered wildly to his left, took off and won by four lengths, before completing two circuits of the track after the race.

As you can see, my scrapbook contains a variety of losing tickets. Even the lucky number 007 could not help my cause.

When I returned from the Antipodes, I stopped gambling. Two reasons. 1. It wasn't so much fun. 2. It was a lot harder in England to make money. The bookies seemed to stop the successful punters betting and winning before they got a hold. It was all too tiresome, so I thought if you can't beat them, join them and I got a job in a bookmaker's publicity department.

Since then, I've only ever seen two people who won substantial money on a regular basis. The punters who shouted from the rooftops when they won, were the people the bookies coveted. You knew that they may win £2 million, for example, but over the next year they would lose three times that much.

I've hardly had a bet since.

Instead I always listen to my inner voice, when I am tempted, and in particular the story about my father, who was given a Christmas present of a leather kitchen clock by the bookie Laurie Wallis, obviously for being a good customer.

'Pah!,' said his father disparagingly, when he showed the clock to him. 'It should have been made of gold.'

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