On course betting

When I worked at Haydock Park, there were no mobile phones. This I’m sure has changed though it’s many years since I have been at a racecourse, even though Cheltenham is just down the road. The bookmakers on course used tic tac men or were adept at the secret sign language themselves.There is one glaring inaccuracy in this rough drawing and that is the tic tac man looks cheerful and my more current memory is that bookmakers rarely looked cheerful, it made them look as if they were winning. Bad for business.

The Race Days at the course were generally one a month, the rest of the time, myself and the proper ground staff spent their time getting the whole place ready for the couple of days of racing. Repairing the course, if it had been wet on race days, that could take almost up to the next race days.The excitement built as race days approached and the chief groundsman: Fred Goode, got grumpier and grumpier, racing around like a formula one racing driver in his Land Rover. Part timers came in to help, most of them might be described as old lags, they looked like they’d just stepped out of the Bookmakers shop up the road, or the pub. One of them, and it was always the same one, got the old boiler in the stables fired up, so that there would be plenty of hot water. He fed this thing will lumps of coal that he either polished on his already rather grubby coat, or spat on, or both. He had a habit of burning the ends of his fingers, adding to the patina of nicotine already there. Pedigree old lag. The horses arrived sometimes the night before the race and some of them seem so highly strung that the old stable boys looking after them could barely hold on to them. We did not go near them and I can still remember the clacking of teeth only feet away from my head as I swept down the yard between the stables. These were some very fierce looking and angry horses, and I made sure I steered well clear, they continued trying to bite chunks out of me and my progress sounded like someone with a pair of large castanets giving their all as I danced past them, brush in hand. Paso Doble!

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This drawing is another in the series about racing, yet another drawing to finish sometime, or perhaps it’s a non starter?

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