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Author of Shouting The Odds

The Mug Punters Revenge …

May 1st, 2021 commemorated the 60th anniversary of legalised betting shops in Britain. In four weeks time, another racing and betting landmark will be upon us, the 25th anniversary of the Champions Day meeting at Ascot that cost bookmakers upwards of forty million pounds. Hard to believe that almost a quarter of a century has passed since Frankie Dettori’s seven-timer, a feat that I reference in an unexpected plot twist towards the end of Shouting The Odds, my debut novel.

There isn’t much to write about that day that hasn’t already been written so instead, I thought I would share with you my own recollection of Saturday, September 28th, 1996. I was living in Nottingham at the time. Due to staff shortages, I was sent to work at a betting shop situated on a housing estate in the St Anns district. I put on my own bets at a Ladbrokes en route.

After Fujiyama Crest brought up the last leg of Frankie’s seven-timer, his triumph didn’t just raise the betting shop roof, it shook the building to its foundations. St Anns LBO clearly had its share of hard-core Frankie backers. The result cleaned out the contents of all three shop tills, reduced the balance in the payout to zero (of which I was in charge, caught as I was in the cross-fire between a growing band of disgruntled punters and Phil the manager) and wiped out the contents of the safe for good measure. We’d run out of money within twenty minutes of the result being made official. When Phil confided in me that he’d barely made a start on settling the pile of multiple bets, his words were of little comfort.

The Pat Eddery brigade had long since left the shop with their tails between their legs; and though a few winning punters left at the same time, heading punch drunk and wide-eyed to the nearest pub happy to wait for their winnings, we braced ourselves for the worst. Sure enough we were soon under siege, trapped behind the counter by an agitated mob who started vying for our blood while waving their customer copy betting slips angrily above their heads. Somehow, Phil managed to appease them, to this day I still don’t understand how. If someone told me he now worked as a hostage negotiator in the anti-terrorist squad, it would come as no surprise to me.

* * *

As soon as the coast was clear, Phil let me out of the shop and on heavy feet I slowly made my way home. I stopped off at a pub for a drink halfway, I forget the name of the place. Inside I slumped myself down at a window table and removed my betting slips: three losers and one ‘winning’ one, a one pound win trixie on Wall Street, Fatefully and Loch Angel. Twenty quid staked, eighteen pounds returned, two pounds net loss on the day. For a while I just stared blankly out of the pub window into the middle distance. Slowly my mood darkened. Before long I was consumed with contempt and, paradoxically, envy. I was envious of those mug punters who had backed Frankie’s rides in each-way multiple bets. I’d been in this business ten years, I knew better than them. Jockeys never ride seven-timers and yet … one just had. I drained my glass and left it on the bar. And as I left the pub I did so hypocritically, ruing an opportunity missed. Mug punters? Maybe they were. But as I made a withdrawal from the ATM machine outside the pub a few minutes later, suddenly it felt as though the only mug around here was me.

* * *

Where were you the afternoon that Frankie Dettori rode himself into racing folklore? And how many (if any) of his seven mounts did you back that afternoon? Please leave your comments in the box below.

#ShoutingTheOddsBook #HorseRacing #ChampionsDay2021 #FrankieDettori #MugPunter #AscotChampionsDay #writerslife #Blogoftheday #QIPCOChampionsDay #MagnificentSeven #mugpuntersRevenge #BettingandRacing

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