Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Wednesday; or, that man is very shouty

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

If there are any children reading, I would like say: gambling is very bad for you and will make your teeth fall out and your lips turn blue. If Steve Jobs is reading, I would like to say that the in-built typewriter on the iPad is pure toytown and guaranteed to make any self-respecting typist cry and self-harm. If William Hill is reading, I would like to say: if I am very good, can I have my money back?

Of course I lost all my winnings from yesterday, and all the sure things turned out to be quite uncertain after all, and even though the Irish horses kept smiling, they were the wrong Irish horses. Now I shall have to go home and eat gravel for the duration.

It was very familiar. This is what happened every week during my childhood. My dad, who liked complicated betting, would do a Yankee or an Accumulator (known as an acker) or a variety of doubles and trebles sometimes called a patent, and usually there was swearing and tearing of hair as everything went crashing down on the first leg. Occasionally, the equine gods aligned and there was clapping and shouting and drinking in celebration. On one mighty occasion, he won so much money at Cheltenham that he had to be escorted to the car park by two burly minders, because the bookmakers were certain he would be mugged. The cash was given to him in a SUITCASE. Once, the accumulator came so marvellously good some time in the 1970s that a little soft top Mercedes arrived for my mother. Six months later, back to the garage it went.

Never mind. I always have one rotten day during the Festival. I am already plotting for tomorrow. Even though he is not a great price, I hope that the lovely Poquelin wins, and I shall have my boots on him. I hope the Irish go on winning, because they do the best celebrations in the winning enclosure. I hope that Ruby Walsh roars back to magnificence, after a most humdrum day today (although this is the nature of National Hunt racing; it does not matter how much of a champion you are, there are always days when you kick on and there is nothing there, or you get no luck in running, or your horse puts both front feet into the open ditch).

The Three Year Old regards the Channel Four coverage with some suspicion. 'Is that silly man going to come on again?' she asks, seriously. She means John McCririck, whose headgear she has taken against.

Alistair Down does rather a touching history of the Festival Meeting. There is wonderful archive footage of Arkle. The baby stares at the flickering black and white pictures. She points at Arkle. 'He is the BEST,' she says.

How does she know this? She is like a horse whisperer. Arkle is the best there ever was, and probably will ever be. I start telling the Three Year Old about the glory days when Arkle beat Golden Miller. Alistair Down was saying something in the background about Vincent O'Brien. The baby interrupted me, frowning furiously at the screen. 'That man,' she said, 'is too shouty.'

'Oh darling,' I said. 'All racing people are shouty.'

She contemplated this for a while. She turned back to the television, where Arkle was skating up in the Gold Cup, with that extraordinary action of his, that made him look as if he were running on rollers.

'Horses go faster, faster,' she said. Today, the horses I chose went slower, slower. But there is always the hope of tomorrow.


  1. Laughing so much about the betting, my late darling Dad was just the same...yankees and ackers. Just reading the names made me smile and remember him. Y'know I spent my childhood sat on the doorstep of William Hill getting thwacked in the face by those coloured ribbons - because I was too young to go into the shop with him. My late dearest Mum being of Irish descent already had the horses in her blood, and as such picking horses was just part of our daily life, sitting round the kitchen table, coffee on perc, racing post spread open, everybody wreathed in cigarette smoke (how deliciously un-PC).
    It certainly rubbed off on my brother, he is now head of William Hill's internet betting arm. I can't say the same, though I will forever love the gee-gee's and miss my dear pa.

  2. Yep, my dad too... mixed feelings about betting and no interest in racing BUT I still enjoyed reading your post...all part of life's rich tapestry, eh?

  3. I applaud the three year old, who seems very wise, especially about John McCririck. I hope your horses all come in first today!

  4. I love your Cheltenham posts- I am at work and cannot watch and I think your posts make me feel far more connected than a daily read on the bbc website. Cheltenham is the King among racing festivals for me and I've never been!

    The three year old does have good taste in horses and perhaps should become a tipster.

    Have a brilliant day today, I hope St Patrick brings you some winnings

  5. It is all so familiar - I remember being taught to count by my father; evens, 5/4, 6/4 etc etc. I am reeling from the giddy excitement of a £3 win bet on Sizing Europe. I shall never have such luck again.


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