Gone to the dogs…
Having just returned from the Grand National at Aintree with a lot less cash than I started with, I was sure my luck was due to change when I put my name down for Gill’s outing to Wimbledon dog track. I have always favoured dogs over horses, dogs are friendlier and smaller, hence their teeth are smaller but more importantly they are faster and there are less to choose from in each race so my chances of winning must be greater, in fact how could I not back at least one winner and if all else fails, there is the hare, a dead cert …
With race card and free beer voucher in my hand (I never got a free beer voucher at the National) I entered the busy bar and received my free pint of Carlsberg (exchange to a Gin and Tonic was non-negotiable) and I joined the others to check the form of the dogs in the first race. Not a spaniel, Labrador or retriever in sight, the only thing on the menu were sleek rather anorexic looking greyhounds but considering these dogs looked liked they hadn’t had a decent meal in years they could run like the wind.
Not knowing the first thing about dog racing I thought I’d have a chat to Noreen, Jonathan’s wife, she looked like she knew a thing or two about gambling. However, she did not inspire confidence when she announced she betted on the name alone. I mean a dog called Stumpy or Stops Suddenly didn’t fill me with much hope. Paul Eyden on the other hand had a better strategy, apparently trap 1 (no not a toilet cubicle but rather a kind of starting block for dogs) is where they put the fastest dog and the law of averages, or rather the law of Paul’s averages, says that trap 1 will come in four out of five races. So completely convinced by this theory, he did at least sound convincing, I put £2 on the dog running in trap 1, and then another £2 on the dog running in trap 1 in race number 2, and race number 3 and race number 4. Odd that trap 1 never came in at all. I sat in the bar and studied the video footage of the last race and it was quite obvious even to me that the dog with three legs runs from trap 1. It is closest to the rails and although he should have less distance to run, when you have five other dogs on four legs, fangs glinting, foaming at the mouth and all jostling to get nearer the inside edge where you are running, your bound to get knobbled and bumped which is exactly what happened.
A new strategy was now urgently required, the remains of my entire wealth having already taken a large hit at Aintree were depleting rapidly, I’d be eating baked beans for the rest of the month if I didn’t have a winner soon. John Rapley was keeping his cards close to his chest having been passed a grubby piece of paper from a dodgy looking chap in the car park with tips on. I turned my attention to the organiser … very suspicious indeed … she’d had five winners in six races? Surely a fix? How many years do you get for insider dealing? I watched her carefully from the corner of my eye, and noticed how she repeatedly picked dog number 6, the one on the outside edge with plenty of space! In fact he was the dog most responsible for shoving the other five out of the way. I shuffled inconspicuously up behind Gill at the Tote’s desk and strained to hear as she placed her bet and I followed suit when she had left. Back out on the stands I held on to my ticket and joined Gill in shouting for dog number 6 which romped home kicking sand in the eyes of his followers. Overjoyed with finally a win, I skipped back to the Tote to collect my winnings, problem was I hadn’t completely understood the Tote’s brief explanation of how to bid and my reverse forecast which cost me £2 resulted in winnings of a paltry £2.40. Instead of Sainsbury’s low cost baked beans I could at least run to Heinz.
After the races had finished and all hoarse from shouting our dogs home we ambled inside to finish our beers and in Gill’s case count out her cash. Despite coming home potless, it was a great night full of atmosphere and fun.
Well done and thanks to Gill Hassel for arranging, we look forward to many more social events over the course of the year.