True Stories of a Rye Family from a time when the World was Younger
“I’ve got an infallible system!” Jim Snr. beamed from ear to ear. “It’s come up trumps every Saturday for the past four weeks.”
“Oh yes? said his eldest son, summoning up as much phony enthusiasm as he could. He knew all about his systems. Every six months or so there was a new one. Every time they were “infallible”. Every time they resulted in a bonus for the Dog Track Tote.
“What is it this time?” Young Jim’s spirits rose a little as he watched his father draw, from his inside jacket pocket, a sheaf of newspaper cuttings and odd bits of paper with masses of figures jotted on them. At least is was a scientific system, not like the last fiasco. Then the system was quite straight forward. The last two dogs to urinate before the off were the chosen two. The difficult part was getting the bet on in the short time between the dogs being put into the traps and the white flag going up. It involved their own ticktack signs between Young Jim, the observer, and his Father in the Tote queue. For a start they were favoured with success, but soon, after a steady stream of losers it became apparent that they were not achieving anything. Why he ever thought that a dog who urinated before a race would go any faster Young Jim could never fathom out, even after the failure of the piddling system Father still insisted it worked, claiming that the winning dogs must have passed water in the traps, excited into doing so by the humming of the electric hare as it approached the boxes!
He spread the collection of papers on the table. After an hours careful scrutiny Jim Jnr. had to agree that it had shown a big profit over the four weeks his father had been examining it. The whole thing stood or fell on the selections of Monty Twine, the tipster in the “Herald”. He selected three dogs out of the six in each race. Assuming that two of his three selections were the best two dogs in the race it would be possible to back a combination of the three and come up with a correct forecast. A forecast in greyhound racing is to select the first and second dog in the correct order, so to cover all three in every combination would mean six tote units, 60p. today but twelve bob in real money. The meetings consisted of eight races, so a combination on three dogs in every race involved an outlay of £4.16s. On top of all this came the Twincast. This involved getting the first two places in two races running to cover all three dogs in two races on the twincast meant an outlay of £/3.12s. There were three Twincasts, covering the 2nd and 3rd, the 4th and 5th, and the 6th and 7th races so an extra £10.16s. on top of the £4.12s. was required to cover the whole meeting. £15.8s. would be the most that could be lost.
It was a crisp February evening when they arrived at Hove Greyhound Stadium. There is nothing on earth that sets the adrenaline going faster than to have money on a Greyhound race, the excitement builds up as the dogs are paraded round the track before the first race by white coated kennel maids. Each dog is put into its appropriate trap, the white flag goes up.”There in the traps” call the announcer over the Stadium’s Public Address. A strange silence descends on the stadium, broken only by the whining of the dogs as they peer through the netting on the doors of their traps, straining for a first glimpse of the hare. A humming noise, faint at first but growling by the second indicates the hare is on its way. It hurtles round the bend towards the traps, the dogs are howling now, a metallic crash and the dogs are free. Six abreast they tear after the Hare running hell for leather for the first bend and round it in a blur of colour. They hit the back straight and now a leader has emerged, its the vivid red coat of the ONE dog, he has a clear lead, he’s one of theirs, now all they want is the yellow coat of FIVE dog or the White coat of Three dog to move into a second place. On the last bend ONE dog has a good lead but its the black and white stripes or SIX dog in second place. Now a White coat appears in the picture gaining on SIX DOG with every stride “Go on you beauty” roars Jim Snr. As if he hears the frenzied exhortations the greyhound with the THREE on his back pushes harder and drives into second place as he reaches the line. “ONE and THREE” screams a chap in a tatty raincoat and cloth cap, tearing his tote tickets up in disgust. The dogs race on, still chasing the Hare, but few people are watching them as the Hare stops and is whipped away by a steward. The dogs are quickly captured and led away. The two Jims make for the PAYOUT hatch to collect their winnings.
This fantastic happening repeated itself, with minor variations throughout the entire evening. They fell into a pattern, with father putting the bets on and son collecting the winnings, there are only twenty minutes between races and it is surprising how hard they had to work to ensure all the combinations were covered and collect the winnings. There was hardly time for a cup of tea. It was all rather tiring and they looked at the people viewing in the comfort of the members restaurant above the stand with some envy.
It was a memorable evening, they went thorough the card! The total winnings amounted to £88.
Through the ensuing weeks Father never missed a Saturday night at Hove Greyhound Stadium. Sometimes Young Jim went with him, sometimes Robert or Richard. The system never failed. Sometimes the winnings would only amount to £5 but generally they totalled around £30. On Good Fridays there were two meetings at the Hove, one in the morning and one in the evening. Robert went with Father for the good Friday meetings, by then the system had been showing success for five successive weeks. They decided to TREBLE the stake money! By Midnight they were £240 richer!
The following Saturday the whole family and half the firm went, Win & Jim, Jackie & Robert, Richard and Sue, Jim Jun. and Roma, her Brother Andrew, Bobbie Miller and Clive Wall. This time Jim Snr. decided that they would go in style, he booked tables in the members restaurant. To this day it is a mystery as to how he arranged it, for he never became a member. They had the best tables, right over the finishing line.
Here, high above the throng of punters and bookmakers, was a completely new world. A world of affluence and dignity, with waiters and flunkeys at hand to attend to every whim. Pretty girls in red uniforms dodged from table to table. They were Tote runners, there was no need here to rush around before each race getting the bet on, or to collect the winnings.
Andrew was on holiday from University. A powerful broad shoulder lad with vast intelligence, he subsequently won a first class honours Degree in History, had come to Hove with some reluctance. The risks of losing some of his hard saved cash did not appeal to him, but the systems previous successes and the thought of easy money had somewhat overcome his reticence. They arrived three quarters of an hour before the first race and during this time Andrew had been engrossed with the form and times recorded by each dog in the programme. His mathematical mind went to work, out came his pen and a mass of figures began to appear in the margin of his Programme. Ten minutes before the “off” he burst out with the information that the selections as provided by Monty Twine were suspect. “THREE DOG has no chance of winning, look at his previous times”. THREE DOG was Monty Twine’s first selection.
After some persuasion, and in face of the fact that Monty Twine had done alright for us up to now, Andrew produced his twelve Bob and entrusted it, all be it with much reluctance, to Monty’s three choices…..
THREE DOG came last, and though the tipsters second choice won, his other selection finished third, so they had lost on the first race. Andrew’s “I told you so” attitude was laughed off with some amusement by the old stagers, after all, unlike him, they were gambling with the Tote’s money…. Andrew was using his own. They expected to loose on some races, as a general rule more than four wins showed a good profit, even three wins usually paid for the evening and left a few quid over.
Andrew was inconsolable, he took the attitude that if he was going to loose his money it would be by his own judgement, not Monty Twine’s. For the next quarter of an hour, while the winners got stuck into minestrone soups and prawn cocktails Andrew immersed himself in the welter of facts and figures for each dog competing in the second race. When he finally decided that ONE? THREE and SIX DOGS were street ahead of TWO, FOUR and FIVE, which were Monty’s choice, he became even more sure that the tipster was using a pin.
The second race made up the first leg of the first twincast, so the system outlay for this race amounted to £4.4s. Andrew’s face was pale and strained as he handed over the money. On the face of it it looked as though he might be going the right thing, his three selections were the popular choice.. joint favourites!
In the event FOUR and FIVE DOGS led from start to finish, two outsiders, what a result, the Tote payout was £5.12s for the forecast half on top of this we had six tickets each for the first leg of the twincast, they covered every combination of Monty’s first three race selections. If he were right they should have the first twincast up.
Andrew was the picture of dismay, his chin was almost in his soup. He tried to keep up some pretence of confidence in his superior selecting power over Monty Twine, insisting that it was all a fluke but he did not wield his pen with the flourish he had heretofore and when the system was successful in the third race and each collected Forecast and Twincast winnings of £18.30s. He returned to the fold without a whimper.
At this point Jim Jnr. thought their luck might change, but no, through the main course and into the sweet Monty Twine’s selections kept romping home. The whole air of dignity and peace that existed in the Restaurant was shattered as the excitement around their tables increased, they all shouted throughout the races but above all could be heard the throaty roar of Jim Snr. “THREE DOG’S won the races” sometimes he would be bellowing this or a similar statement at the top of his voice before the dogs were even out of the traps! After each race the girls would bring piles of pound notes to their tables and soon It was noticed that several people were standing close by each time the girl came to collect the bets. They were trying to find out which dogs were being bet on!
By the seventh race the atmosphere around their tables was electrical. Even Andrew was enmeshed in the frenzy of excitement. He had recouped his earlier losses and now stood, with the rest of them on the fringe of another Twincast win. This would be the third. They were on ONE, TWO and FOUR DOGS.
They’re in the traps. Each one of them had their eyes glued to the traps, except for Andrew who faced the other way, he couldn’t bear to watch. The beautiful creatures burst out and shot down the track after the hare, there was a hell of a bunch up on the bend TWO DOG falling over and four of the others badly impeded. THREE DOG had gained an enormous advantage, TWO DOG was out of it, running again but 20 yards behind. THREE DOG reached the last bend with a ten yard advantage, it was all over for the syndicate, ONE and FOUR dogs were chasing hard but they could never get there. THEN IT HAPPENED, THREE DOG FELL, he rolled over three times before regaining his footing, ONE and FOUR DOGS tore through and they had done it again….
They finished the cheese and biscuits before watching the last race. Once again Monty Twain’s selection came roaring in. Seven Forecasts out of eight and all three twincasts. It was an evening of total magic. Jim Snr. and Robert were on treble stakes, they won £90 each, Richard, Clive and Jim were on double stakes, they won £60 each, Roma, Jill, Win , Bobbie and Jackie cleared £30 each and Andrew, by this time smiling broadly had £12 more than he set out with. It was a truly magnificent feeling as they drove home. They had enjoyed one of the most exciting and pleasurable evening of their lives, wine and dined in comfort and in the company of Lords and here they were on the way home £500 richer than when they had set out…….In 1960 that was a lot of money.
The system continued to produce dividends for another four weeks, then suddenly and inexplicably, Robert and Jim Snr. returned from Brighton with the news they had lost £22 each. Jim Snr., who after 15 weeks of dog racing without having missed one Saturday meeting, saw the writing on the wall. None of them went the next week, they checked the system against the selections in the paper, it lost again. Throughout the following weeks it continued to loose. The system was dead.
Several years later Roma and Jim Jnr. went to the Dog Stadium again. Monty Twine’s selections were still carried in the Herald. They followed the system and it was kind to them, they won thirty shillings. But even when the Forecasts did come up there was never a hint of recapturing that magical atmosphere that prevailed throughout the evening when THE SYSTEM was “Infallible”.