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meetings like the Derby are no less ignorant, but these obtain a thrilling race and a small but intelligible bet. How could they bet that day at Brooklands when even the bookies were at a loss, some contemptuous, some antago- nistic? That one could have pardoned had the events been worth watching. But they were not.’


It appears that at times things even got out of hand: ‘We have received a lengthy


letter from a reader who was present in the half-crown enclosure on Saturday, and who describes the state of affairs there as disgraceful. He alleges that the police were quite unable to cope with the disturbances arising out of the disputes with certain bookmakers who were openly swindling the public. He says that the management can at least congratulate themselves that there was no serious trouble; the situation looked ugly on more than one occasion, and many of the victims were goaded into taking the law into their own hands... If Brooklands is to have a future this sort of thing must be dealt with firmly.’


The Motor 6th October 1908 We also have some observations from a book-


maker, the well-known Turf Accountant Captain Coe. These appeared in 1907 and relate to the opening meeting held in July: ‘On the course on Saturday last quite a number of bookmakers put in an appearance, but business did not appear particularly brisk, the newness of the experience probably accounting for the shyness of the public to put money on. The bookmakers seemed to know nothing about the relative merits of the cars. When the book was opened, the prices averaged about two-to-one against and the demand either lengthened or shortened this price. Moore Brabazon started for the Gottlieb Daimler Plate at six-to-one, his being easily the fastest car in the race, and after one lap his price shortened to even money. One of the least honest ‘bookies’ bolted before the finish of one of the races, but we witnessed no other example of the doubtful art of ‘welshing’. Scarcely any betting was done until the start of the races and the prices then altered according to the position of the various competitors. For instance,


36


Another busy scene in the Paddock (Brooklands Museum).


four-to-one on was offered on Warwick Wright whilst he was leading in the Montagu Cup, but immediately he broke down it was possible to get 20 to one against Resta’s price shortening to three to one on.’


The bookmakers certainly faced a steep learn-


ing curve. The provenance and racing history associated with a race horse and its rider was very different from that of those participating in a motor race. The past performance of a racing car and its state of tune and readiness on the day, together with similar conditions relating to the drivers, meant that the bookies had to undertake plenty of investigation and homework. However, there was one thing cars and drivers as well as horses and riders had in common and that was being unpredictable, something bookmakers were accustomed to. Their predictions, in the customary form of odds, were chalked up on the boards for all to see. Not that they didn’t change as the race got under- way and factors like handicaps, mechanical ‘fitness’ and the weather altered the forecasts. ‘I believe that the Sporting Life newspaper used to publish tips for races at Brooklands, along with its horse racing forecasts. As to the sort of odds offered, I see that a month before the 1922 Junior Car Club 200 Mile Race you could have got three- to-one on the Talbots (one of which won), four- to-one on a Bugatti, five-to-one on an AC, two- to-one on a GN and four-to-one on a Morgan three-wheeler. When the supercharged Fiats entered for this race in 1923 were causing great excitement, ‘Long Tom’ was prepared to offer three to one on Salamano’s car, four to one on Campbell’s... three weeks before the great day –


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