Sharpe Angle Sets 'World Record'
PORNICHET sounded a rather iffy name for a racecourse, but it turned out to be a most acceptable seaside course on the Cote d'Amour (no, me neither!), very modern, only recently built, looking something like a new non league football ground in style.
They were staging an afternoon/early evening meeting and we were booked in the Panoramique restaurant from 4pm. Which is about the time we turned up after enjoying a stroll around the up-market seaside town which was adjusting itself to that in-between time of year when the toursists have all gone (apart from us) and the locals are settling in to survive the winter.
Little did we know our latest jaunt to a French provincial course - I'm not sure I haven't now been to more French than English tracks - would see us become world record holders. Well, the record hasn't yet been verified but I'd be surprised if any other course would either want, or be capable of claiming the title from Pornichet.
The afternoon started well enough as the tried and tested infallible system of backing Sheikh Mo -owned horses turning up to run at such courses to get some experience and confidence, rapidly produced two winners.
So we wandered at about 5pm up to check out our place in the restaurant - we needn't really have worried about booking, as there were only about a dozen or so people in there. We found our table, sat down, ordered a couple of bottles of vin blanc and enquired about food.
'No food yet' they told us - in French, of course.
'No food yet?' we repeated - in English, of course.
'No food yet' they told us - in slightly firmer French.
We sat around, had a bet, drank some wine, then at 6pm as waitresses bustled about, setting tables for people nowhere to be seen to sit at to eat the food which was nowhere to be seen, enquired agai about food.
Same response: 'No food yet'.
More betting, more drinking. 7pm. Only two races to go. Er........food, peut-etre?
Mais oui, messieurs and mesdames, d'accord.....
Up came a delicious starter. No idea what it was, but very palatable. Knocked it back pretty vite.
And it was cleared away almost as vite as we'd eaten it. Within minutes. And was equally vitely replaced with an equally lovely main course.
As we were pretty hungry we didn't need much prompting to polish off the main - and the waitresses required even less encouragement to dash over and whip the plates away before returning toute suite avec les desserts delicieux. Sacre bleu!
Dessert downed, up came la fromage.
Not far behind was le cafe.
All over within, I kid you not, quarante minutes.
Now, is that that, or is that not, a world record for the fastest four course meal ever consumed on a racecourse?
Mais, oui, je pense.......
I'M now well into the research for my book on the history of William Hill (any contributions, big or small, gratefully received) but, whilst trawling through archives etc, I've come across a couple of stories I'd like to share with you.
In August 1978 the national papers reported on a shocking case in which a bookmaker at Windsor had been attacked and beaten by punters claiming they had been underpaid by £100 following a bet on a photo finish.
They were wrong, but this did not save the layer from an unpleasant and painful experience.
However, reported the Daily Express: 'After the last race the gang returned to apologise, claiming that they had now realised their mistake'!
And finally, a story from the late seventies I was delighted to become reacquainted with, having completely forgotten about it. I do remember that the request was made to my colleague Keith Morgan, and it came from a Cypriot client who wrote to tell us that his daughter was coming to Britain to work as an au pair for two years.
He wanted to know what odds we would offer on her returning to Cyprus afterward in, as he put it delicately, 'the same condition as when she left'. He wanted to bet £200.
Complications regarding how the bet would actually be settled eventually scuppered the wager.
But it was a genuine case of being asked for odds that were almost virgin on the ridiculous!