How a primary school fire put paid to a major betting coup

Jeannie reflects on a bet that was foiled by a school fire

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Based in the West Sussex Gazette office in Arundel during the 1990’s, for both equestrian and news coverage, it was inevitable that there were occasional trips to the betting office, a short walk away, and we kept a supply of betting slips in a drawer in the news room.

It was the start of the Flat season, and encouraged by some recent successes over jumps, a colleague, Alan, asked me to recommend a horse that would win.
I’d already chosen my four horses for a 10p Lucky 15 – four win singles, six doubles, four trebles and an accumulator, costing the princely sum of £1.50.
My main selection was a  horse called Coleridge, a quirky four-year-old grey then trained by Derek Shaw at Ashington for Paddy Shehan at Woodmans Farm.
I’d seen him at Derek’s base not long before, where the horse was being given indiviual treatment he needed after not responding to life at Newmarket.
“He had a history of being a horse that was difficult to handle. He has immense talent but the problem is getting him to implement it on the racecourse,” said Derek. who now trains at Sproxton in Leicestershire..
He liked the challenge of Coleridge who could down tools in mid-gallop, or feel like a Rolls Royce going down to the star, but come out of the stalls like a Mini, and vice versa.
His recipe for success was infinite patience combined with variation in work, including hunting.
One of his rejuvenating methods was to send the horse loose up the gallops with his Jack Russell, Sam, in hot pursuit, which both horse and dog thoroughly enjoyed.
He was a long shot that day, but I decided to add him to my list, with a couple of others from the same meeting that I felt had a chance, despite fairly long prices.
My banker was King Credo, trained by the late Syd Woodman of East Dean, who was running over jumps at Newbury that day and to my mind certain to win.
” If you think that will win, I’ll have a fiver on it,” said Alan.
He duly made out his slip as well and we put them both on one side ready for the lunchtime sortie to the betting office.
A short while later the phone rang and I learned that Findon Primary School was on fire and I had to go over there with a photographer to get a story and interviews for the following week’s paper.
When we got back to the office, Alan said to me: “Are you going to put those bets on or what?”
I”Never mind, it was a real long shot. I’ll convert my bet to a 20p win patent without Coleridge,” I told Alan.
I headed off to the betting office, put on both bets, taking the price at 4-1 on King Credo and turned round to look at the results screen.
Coleridge had won at 40-1! I was devastated.
Not only that but my three remaining runners all won, the two Flat runners at  big prices, and I netted more than £60 just on the patent.
I refused to work out what I could have won, but my son promptly did it when I told him later what had happened and it amounted to several thousand pounds for just £1.50.
Incidentally Coleridge went on to finish fourth in the Cesarewitch at 66-1  that season.
Meanwhile Alan  was delighted with his £20 winnings on the classy King Credo and it was soon to lead to a very interesting summer of betting at the West Sussex Gazette- but that’s another story.

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