10 March 2010

Hey Jimmy and Sweaty Betty

J and I were watching an old TV show the other night when there was a scene shot at a greyhound racing track. ‘Didn’t you have something to do with greyhounds?’ my wife asked.

It brought it all flooding, or should I say, ‘racing’ back.

Back in about 1964, when I was 13 years old, my father fell in with a few men who owned some racing greyhounds. To my mother’s disappointment he started to disappear on Wednesday and Saturday nights to bet on them running at tracks throughout the central belt of Scotland.

We never knew if he won or lost because in working-class Glasgow homes, what a man did with his money was his concern but we did notice that on some nights when he returned, the smile was broad, whereas on other nights I would get a slap for still being up watching TV!

A couple of weeks later my father told me and my cousin Gordon to go to an old farm a couple of miles from our home and talk to a man called Frank. Within a couple of minutes Gordon and I had been hired as official greyhound trainers to ‘Hey Jimmy’ and ‘Sweaty Betty’.

We were soon to find out that training these dogs meant very long walks interspersed with getting them to chase fake rabbits pulled along a 100 metre ‘carpet’ by a pulley system, which amazingly managed to get the fake furry things to speed along at about 40 mph. It was all rather Heath Robinson but worked a treat.

I gradually learned that Jimmy and Betty were quite good especially when on a Monday (after a Saturday race) Gordon and I would get a bonus because the dogs had won.

The dogs got better and better, winning race after race but eventually for the consortium who owned the dogs it wasn’t worth betting on them because the odds were so short – i.e. you didn’t get much back if you had bet on them when they won. And there was not much to be gained by betting on the other dogs in the race either because invariably they didn’t win – ours did!

And so the plan was hatched. After a particularly easy win on the Saturday, Gordon and I were told to feed the dogs porridge for the next couple of weeks, which we did.

We later learned, after both dogs struggled to finish their next few races, that the porridge basically sat in the dogs’ stomachs and made them sluggish during races. Furthermore, it was not a drug and hence was undetectable.

The second part of the plan was then communicated to Gordon and myself. The dogs were to get their normal food for the following two weeks and had to receive extra training. Gordon and I didn’t need to be told that the consortium would then bet big at the next race on the basis that the dogs would be back to their best and the bets would return a fortune.

The problem was that when training the dogs on the Saturday morning prior to their ‘big’ race, they managed to slip their leads and ran off. Gordon and I chased them for miles and when we eventually caught them, the dogs and Gordon and myself were completely knackered. Of course, we never mentioned a thing and needless to say, Jimmy and Betty lost their respective races.

That night when my father came in from the greyhound track with a face like thunder - I got an extra heavy slap for still being awake!

Note: Monaco Nigel’s latest post can be found at the URL below but remember it has some adult themes.


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