Sunday, 4 August 2019


The horse’s name was Minesadouble.

I mean, come on. I had to, right?
After all, I’m a whiskey drinker.

In 1980’s London I was a whisky drinker, without the ‘e’. Before your triple distilled Jameson became my liquid home, Scotch whisky was my tipple.

That English sixth of a gill measure barely dampens the glass, so I always ordered a double.

Famous Grouse, probably because it was my Dad’s choice too.

On the morning of that bet I was strolling the Portobello Road. Go there now and even the dirty street cobbles are polished.

The area has gone up in the world, gentrified, but in those days there were two distinct areas of what others called Notting Hill.

Notting Hill Gate was yuppie cappuccino bliss, perfect for Julia Roberts to swoon on in the movie, while a few blocks away the streets of Westbourne Park and Portobello were poor and dilapidated.

Around the corner, All Saints Road served as West London’s Front Line for street drug deals, and therefore confrontation with the police.

I was hopelessly and helplessly in love, wandering the legendary market, looking for something that might put a smile on the face of the lucky winner of my obsessive attention.

Taking a breather from the packed streets, I turned up a side road, and spotted a few paces on Ladbroke’s familiar Golden Circle.

Ah go on. Why not? It’s Saturday, so all bets are off, so put one on.

You just can’t argue with that kind of logic.

The shop was absolutely tiny and crammed with punters, mostly Rastafarians. There was a symphonic buzz of secretive whispers, angry shouts and joyous laughs, the air thick with hash and grass fumes.

Taking a few deep breaths for a free secondary high, I eased my way to a wall, to stare at the Sporting Life tipsters table.

For my ‘shot to nothing’ bet I look for a race where all the tipsters have chosen the same horse, except for one.

Then I’ll check to see if it’s run the distance and deeply technical stuff, like does it have a leg at each corner?

That’ll do for me.

There it was: Minesadouble, picked by one expert, who had also napped it, which would usually offer further incentive, but that day I didn’t need it.

Minesadouble? Named for me, and 20/1?
Bloody lovely!

I’ll have some of that.

A fiver on the nose, which to me then felt like betting €25 to win today. A decidedly decent bet, which looked prettier when the nap proved the tipster’s inside knowledge.

When Minesadouble came on in the final furlong, I started pumping the air with my fist. 

Repeatedly grunting inaudible words, as men do while their horse is passing all the others, I was unaware of the attention I was receiving from everyone in the minuscule space.

They’d all turned to watch me, 30 or 40 pairs of eyes focused on me, willing my horse to win, and when Minesadouble flew past the post, the place erupted in shouts and yells and general testicular jubilation.

Instantly I became the centre of attention.

“Wha’ odds ye ‘ave, man?”

“Twenty to one!”

“Ya say wah? Bloodclaat! Ye ‘ave wha? ‘Ear that? ‘Ear that! Man here ‘ave ‘is ‘orse at twenty to one! Bloodclaat! Whass in da next race? Go on! Whass ya nex’ ‘orse?”

“ ’Ow you know? ’Ow you know? You give me a tip, yeh? C’mon, give me a tip and I give you some of me personal!”

After much handshaking, shrugging and smiling, the others realised I was just a lucky mug punter, who'd liked the name of a horse.

Pocketing my hundred and five quid, I arrived home to my beloved, laden with strawberries and cream and a bottle of champagne, which we consumed, drenched in sunshine, lying on the grass in the park.

Many years ago my mother offered me a very wise observation: “The most dangerous part of gambling is winning.”

Relax Mum! There’s been precious few winners since then. I’ve never had a single winner when at the course at Ballybrit.

I’ve often mused how, if Galway is unadulterated Ireland, and Race Week is the triple distilled spirit of Galway, then Ireland is essentially Race Week.

Every year, immediately after hosting the nation’s biggest Arts Festival, Galway slips into the largest social and sporting week in the country’s calendar.

Race Week is mad, bad and wonderful. Whoever you are, whatever you’re doing, if you’re around Galway, as sure as gee-gees love carrots, Race Week will infect you, working its way into your mind and body, like a metaphysical tapeworm.

This week should come with a health warning: “The Galway Races can empty your wallet, destroy your liver and send you stark staring cuckoo.”

I stayed away from the maelstrom, but was thinking of Galway and how Race Week affects people.

Be kind to your bar-people, servers and cooks. They’re working their backsides off for you.

Tip them well.

Last year I was in a Salthill bookies, jostling for space by the newspapers on the wall. 

A well-dressed elegant woman in her 60s tapped me on the shoulder.

“Sorry, now, excuse me, but do you know, how do ye spell that horse’s name? Jesus Mary Mother of fuckin’ God, can you bleedin’ believe my eyesight? Is that an ‘R’ or a feckin’ ‘A’? Good God almighty, sweet Jesus, it’s fucking unbelievable, isn’t it?”

The slang of my adopted home might be slightly different to that of the Rastas in my native London, but as Del Boy would say: 

“Plat du jour, my son, plat du jour!”

©Charlie Adley

No comments: