Works in the Herald 1933

Now that the racing season gathers to its exciting climax, a unique racing problem that has interested me for a number of years again presents itself for solution.

You are quite wrong if you imagine that my problem has anything to do with my own puny efforts to "spot stone morals" with a view to pecuniary gain. It is far more impersonal than that. Punting to me presents no problem at all! It is a perfectly simple process.

When I wish to have a little flutter I merely bid a last farewell to a ten shilling note and give it to a bookmaker. (At the precise moment of its passing one gently intones over the ten shillings the name of some favored horse.) For this sum the bookmaker sells me a little piece of pasteboard bearing his name and certain indecipherable characters that look like Coptic Roots, or something. This piece of pasteboard I cling to religiously -- even fanatically until the race is over. Then I tear it into little pieces, throw these to all or any of the four winds that happen to be blowing at the time, and the transaction is completed.

I have heard it rumored that, should the animal I fancy win the race (which is absurd) the bookmaker will then buy back my piece of pasteboard at a price more or less in advance of what it cost me. Some day I should like to have an opportunity of testing this contention.

But, even without this happy consummation, the mere purchase of the pasteboard provides me with a mild thrill. For, if the horse I have chosen manages to beat at least one other horse in the race, a distinct glow of satisfaction flatters my prescience and unexpectedly shrewd judgment.

I should like to know how to capitalise this; for I feel that I have a unique flair for selecting certain horses that are frequently well able to run faster than certain other horses, or at least one other horse.

But my real problem is far more baffling than anything presented by the simple mechanical rights of punting. It is this: -

Why is it that a large proportion of regular racecourse frequenters have extremely fat necks?

I know immediately what you would answer: that thin necks are also much in evidence; but I hope to be able to explain that also at a later date.

I wish it understood that I exclude from this enquiry all owners and trainers.

The men I refer to are very evidently gamblers who "follow the game" with a queer devotion worthy of an even nobler aim; and their fat necks are abnormally fat. Look about you next time you are on a racecourse.

I had taken my problem to various learned men without getting much satisfaction; and then I remembered Percy Podgrass. Percy is a friend of mine and a scientist of sorts - of very many sorts, in fact; he attends guild lectures.

I have propounded my perplexing problem to Percy (alliteratively, like that) and he has promised to chew it over and bring back to me a working hypothesis. At least, I think it is a hypothesis and certainly not a hypothenuse; though Percy himself laughingly referred to it, with his quaint, diffident humor, as his hippopotamus.

I shall be glad, later, to afford readers the benefit of the Podgrassian research.

Herald, 26 October 1933, p6

Copyright © Perry Middlemiss 2002