The Docket

A tale about horse racing

Saturday morning work was overtime in the factory where I was an apprentice sewing machine mechanic. It was a soft number, there were only a few stitchers in, which meant I was able to get my head down for an hour or so to help me recover from last nights’ binge.

Noon saw me crossing the road to the Tyrone bar for an afternoon of darts with my mates, this was part of my normal weekend routine. Horse racing was on the TV and the darts always stopped so that everyone could watch the finish of each race. I didn’t back the horses, but Charlie did, every Saturday he could be seen studying the form in great detail, before picking his seven horses. He always put fifty pence on the “ITV Seven”, an accumulator which paid out thousands if you were lucky enough to get all seven TV races right.

As usual Charlie was getting his leg pulled about this, he never got more than one winner. The banter was mighty, and big Brian, being his usual loud self, was taunting Charlie mercilessly.

For fucks sake Charlie you’d do better chucking darts at the paper, let me know your horses so I don’t back them. 

One of these weeks, just you wait, you’ll be laughing on the other side of your face when I get them up, Charlie replied.

“Blacky” the coalman coal man chipped in, Charlie you’ve been doing the seven since it started, when is the penny gonna drop, you just can’t pick winners!

It’s the tipsters in the paper that can’t pick em, they’re bound to get it right one week, they pick them scientifically!

The whole bar erupted in laughter at Charlie’s outburst, a normal Saturday’s entertainment was in full swing. I was sucked in to the banter when, knowing I didn’t bet, Blacky threw down a challenge to wind Charlie up even more.

Charlie, Davy doesn’t back horses, I bet you a pint he picks more winners than you! Blacky handed me the paper and a betting slip. Happy to continue the wind-up I made a big play of getting Brian to show me how to fill in the bookies docket. To rub salt in the wound, I asked Charlie what he’d picked in each race, under severe pressure from the rest of the bar, Charlie let me see his docket. I hadn’t a clue how to decipher the form guide in the paper, so after “studying the form” for all of five seconds I picked my horses and filled in the docket.

Charlie snatched it from my hand and glanced at my selections, he smugly accepted Blacky’s bet and called for any more takers. Half a dozen punters took up the challenge, just to keep the pot boiling. You’ll all be buying my pints today, Davy’s horses have no chance Charlie declared. I never had any intention of placing the bet, and neither did anybody else when they saw my selections.

Shit Davy, Blacky muttered, if I have to buy that eejit a pint He’ll never let me forget it, could you not have picked a few with short odds.

Dry your eyes Blacky, I don’t know one end of a horse from the other, so don’t blame me if you lose, I said.

All eyes were on Charlie as the first race started, his horse came fourth, mine won, there was silence for a few seconds, followed by an explosion of laughter prompted by the look on Charlie’s face. As the day continued, one by one my choices came in as winners. Three races, three winners, if I got the winner in the fourth Charlie would have to stump up for pints. When my horse won in the fourth, the cry of get them in Charlie was only drowned out by the laughter in the bar.

Everyone had been focusing on Blacky’s bet with Charlie, it never dawned on any of us that something special was happening in the bar that day, until Charlie made a remark which silenced the entire room. Three more winners and it’ll be Davy getting the pints in, nobody knew I hadn’t placed the bet, and all eyes turned to me. No way! it couldn’t happen Brian declared, Fuck Davy you’ll win thousands if they come up Blacky added.

With a sheepish grin I pulled the unused docket from my pocket, I might if I’d put the bet on, but I don’t back and you all told me it had no chance…. You stupid, thick bastard! Charlie raged, do you realize how much you stand to lose!

I won’t lose anything, you know fine rightly the rest have no chance, you all said so, I snapped back.

Davy’s right said Brian, four freak results in one day? there no way the rest will come in. The fifth race was greeted with complete silence, every eye was glued to the TV, my horse rounded the final bend in second place, the bar went wild, shouting and roaring it on as it ran out an easy winner. What are we shouting about Blacky screamed, the docket’s dead! Silence once again descended on the bar.

The darts were a welcome distraction, but everybody had one eye on the TV when the next race started. Once again my horse defied the odds and won by half a length, only groans greeted it’s triumph this time. Charlie sat in the corner muttering, I don’t believe it! I don’t fucking believe it! over and over again. He finally rose from his seat and came over to me. He shook his head, “Even ten pence would’ve paid out thousands with those odds, you’ll want to hang yourself if the next one wins”

I only wrote the bloody docket to wind you up Charlie, you know I’m not interested in the racing, there was no way I would ever have placed the bet for real, so it doesn’t matter…..

How can you be so fucking calm about losing a fortune…..

Charlie, if I’d meant to put the bet on and didn’t, I might want to hang myself, but it was never gonna happen, besides there’s still another race to go.

The irony was that, although I was curious about the outcome, I really didn’t care if I won or lost. A gambler will probably find this hard to believe, but to me there was nothing at stake except the bragging rights over Charlie.

Nobody was playing darts when the final race, with just four runners started, everyone was caught up in the intrigue, there were as many watching me as were watching the TV.

They’re off!!

“Black Velvet” takes an early lead, closely followed by “Crimson Dancer”

“Sure Thing” is lying third with “Bar fly” bringing up the rear……..

 The tension in the bar was mounting with every stride……….

 Now into the final furlong!!

 Crimson Dancer takes up the running with Bar Fly a close second

 Sure Thing is starting to make up ground as Black Velvet begins to fade

 Sure thing is coming up fast on the rails

 Bar fly & Crimson Dancer are neck & neck

Sure Thing is catching them both, there’s nothing between the three as they cross the line.

Bar fly takes it in a three way photo finish!

Is that your one Davy, did you have Bar fly on the Docket, shouts Brian.

Wouldn’t you like to know, I smile as I watch the betting slip burning in the ashtray on the bar.

© popeye 2023
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