I followed a large group of young lads, many of them teenagers, into Cheltenham on Saturday, they were just about to enjoy their first November day at the course. How did I know how young they were? Some of them had passports sticking out of their back pockets, I’m guessing to prove their age to buy beer, and that it was their first time on the course in November? They were pretty much to a man in ‘uniform’ that is skinny jeans, jumpers, no coats and no socks, they were going to freeze.
If those boys had been to Cheltenham they’d certainly have had their coats on and of course no socks is madness. The latter fashion style of anyone apparently under 30 has been hanging in there for a while now, I can’t for the life of me think why, but there again, I’m in my 50’s.
I shouldn’t really be leading with what those guys were wearing though, there were around 30 of them and they were all spending their Saturday going racing at one of the sport’s greatest venues. It’s long odds-on that there will be a good few of them still going when they’re in their 50’s too, it’s impossible a percentage aren’t hooked now. I admit to being one of the laughers and pointers when it comes to the ‘sans socks’ brigade, it’s not for me. Having said that, it’s good to see that their enthusiasm for the game isn’t nipped in the bud by racecourse fashion police, some twitter-based versions would have them turned away at the turnstiles, let’s not alienate the young.
Talking of styles, what is racecourse wear these days? True, Cheltenham is probably going to host its fair share of the more traditional look. I love dressing up for the races, but even my occasional trilby and tweed suit effort is rare enough to garner occasional second glances on course. I have no doubt that my clobber looks just as ridiculous to the sockless as theirs do to me.
One lesson learned working with racecourse bookmakers over the years was never, EVER, judge a book by its cover, or rather punter by the cut of his or her cloth. I can remember plenty of times when the person approaching the joint asking for 5/2 about a 9/4 shot was given a patronising ‘Go on then’ only for the little old lady pull a grand out of her handbag, bloke in a shell suit his Tesco bag, or chap furrowing hard at his crumbled copy of The Sun, his pocket. Similarly, the gentleman and his good lady who wouldn’t have looked out of place at a Royal Wedding rummaging up a quid each way between them would put you away.
What do professional punters look like? Is there a uniform? I wasn’t aware that there was. Of the few I have interviewed that used to ply their trade on course, one wouldn’t mind me saying he looked as if he’d just been putting the bins out, another although always smart used to spend most of his time trying not to be seen talking into a phone hidden by his newspaper. Of the ones I have yet to interview but would love to, two of them love a full set of waterproofs and hide behind beards ,the other dresses like Barney Curley, well because he is Barney Curley.
It was a strange reaction then when I posted a photo of ex-Star Sports Head of On-Course Operations Kyle, now professional punter. He was dressed as he casually dresses, there was such a furore from those quick on their keyboards. Some of the comments suggested that he couldn’t possibly be a professional punter looking like that, I’m surmising because, he’s young, angelic looking and doesn’t dress like Barney Curley. I’m also guessing that those people quick on their keyboards don’t know any professional punters so assume they actually do all dress like Barney Curley.
The other comments, I’m assuming probably equally misinformed were suggesting that the way he makes a good living from betting on horses isn’t ‘professional punting’ compared to how other people make a good living betting on horses which most definitely is professional punting, more on that in my next blog.
Times they are a changing.
Simon Nott is author of:
Skint Mob! Tales from the Betting Ring