‘Alright, you little f***er, what am I gonna lay tonight?’
I have many people in the game to thank for their loyalty, friendship, kindness, and teachings. At the age of thirteen, before a Hove bags meeting, I was excitedly getting myself together to get the train down to the track, and for the first time, work for a bookmaker. I was shadow-clerking. This meant that I stood next to the bookmaker’s clerk and tried to get down as many bets as possible, in my practice book, as the real clerk worked away. My dad pulled me to one side before I left the house, and I will never forget the advice he gave me; ‘Over the coming years you will work for many different bookmakers. Learn from all of their strengths and weaknesses.’. He then sent me on my way.
My first stop was ‘West End Racing’, to work for Bo and Matt Brown.
Blog, it is my saddest duty to pass on news of a tragedy…
In Southampton there is a family that is much more than just a collection of related people. The Browns are a group unit; a team to the core. Ray, the father; an on-course bookmaker for decades, now in his seventies. Bo, his son, who too, followed in his father’s footsteps, and bets under the name of West End Racing. Also, there is Guy, who used to help on their pitches; clerking or doing the floor.
There was one more though; Matt. The tiger of the family. The fighter. The one who wore his heart on his sleeve. Such character, such loyalty, such friendship and kindness. Always one to lend a helping hand; a trusted ally. Never would he put you away, never would he lead you astray.
If ever the phrase ‘salt of the earth’ has applied to a living being; it is to Matt Brown.
Tragic news reaches me, that at the age of just forty-five, still a boy; Matt has fallen. A heart attack.
What a tragic waste. What a devasting blow to his family. The betting ring is in shock.
Once a week, when his brother Bo was running one of their family’s pitches at Pompey dogs, Matt used to stand up and take on the punters at Hove. I ‘did a card for him’. At a young age I used to spend an inordinate amount of time studying the form at Hove and actually managed to back a few winners. On entering the track, Matt; the little tiger of the family, would be drawing heavily on a fag. He would pull me to one side and greet me with ‘Alright, you little f***er, what am I gonna get stuck into tonight?’. It was my job then, with absolutely no upside to myself, only the downside of a public coating from Matt in front of everyone in the track, if I was wrong, to give him a dog to lay. I would duly do so. Matt would ‘stripe’ it, go right the way down the book, and I would just watch on PRAYING for it to get beat. As the hare came round to the boxes, I will never forget the stare he used to fix, for just an instant, onto my eyes.
As I grew older and made my own way, Matt was always there to help. Always with the odd whisper of advice; ‘steer clear of him’ or ‘what are YOU doing there?’. He was a true friend.
My dad was right. I have learned many strengths and weaknesses from bookmakers I have worked for and with. From the Browns though, apart from that they stand absolutely for ‘betting to figures’, almost like metronomes, I learnt a lot about how to conduct myself. What a straight group of people. Kind hearted and loyal.
My heart goes out to you now.
Matt, the one dog in the third. Moves off on the run up, two turns left. It can’t get a clear. Stripe it. Be best price right the way; get yourself a float together. Get a pitch on the end. Work you way up. Avoid the knockers. Batter the punters. I’ll see you sometime soon.