AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

LOOK SHARPE: How The Times Change

Sports betting PR legend GRAHAM SHARPE writes…

I CAME ACROSS a copy of The Times recently – it was from almost exactly one hundred years ago – dated Monday, August 27, 1923, which reminded me precisely how and why I had originally acquired it – that was the date on which my father was born, and I’d bought it to give him as a birthday gift.

He’s no longer with us, which is why I’d obviously stashed it away, having reclaimed it from his possessions.

The sports pages were what interested me, and after noting reports on the first day of the football season, which included the news that ‘The (used every time this club was mentioned) Arsenal were outplayed on their own ground by Newcastle United’ – which actually meant that the Gunners were away and lost 4-1 in front of 45,000 fans yet, reported the paper: ‘The weather was dull and so was the game.’

It was worse (for me) to see that Luton Town were beaten 1-0 at Swansea in the Third Division South, so I turned quickly to the racing section, where there was a lengthy report on the Saturday meeting at Hurst Park, which began with two selling races – ‘difficult to understand why it is necessary to have two such races on any programme’ complained ‘Our Racing Corespondent’, who went on to report on the final event – an apprentice race – ‘admirable things in that they give small boys an opportunity to ride in public, but they would, I think, be of greater value if they were run over shorter distances. In races of a mile and a half and even more, the small boy at the end is not physically capable of assisting his mount, and it is the horse alone who wins.’

And he added: ‘People who bet on such races do not deserve any consideration. Horse racing may be made possible by betting – but does not exist for such a purpose only.’

Hm. An interesting take, which would probably have support from both sides of such a discussion today.

The jockey table showed Steve Donoghue leading the way with 62 winners from 463 rides – more than any other rider, but statistically producing a hefty loss of £227 5/4d from £1 stake per race – on which basis, with a £41 profit from 173 mounts, the best returns came from backing J Ledson.

At the end of the season Donoghue – who had won the title for each of the previous nine seasons and Charlie Elliott – who would win it outright in 1924, shared the honours with 89 winners apiece.

By the way, for those who may not know – Hurst Park, opened near Hampton Village on the Thames, some 12 miles from London, in March 1890, as a replacement for the recently closed Hampton Court Racecourse. It survived until October 1962 and was a big favourite of Winston Churchill, after the course dedicated an annual 1m7f race to him – which he actually won with his own 2/1 joint favourite, grey horse, Colonist II in 1951.

Another newspaper caught my eye a century later than this copy of The Times – also for racing-related matters.

I’d been to football on Saturday afternoon, recently, then had an evening commitment, so it wasn’t until I went and bought a paper (yes, I’m THAT old school) on Sunday morning that I had a look at the racing results.

As it happened, the paper was the Mail on Sunday, so I can only comment on what I found there.

Looking down the results quickly I noticed that my go-to man, Jamie Spencer, had an 11/2 winner – El Jasor at Newbury – there it was: J P Spencer.

Why, I wondered, does Jamie get to have two initials?

Well, P J McDonald won at Doncaster on Harlem Nights – and he was also allowed two initials – maybe it is only jockeys whose first two names begin with either P and/or J who qualify for this concession.

That’s definitely not the case, though – as Witch Hunter, who scored at Newbury was, I see, partnered by S M Levey.

I then noticed that James Doyle won on Night Sparkle at Newmarket – well, good for him – but why did that entitle him to have his full first name spelt out?

Ah – obviously because he might otherwise be confused with Hollie Doyle. Easily done, I suppose, despite the pair being of different sex. But Hollie had also had a winner, Purple Love, at Doncaster – and she was listed as ‘H Doyle’.

Curiouser and curiouser. Well, unless, that is, female jockeys only qualify for an initial?

But, if that is the case, why do I now notice that up at Perth Miss Roisin Leech was named as the rider of 6/1 winner The Longest Day – perhaps she was thus addressed as a result of being an apprentice or amateur jockey?

Maybe so, but when I look at the paper’s racecards for this day’s meetings I spot that in the opener at Southwell, where there are five jockeys claiming allowances in the race, four of them are just identified by a single initial – but Paula Muir gets a full name check.

In the second, Elisha Whittington and Archie Young are both fully identified, while J Peate (there’s those two mysterious initials again) just gets one christian name initial.

In the 3.40, there are 11 runners, 10 of whose jockeys are just granted a single initial, while Dylan Hogan gets the full name treatment – as does Georgia Doble in the next, a 13 runner contest.

Then, for the Sandown meeting that afternoon – clearly a posher course – jockeys Billy Loughnane (twice – once apparently with a 3lb allowance, once not), Jason Watson, and Joanna Mason(twice – although Hayley Turner doesn’t) all get full christian names revealed.

Initially, (ahem) thought this was quite interesting, but now I’m thinking it may just be because noone else has ever bothered to look this closely at the racecards for anomalies, so I’ll just sign off here, as G. R.L. Sharpe.

You can take a guess at my middle names if you want, but I reckon you’re 33/1 to be right……

Let me end this column with a look at the privations and tough obstacles our much-loved racing journalists undergo, to supply the news for the pages of their various papers.

I’ve known Daily Mirror racing hack, Dave Yates for many a year, but only when I saw this plea for help from him on twitter this week did I realise just how he goes above and beyond what any normal human could bear to ensure that his deathless prose will not be denied to his millions of readers:
‘If anyone who knows me, and is attending York today, has any Compeed blister plasters, please would they get in touch? Those blasted Loakes, the most uncomfortable shoes I have ever known, have eaten my right heel again. ‘


Views of authors do not necessarily represent views of Star Sports Bookmakers.



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