I was very sad to hear about rails bookmaker Colin Webster passing away on the 14th of August aged 89. I wasn’t around Colin when he was in his heyday but did get to know him a little at the end of his career, he was always a gentleman to talk to, the last mentions of him in my ‘Tales from the Betting Ring’ blogs were at the Cheltenham Festival in 2013.
‘One of the first layers I saw was one I mentioned in a previous ‘Tales’. He’s the veteran [Colin Webster] looking forward to one last Cheltenham before settling into retirement, he gave me a warm shake of the hand, I wished him luck and meant it. With a grin he was back to enthusiastically setting up his kit belying his years in the process’.
‘The veteran layer who had decided to postpone selling his pitch until after the festival admitted losing but also that he’d not lost nearly as much as he was entitled to so was perfectly happy with his decision so far. You do get the impression that he is going to enjoy every minute of it even if he does his cobblers each and every day though’.
How I’d loved to have been around when Colin’s battles with the likes of Barney Curley and his association with Jack Ramsden have made him a true legendary figure of the betting ring. He was a formidable punter as well as a fearless bookmaker, he had no qualms about turning his punting guns on his fellow bookies, very successfully too. He was known by many as the ‘Lord Of The Ring’. It wasn’t all plain sailing though; his friend David Brewer took the time to relate a ‘Colin’ story to me for this tribute. Over to Brewer.
‘There was a day at Cheltenham, Gold Cup Day about 15 years ago when Dermot Desmond came down to the ring and had a chat with Colin who stood off the joint to talk with him. At the end of the conversation Dermot said to Colin, ‘All the big firms are going a 1/4 the odds on the Gold Cup, are you?’ Not to be outdone Colin said, ‘Of course I am, to you.’
Dermot said, ‘OK I’ll have £10,000 each way horse no 4’. Colin, without looking at the board promptly said, ‘Brewer, £10,000 each-way horse 4 for Mr Desmond’. When I put the bet in the computer, I’d never seen so much red on the screen, the horse was 25/1, the liability on the win side losing £250,000, yes, a quarter of a million!’
‘Two minutes later Colin got back on the joint looked at the screen and said, ‘Brewer what’s wrong with the computer?’ I replied ‘Nothing, you’ve got the horse for £250,000’, with that Colin went white and said, ‘Brew get me out of this’ I replied, ‘How? Everyone is a 1/5 the odds a place’. We sorted the win side out, took 55k on the race and got a result from heaven but horse 4 finished 3rd, we skint the winner and lost about 5k on the race after horse 4 took 60k place money out.’
‘Oh, and Dettori day cost £100,000, we went for dinner in Sunningdale straight after racing, no one spoke but we were back on the Sunday and won 3k back.’
So long Colin Webster, another connection to the last halcyon days of racecourse bookmakers gone but in the annals of the turf, never forgotten.
Simon Nott is author of:
Skint Mob! Tales from the Betting Ring