The music was great. The world was changing. The UK had emerged from post war gloom and my mum put her ration book in a tin at the back of the cupboard “best not throw it out, you never know when we might need it again.”
And it was the year of my first bet. Yes, I was just 9 years of age when mum and dad allowed me to place a bet on a racehorse. Indeed my dad went to the bookies and placed it.
In these ludicrously overprotective times, when children have to be driven 10 yards to school, he’d probably be arrested for so doing. Or be branded a guilty parent by a seething mob of the unwashed gathered in a TV studio.
But it was my half-a-crown pocket money (look it up on Google you spoiled youth of today!) that went on Honey End in the never to be forgotten 1967 Grand National.
The bet was placed each way, of course. I was clearly born cautious. I got 12/1. The SP price was 15/2. Even then I was taking an early price!
And this Saturday I shall be also betting each way in the Grand National.
With bookies paying out on the first 5 or 6 past the post, it would be profligate not to bet each way.
The story of the 1967 Grand National is best told by David Owen in his book ‘Foinavon.’ If you have not read this book yet, go and buy it now. It captures the essence of that race, the characters that have surrounded the Grand National since its inception and, of course, the book tells us everything we need to know about the 100/1 winner that year, Foinavon.
And my brother was on it! Would you believe it?
Maybe it was because he was 8 years older than me and a wiser punter. More likely he was simply a jammy git!
Watching on our black and white TV at home under the flightpath of the then London airport (Heathrow to you), the volume would have to be turned up if a propeller plane came into land.
Like the rest of the nation, we watched the chain of events in disbelief.
The carnage at the seemingly inoffensive fence number 23 was like something from a war movie.
And when the dust settled – and in the days when jockeys could remount fallen horses – which were the first horses came out of the melee in one piece?
“It was just starting to appear that the baby hurdle would defeat all-comers, when a dark form skirted its way around the edge of the war-zone, approached the fence with short, chopping strides and clambered over, before continuing, almost apologetically, on its way.”
Of course, there was a way to go before Foinavon could be named the winner of a Grand National which, anyone old enough to have watched, will never forget.
Owen continues: “The issue now for (jockey) Buckingham was keeping the horse going and on his feet over six tough fences in his unwonted state of glorious isolation. He talked to his mount. He pushed and kicked. He urged him on once or twice when he tried to duck out. He sweated pints, in spite of the foul day. He never stopped working.”
Foinavon not only held on to win the race. He had a fence named after him. But what happened to my horse, Honey End?
After all, it may have been a gruelling contest of stamina up at Aintree but down south, inside number 7 Brabazon Road, things had become personal!
Come on Honey End!!! You can catch him.
David Owen’s book sums up the closing stages thus:
“It was on the long run to the second last, with Honey End charging like a six furlong sprinter under (Josh) Gifford’s desperate urging, that you began to think they might just catch him – to the joyous relief of an army of punters.”
But it was not to be.
Owen continues: “Honey End had shot his bolt” (a phrase I’ve used about horses carrying my money once or twice since!).
Owen writes: “Buckingham (on Foinavon) reached the winning post, whereupon it looked like all remaining strength drained instantly from his body. He had 15 lengths in hand. A deeply disappointed Gifford held on to second on Honey End.” Close but no cigar. Second. But as I’m always telling members of VG Tips, in a race as competitive as the Grand National, why not be on each way?
It meant that dad could arrive to pick me up from school on Monday (nothing opened on Sundays when I was a nipper) and present me with my winnings.
I had considered nothing else all day long.
I jumped on the back of his Suzuki moped at which time he presented me with a sum of money I’m afraid I cannot recall. Sorry. I wish I could.
I do remember that it was more than my stake. I’d made a profit from punting.
My winnings contained more than one threepenny bit, my favourite coin then and now (yes, I still have a couple).
Whether they are the ones the bookie paid out to me that day in 1967 I cannot know. I like to think they are.
After all, we should all remember the first time we bashed the bookie. Do you?
If so, be sure to tell me in the ‘Have Your Say’ section below.
I shall try and take some money from them again this Saturday and will endeavour to help members of my selection service do likewise.
Of course, we all know the Grand National can be a lottery.
And never more was that the case than in 1967.
The year that Honey End became the first horse to return me some profit.
47 years later, I’m still at it.
Here is the 1967 Grand National as it appears on You Tube