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Tuesday, 6 September 2011

The Happy Punter Of Ally Pally (Part 6)

John Mort Green (Alias The Butterfly)

"Oh, sure," the man said disgustedly. "Hundreds of pounds."

Green turned quickly to a girl on the other side and said, "No good for the hair, this rainy weather, is it?" Then the caller informed us, "They're under starter's orders."

"Isn't it exhilarating?" the Butterfly said, flashing a happy smile. There were no further reports until the announcer informed us that "the delay is caused by Shylock, who's playing up a bit."

"Bad news," said Green, the smile vanishing, and then a dirty white flag was dropped and the caller said, "They're off. The leader is Cortachy Boy from Shylock and Bas Dimanche."

"We're in business!" said John Mort Green.

There was no change in the positions until the horses came into sight for the two-furlong drive to the finish. "He's in trouble," Green said, peering through what he calls his "bins." "Ah! Now he's running better." Shylock moved into a short lead. "He's got the biscuits!" the Butterfly shouted. "Hard at 'em now. my Shylock! Hard at 'em! Up! Up! Up!" And then, just as the herd passed in front of us, a horse named Warsite came from out of the pack to nip Shylock at the wire. The Butterfly was not exhilarated.

"Sixteen wins the biscuits." he grumbled. "There you are, see? Shylock's got 'em all beat but this bloody Warsite. Twenty-three horses and all beat to a frazzle! Look at his record, this bloody Warsite. He's never been there before. But he was there today. From now on it's 'Up lads and at 'em!' This is the time when you get up off your left knee!"

He did indeed get up off his left knee and finished the evening's racing slightly in the black. But his chance for a big killing had ended the instant Warsite moved on Shylock. Later, in the cool calm of retrospect, the Butterfly waxed philosophical about such occurrences.

"The day after something like that happens, it's completely gone from my mind," he said, "and all I can remember is being there, the beauty of it all. your mates about you and the setting and the excitement. Every race is like St. Crispin's Day to me. That was the day of the Battle of Agincourt, when 10,000 Englishmen beat 50,000 Frenchmen. The English had no money and very few friends, but they had their confidence, and confidence is everything. When I'm at the racecourse, I'm Henry V at Agincourt. 'We few, we happy few, we band of brothers: for he today that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.' That's Shakespeare."

"I thought you said you didn't read anything but the horse news," I said.

"I learned it in school and it stuck with me. That part about: 'For if it be a sin to covet honor, I am the most offending soul alive,' meaning no matter who's left with me, I want to be the singular person. I remembered that because I want to be the singular person, too. Racing needs individuals, don't you think so, Olsen J.?"

Olsen J. said he thought so.