November 11th, 2021 | Ian Carnaby's Racing News

I have few reasons to go to London these days, which is a source of some regret, though the fact is that several of my old haunts have closed and those that are in still in business are run by people I don’t recognise. This is true of The Running Footman off Berkeley Square and the Grapes, an excellent hostelry in Shepherd Market and the setting for Arthur La Bern’s novel Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square, which Alfred Hitchcock turned into the film Frenzy.

My favourite pub a little further north is the Victoria off Sussex Gardens. I used it in the short story Love In The Afternoon, which appears in Not Minding That It Hurts. I never told the management about it so maybe I’ll hand over a copy on December 6, because this is also the establishment used by a handful of journalists before the Horserace Writers Awards lunch at the Royal Lancaster Hotel.

We had quite a tip at this shindig ten years ago. Richard Hannon’s Duke Of Clarence was supposed to win a little race on the all-weather and pay for the stable lads’ Christmas down East Everleigh way. He started 11/8 favourite and finished seventh of 12, as I recall. On he went to Kempton and finished fifth at 6/4. Maybe they meant the following Christmas because once he started winning he couldn’t stop and completed a hat-trick many months later.

My dad would have stayed with him, of course. Once backed, a horse deserved your unstinting loyalty, come what may. I suppose you’d call this sort of support the ‘just in case’ syndrome. After all the mentions I gave Mr Eireann Cagney these past few months, he’d have kept the columns, checked the runners every day and backed Ghostly, given a beautifully-judged ride from in front, at Nottingham the other day. 33/1 was my dad’s sort of price, too. It’s just a pity he’s been gone for fifty years.

I ought to remember the funeral better but everything seems to be a blur. One’s nearest and dearest are too close to it all, perhaps. I’m an only child, so there will be no shattering loss of a brother or sister. It’s strange but that only occurred to me the other day and I’m very nearly 73 now.

I never thought I’d see this but a while back a Musselburgh card included a five-furlong handicap sponsored by M & F Funeral Services. This must surely have been a first and I wondered about the atmosphere. None of the usual conversational gambits would apply, would they? No ‘how’s business?’ for openers, no ‘mustn’t grumble’ and you’d need to know the dress code, as well. I wonder if there was a cup for winning connections. You’d have to make sure it really looked like a cup and not like, well, not like an urn, for example.

Anyway, Linda Perratt’s Weetentherty obliged at 40/1 and if a man needs second sight to find her winners that will soon be no problem here because I’m about to get new reading glasses, ‘distance’ glasses and probably a pair for things in between. I like Linda, who always seems cheerful and doesn’t bother with 6/4 shots, which may well be because her horses never have the sort of form to start at 6/4 anyway.

My dad would have loved her, just as he loved old Eddie Magner, whose inmates he routinely described as ‘pit ponies’, though they seldom if ever went unbacked. There was always the ‘just in case’ factor lurking in the background.

Well, titter ye not, as Frankie Howerd used to say. Claude Monet won a fortune on the French lottery in 1890 and gave up being a messenger in order to paint full time. Casanova loved a bet when he wasn’t otherwise engaged and Dostoyevsky would never have written Crime And Punishment but for being completely wiped out on the wheel.

They’d all have been in my dad’s camp. I like to think he’s chuckling to himself.

Ian’s two books are available to buy on our website. Click here to see his latest book The Long Road From Portman Square, a fantastic read for any racing fan.