One of my fondest childhood memories is my regular trips horseracing with my father. I loved to watch the horses race, but I loved even more to watch the strange men betting on them. As a boy of less than ten years of age, I would follow my father around the betting ring, looking up at this motley cast of characters placing their bets, as I tried to make sense of the surreal world I had become part of. The stench of beer, tobacco and sweat filled the air. The bookmakers’ chants of the latest odds, cut through the hubbub of lively conversation.
I loved every moment.
British horseracing is big business. Whether online, over the telephone, or in high-street betting shops, millions of pounds trade hands on every race taking place in Britain every day. Yet away from the big race meetings, attendance at everyday small horseracing meetings can be relatively small. Visit the racecourse betting ring on a dull Monday, and you will find a well-informed tribe of racing enthusiasts, a quirky mix of class and social background, all looking for the next winner. The same characters from my childhood can still be found battling against the bookmakers, just one race away from elation or dejection.
Martin Amis 2009
All images and text © Martin Amis