Take a Tip from Me
by Anton Wills-Eve
I bumped into Len as I was walking down Fleet Street towards the office and he looked very glum. “Hey what’s up with you?” I asked “I’ve never seen you looking so fed up. Has Sandra ditched you?” He smiled,
“No, she’s about the only thing left in my life that I trust. I’m broke, old man, and I mean broke. I need at least £100 by tomorrow or I might as well cut my throat.” This wasn’t like Len at all so I quickly tried to cheer him up by asking him if he believed in coincidences. He shook his head, laughed and asked me why. “Well listen to this mate. The Grand National is being run this afternoon and I have a terrific tip.
“There’s a horse called Foinavon running and I was born in a house called ‘Avon’ on the Thames. But wait. On top of that I support Glasgow Celtic at soccer as you know and the jockey is wearing Celtic colours, green and white hoops. Now Celtic have just reached the semi-final of the European cup and are having a great season. But the best is to come.
“Our house on the Thames was in Buckinghamshire and the jockey is called ‘Johnny Buckingham’. The horse must win. How could it lose?” Len fell about grinning at my optimism and asked the key question.
“What are the odds?” I had hoped he would not go down that road but had to admit they were not very encouraging, it was expected to start at 100-1. By this time, as we turned into the bookmakers together, we both made out our slips for the race putting our money on the clear favourite Honey End ridden by Josh Gifford.
We met up again in the pub around six o’clock that evening both looking inconsolable. That day in 1967 one of the greatest turn arounds in racing history had happened when 22 horses were involved in a pile up at the 23rd fence and some even ended up carrying on in the wrong direction. But Foinavon was more than 200 yards behind the leaders when they fell and it slowly caught and passed the entire bemused field to open a 150 yard lead with four fences to jump. Gifford remounted Honey End and gave chase but Foinavon just held on to win one of the greatest Nationals in history at the staggering odds of 100-1. Len and I just looked at each other, shattered. He bought me a beer as he said,
“That’s the way my life has been going all week!”
“Well lucky you then. I nipped back into the bookies ten minutes before the race and put £20 on Foinavon for you. You can buy me another drink out of the £2,000 I’ve just won for you!”