A Dogged Half-Million Gamble – Football & Racing News – Star Sports

Sports betting PR legend GRAHAM SHARPE writes…

THE LEAST FANCIED of the five greyhounds contesting an otherwise run of the mill race at London’s White City dog track had been the subject of a late gamble at the iconic stadium, seeing his odds slashed from 33/1 to a single figure price.

Unbeknown to most of the 16,000 crowd there on the night of December 8. 1945, who waited until the final race of the evening, Bald Truth in trap four was not only fancied, but also significantly helped by the fact that his four rivals had all been ‘got at’ shortly before the race was run – and the plotters were believed to have piled on enough stake money to equate to a payout of £100,000 or more – worth some £532,000 at today’s value- should the plunge come off: ‘Agents piled on money with bookmakers and the totalisator at the track, bringing the price down from rank outside odds to an SP of 11/2’ reported the media at the time.

Sports writer, Tom Stenner, was at the meeting, sitting with Bald Truth’s owner, his ‘great friend’, Colonel ‘Jock’ Hartley, whose dog had only got into the race as a substitute after late changes had reduced the field. Hartley had splashed out £2 each-way on his runner on the tote.

Stenner described what happened: ‘The traps flew up and the most extraordinary race I have ever witnessed commenced. Fly Bessie showed in front with Jimmy Chicken running wide and Bald Truth in a reasonable position. Following the dash to the first bend of this 525 yard event Fly Bessie appeared to wobble and swerve. My first thought was that she must have lamed herself.

But then everything happened. Every runner, with the exception of the conspicuous, white, Bald Truth, appeared to stumble, and staggered round the track.

As Bald Truth raced past the post 15 lengths ahead I glimpsed the blank astonishment on his owner’s face and heard the angry shouts of heated onlookers.

Officials deliberated and discussed whether to void the event and declare ‘No Race’ but then a too hasty hand reached out and the green light flashed.’
It would emerge that ‘a gang of crooks had discovered the effect of chloretone, a derivative of alcohol, on greyhounds. The drug did not take effect until the dogs were warmed up, when the heat and stress of racing set the dope coursing through their veins’ and as a result they were sure to display the composure of drunken revellers!

Investigations revealed that one of the fixers had hidden in a racing kennel pre-race before slipping out and ‘pushing pieces of fish treated with the choleretone, through the narrow grating on the doors to four of the five runners, ignoring the one white greyhound, Bald Truth, the designated winner.

The man then nipped back, bolted himself in and remained hidden until after the meeting, when he made his getaway.’

The winning trap had been backed nationwide, it was soon revealed.

This was such a sensational event that the famous Chief Inspector Robert Fabian – widely known as ‘Fabian of the Yard’ – was called in to investigate, while a reward of £1000 was offered by the Greyhound Racing Association for information.

But the reward was never claimed and the perpetrators were never brought to justice, although two men were later sentenced to 14 months in prison, at the Old Bailey, for ‘conspiring to administer a drug to greyhounds’ at another stadium, and there were subsequently other prosecutions at places as far apart as Bolton and Southend as ‘a big clean-up’ was enacted.

Jock Hartley, the winning owner, inevitably found himself the subject of suspicion but was proved to be entirely innocent of any involvement.

There was a positive follow-up to the coup as the White City kennels were entirely rebuilt, and subsequently floodlit from the moment dogs were kenneled, and they were heavily guarded until they raced.


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Author: Eugene Morris