Racing: The Mug gets an early whack on The Beaver

It was set up to be a magnificent day’s racing at Caulfield yesterday, and it was.

I have been extremely conscientious in fulfilling my duty to celebrate the premiership properly which has meant I have not paid much attention to the form guide. However there is nothing like a couple hours in an airport and on a plane to get the eyes down and the mind ticking over. I had a couple circled.

Saturday was one of those great sunny spring days, where just the sky makes you feel as happy as Larry (who was running in the second). And on the platform at Flinders Street suited blokes and young women in ill-fitting dresses milled around the potato cake stall on Platform 6.

I am standing among them. They are not talking about racing. Two other blokes are locked in discussion about the Cox Plate which isn’t for a couple of weeks.

I am hosting the Lander and Rogers punting day for Derek Humphery-Smith whose stellar umpiring career was cut down by a terminal bout of the bouncing yips. He played footy at the University of Queensland FC. A classic corporate lawyer, he specialises in employment law and self-promotion. Thankfully balance comes to his home through his beautiful wife Kythe who keeps three kids under five in check.

DHS is a very capable lawyer. His cunning is best illustrated by the fact that he keeps his golf clubs in the office along with his golf kit. On golf days he wears his suit in and changes in the office.

DHS is always worried about what I am going to say from the lectern on these days especially after a few sherberts and doesn’t remember the turbaned-Indians-at-the-pissoir Cox Plate yarn very favourably at all.

So on the train I am trying to think of some opening remarks. Something always turns up. It’s October 10, the tenth of the tenth, which students of Chinese history will know is the day Sun Yat-sen pronounced the nation of modern China in 1912.

Further research reveals that the 10 hasn’t won in metropolitan Melbourne in 49 starts. I’m going to suggest to the 150 punters enjoying the hospitality they back the 10 all day. In the sprint the 10 is an omen tip: Seeking Attention. The whole marquee will be on it in honour of DHS.

The 10 wins the second race but DHS is talking too much and Mark Sullivan (a partner at Landers and very fine tipster) and I aren’t given opportunity to give our tips until the third race.

We set the day up with a general spiel. Mark is very keen on Lucky Secret and Shocking. I am very keen on Starspangledbanner and muck-around keen on a  roughie in the last called Run Roxy Run.

I head off to see The Beaver and his band of merry men. He’s got the soup cans polished for the carnival. He’s just the same: far too happy to be a bookie. It disguises his own brand of cunning; cunning which has Starspangledbanner about  two points under at $11.

I have a few Banner doubles anyway, the main two being Whobegotyou into The Banner and Raffaello into The Banner.

The Beaver is doing his normal schtick. He always says that I hand over a $50 note for a $20 bet so I get change. It makes me feel like I’m getting a collect.

Crio is writing tickets quietly down in the betting ring where there are plenty of punters gathered. Even more Bart Cummings haircuts than I remember. Crio isn’t giving much away.

Back to the tent which is celebrating Lucky Secret’s impressive front-running win. Across the first four races it seems you need to lead or be handy in the run. It will probably suit Denman. Knacker Craig Down, who is backing anything remotely connected to Warrnambool, is convinced it will suit Heart of Dreams. (I have spoken to punters about Arch Symbol simply so I could say the word ‘Wangoom’ in public.)

A corporate tent is full of corporates who like the cash so it is very important for the success of the day that you find some for them. A time-honoured tactic is to recommend favorites, or to mention as many horses in your assessment of the chance as possible. It is possible once the red wine swill is under way to mention nine of 11 in a race and make the very capable lawyers and accountants feel like you’ve tipped the winner.

I tend not to use this tactic, preferring a risk-all approach. But if there was cash to be made it was in taking the standout quinella in the Yalumba. To the amazement of C. Down Heart of Dreams drifts back and isn’t stoked up until Whobegotyou has the race in his keeping, although the Kavanagh-trained star had to find enough over the last 100 to get home.

It’s a good run from the Cox Plate favourite who now heads to the track which he just loves.

So the room has a bit more cash.

I take a quaddie.

Field – you pick the Toorak winner

1 5


3 9 12

$200 – 12.8%

My intention is to lay off, depending on the result of the first leg.

Bart gets Allez Wonder home. She gets the split and amid a host of chances over the last furlong gets the chocolates at $42. The tent is not happy.

Mark and I are both keen on Starspangledbanner in the Guineas after his unlucky fourth in the Prelude.  I am happy not to mention every horse in the race here. In fact I go a bit silly and do a phantom call which has The Banner kicking three lengths clear  at the 250 and the rest getting home too late. (“He’s pinched this.”) This is bordering on tipster-suicide.

I have traded on The Banner, Trusting, Denman and Bart and Dato’s So You Think all week and have a beautiful all-green Betfair book with The Banner to win $1000. Beautiful. I leave the situation as it is, choosing not to lay The Banner against the quaddie. In the dying minutes Denman blows, so I lay him, given he is 0nly $3 and I have him in the quaddie as well.

The Banner jumps well from barrier one, and rolls along. Free-striding. Looks like he is putting a bit of pace in the race. And that is going to bring Trusting and So You Think into it. Denman is out on a limb and he’s going to have to be a superstar to win from there.

D. Nikolic (Remember the D. Nikolic punting stash? I found the envelope when we were cleaning up for our shift to Canberra) gives him a bit of a breather before the turn but he still looks easy in his action, with plenty left in the tank. He navigates the bend with the field now drawing to his derriere.


There is a lot of yahoo-ing in the Lander and Rogers community. At least three tables have the tri and there’s cash everyhwhere. (Except at Derek’s table where he has that why-wasn’t-I-told look on his face.)

Huge win. And a great win for Dene Macleod who has a share in the horse. Sensational. (He actually offered me part of the share and I was astutue enough to knock it back when The Banner was first syndicated.)

I have a Beaver-collect to come, and I can’t restrain myself. I head straight down and pick up the $418. The Beaver is happy to part with the C. Ash because he’s got all the Denman and Trusting foldies in his swollen bag.

So now we’ve really got some punting to do, to manufacture the best possible result. Please, a roughie in the third leg. Please, a roughie.

The second favourite wins, Alcopops, a strong run from the South Aussie. (I love a horse with Strathalbyn form and I advise you go there for a beer and a punt if you ever get the chance. It’s  a track that suits mountain-climbers as the rise into the home straight has to be seen to be believed).

And so I wait for the quaddie approximates.

3 Velocitea – $28,000

9 Tuttsie – $32,000

12 Run Roxy Run – $137,000

I lose all corporate focus. I’m working furiously on Betfair, laying the three runners to lose about $1500 each. I also back Russeting.

So my result across most of the runners is +$691 and better for the three in the quaddie.

Some unfavoured thing wins, and mine run second and third with the roughie not leading as I expected her to.

Not to worry. ER have plenty. So soes Mark Sullivan. So does the tent.

I wind up with Freezer and Mick in the Racecourse Hotel telling war stories.

But if you nail The Beaver it’s always a great day.

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears (appeared?) on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three school-age kids - Theo, Anna, Evie. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst four. His ambition was to lunch for Australia but it clashed with his other ambition - to shoot his age.


  1. John Kingsmill says

    Lovely writing, jth

  2. John Kingsmill says

    Lovely writing, jth

  3. Peter Flynn says

    Very enjoyable read.

    The Alcopop story is becoming the story of the Carnival thus far.
    The trainer mends fences when he should be ensuring his nag is part of 2nd declarations for the Caulfield Cup. What will be will be. Classic.

    That horse showed a serious turn of foot in the straight yesterday.
    I reckon it was a better than normal Herbert Power.
    I have a good Cups Double portfolio going with one significant hole in the 2nd leg (Alcopop).

  4. Why didn’t you nominate the pub for a post-mortem?

  5. JTH – enjoyed that read. I was trying to keep up with you for a while, how you were punting and the mathematics of it all, but I ran out of fingers and toes.

    I could just see that corporate tent buzzing with bulltish and bluster.

  6. Mark Freeman says

    Yes Harmsy, excellent to see the battle with the Beaver back in print. Great day, and punters you should have seen him at the Railway – flying like the Banner.

  7. mick geary says

    John – have only just now recovered enough to get around to reading the yarn. Most enjoyable. Much enjoyment, too, at the Railway. So much so that I did myself out of a Dannys hamburger on the way home (I had only enough change for three dimmies – not the most glorious end to a great day at the track). P’haps by Friday I’ll be looking forward to Saturday…

  8. Mark Freeman says

    Fair to say Gears that besides yourself and Danny, the only other disappointed party in the missing hamburger situation is your bed of roses – disappointed at the fertiliser it missed out on.

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