The Mug Punter: The only day The Beaver got beat

Dam breaks on Beaver

Cox Plate Day 2007



FORGIVE me if this makes no sense, but I’ve been celebrating. This has been a sensational day. And if Sensational Toy had hung on in the last, I doubt you’d be reading this. I had doubles going with her for heaps.


Cox Plate Day 2007 will go down in history. I’m not sure I’ve seen anything like it. I’ve certainly never seen Wal F. Beaver in this state: darting around, wondering whether he’s got enough cash to pay. Looking like he’ll never recover. Writing down numbers, and crossing them out. Staring at his prices for the races to come. Staring across the ring. Pacing. Looking at his staff. Seeing who he’s going to lay off. Searching for every ATM card in his existence. While the punters line up.


My mate Biddsy: Royal Asscher into El Segundo, $660. Join the queue. Me: feeling very happy. Gallic, the Shehu Shagari Special, into El Segundo, $400. I’m one spot behind Biddsy in the queue. Wally: looking unhappy. Hating it.


Another bloke collecting $4400. And then the real source of his upset. A bloke called Maso waltzes up. About to collect heaps. Big. I’m not sure how much but it’s a lot. “Don’t rub it in,” he says to me. “Don’t make Wally feel bad.”


“The Beaver?” I think. “You’re kidding. Don’t make The Beaver feel bad?”


Maso whispers, “Royal Asscher into El Segundo.” For more than he’s willing to admit to. More than $30,000. All I know is that Wally is in strife.


Maso is a sympathetic punter. Concerned for Wally’s well-being (which is the difference between a bookie and a punter). Maso is given a wad of cash. Not enough.


Maso’s face is dead-pan. Wally buzzes about. And then he gives Maso a piece of paper. A bit of paper he’s found (maybe on the ground). It’s printed on one side: a Wal F. Beaver spreadsheet. I’m trying to see what he’s written on it. And then I see. It’s an IOU. A fair dinkum IOU. “Pay Maso $10,000.” Wally is forced to go looking for the cash. Wally F. Beaver is in such a state he has paid a punter with an IOU.


It is magnificent. I want one of those IOUs. One day.


What a great Cox Plate Day.


I got to Moonee Valley in time for the third race. I’d made Wilson’s Promontory my roughie of the day. No one gave him a chance. Indeed, when I walked up to Wally’s board and said I wanted doubles around Wilson’s Promontory, Wally wound him out from 100-1 to 150-1. Never seen it before. Wally being generous.


And then I had a bit of the 150-1 on offer with Bill Graham. I love that I was on the punt with a bloke called Billy Graham, even though he was only offering $21 the place. Wilson’s Promontory ran home beautifully for third and I was set.


Punters went hard on Miss Andretti. I left the race alone. She pulled early and they were concerned. Gold Edition settled well. Stathi Katsidis had plenty of horse. But Miss Andretti was too good. There were a lot of live Beaver tickets, and a few Royal Asscher-Miss Andretti collectors. I was standing in a happy ring.


I’m not sure Marching was a happy result in the AAMI Vase, though. But Gallic in the Moonee Valley Cup was. He looked the class horse, but he drifted slightly in the market. That didn’t stop punters from getting on. And (with the crowd so chockers), those of us who stood under the TV screens could see the Adelaide and Sydney Cup winner was travelling. S Arnold was patient. And stayed. You beauty.


Then the big one: the Cox Plate. There were so many chances. So much punting confusion. How were we to make sense of the Turnbull? How good was Devil Moon? Why was there so much money for Haradasun? What of Miss Finland? Divine Madonna? Marasco? How did Efficient fit in? Or Zipping? This was a seriously even race.


I backed Niconero, for the value, but had that double with my second pick, El Segundo. Before the race, people grabbed ale and jostled for positions. Coppers forgot their duty. Bar staff took a rest: no one hassled them for beers.


Haradasun was caught wide and went forward. But there didn’t seem to be much pressure in the race. It wasn’t running to script. Niconero was well back. El Segundo was travelling. Wonderful World loomed, and for a moment looked an unlikely winner. But El Segundo swooped. He cruised past, with nothing coming from behind. And those who had backed him had the luxury of enjoying the final stages.


The Beaver felt no luxury. He was skinned. Punters celebrated. Beers were downed.


It was a ripper 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 on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo13, Anna11, Evie10. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.


  1. JTH, Correct it makes no sense. The only thing I vaguely understood was Shehu Shegari (I may still have a cap somewhere). You could still explain what a ‘Shehu Shegari special’ is. Now I have the national Party of Nigeria locked in my head and can’t concentrate on my work. You know he was kidnapped and smuggled out of Nigeria in a crate on a ship don’t you?

  2. It was a classic day. Yes, re Shehu. Remember Jimmy the Nigerian in London? Were you with me? I’ll have to check the journal.

    The special was named because of the lucky punter’s cap. I was wearing the Shehu at Eagle Farm when In The Limelight won at 50/1.

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