Eddie Arcaro's admonition to young jockeys was eoncise: "Don't get beat no noses."
In Great Britain a jockey can't get beat no noses. The most exquisite margin of defeat recorded in Sporting Life, the English Racing Form, is a short head. But a discriminating bettor can get himself beat two short heads simultaneously on almost any Saturday afternoon.
On Aug. 27, for example, a really dedicated horse degenerate, one who was not a snob about betting jumpers, could have blown six or eight bets at a time. He also could have had action on a number of dog tracks, some running in the morning so not to conflict with horse racing, and 46 pro football (soccer) games not including the Scottish League, which he could bet on too.
On the grease-penciled board of the Mecca Bookmakers or from the computerized telly screens of Victoria Sporting & Racing, Ltd., three blocks apart in London NW, a kamikaze spirit could get a price on everything but the air traffic controllers' strike. He could become weathy picking eight "score draws" - ties by any score but 0-0 - in soccer, or play the national game a barely finite number of other ways. Working with the 14 horse race meetings going that day, and or the greyhounds, one could pick a "Union Jack" of nine winners, to be payable in any of eight "treble" combinations (minimum stake 2 1/2 pence, roughly 4.3 cents). Or play a Tote Forecast, which is a trizacta.
But only 11 of all those races would be on television. BBC had the first four at Goodwood and ITV or IBA (Independent Broadcasting Association, the commercial channel) had four at Newmarket and three at Newcastle.
The first event on the tube was the 1:30 p.m. opner at Newmarket (races are known as the 1:30 and the 2:15, rather than the first and second). Inasmuch as that one was a charge of 27 (twenty-seven) 2-year-olds down a six-furlong straightway, it looked like a long afternoon.
But there was an hour and a half to translate the Evening News: "Coquito's Prince 8-6" meant he was carrying eight-stone-six or 118 pounds, getting 11 pounds from the favorite. You could throw out his July 30 race because he was left at the post. But "hdwy frm dist r.o. fnl f" meant he didn't quit. After two pints of Worthington bitter in the sun at the Swiss Cottage Pub, Coquito's prince was looking better. And the sky to the south was looking worse.
The official "State of Going" in the Times of London said the course at Newmarket, where Coquito's Prince would be going, would be "good." But that was in Suffolk, 90 miles north of London, Goodwood Park, on the Sussex esate of the Duke of Richmond, 67 miles to the south, was rated "good to soft". It would be a bog by 2:45 p.m., when they ran the Waterford Crystal Mile.
Be My Guest, the swift 3-year-old saddled by the good Irish trainer Vincent O'Brien, was 6-to-4 in the morning line, a lick. But the rain would shorten the price on Jellaby, which liked "some give in the ground" and had "coped so well" at soft Royal Ascot.
But what about Don. another 3-year-old that romped in the St. James's Palace Stake at Ascot. on soft ground. With the smart money divided between Be My Guest and Jellaby, Don would be a price, right? After the third pint, right.
Enough bets were placed at the Mecca shop to keep the afternoon's television interesting and the daddies adjourned to the living room. The family that plays together stays together, and all that.
(The English bookie shops take out 8.5 per cent, about half that of a New York track. A confident player has the option of paying in advance on his wager, making his winnings tax-free; but a player so confident might better double his ante, right?
It rained and rained at Goodwood, messing things up so that the 2:15 became the 2:25 Post time fo rthe Waterford Mile was further delayed by Radetzky, a 4-year-old that can run when he wants to. He didn't want to, and mode the long trek to the post shuffling backward, shoved along by a groom most of the way. English horses do not have understanding appaloosa ponies to herd them to work.
The mile course at Goodwood begins in right-center field, as if the horses were starting at the seven-furlong chute at Aqueduct or Hialeah but going, Yankee chauvinism would insist, backwards. As they turn right into the straighaway for home, they drift on centrifugal force to the outside (our inside) rail. Be My Guest got there first, opening up a couple of lengths with Lester Piggott, Britain's haughty answer to Bill Hartack, keeping his derriere confidently high.
About 65 yards from home it occurred to Piggott that a couple of horses, notably Don, had nibbled his lead to nothing. He scrunched down a bit and gave Be My Guest a hearty whack on the rump, then another. During this time Don got his head in front and it appeared that at the finish he was in front by more than a head, maybe a half-length.
But the TV camera is positioned somewhat past the finish line, giving it an oblique (s 20 degress or so) aspect and, in this case, a photo that might have started a riot at Bowie. The announcer, accustomed to the slant, broke the news that Be My Guest had brevailed, by more than a sht hd.
The host muttered softly and switched to the ITV channel, where there was a more-or-less head-on shot of Coquito's Prince coming down the seven-furlong course at Newmarket. He had made headway, as Sporting Life would say, and was running on through the final furlong. He was second, but the announcer was talking about an inquiry. Evidently the 3:00 at Newmarket and Goodwood's 2:45 had got off at the same time, and this was instant replay. If the winner were taken down . . .
But the inquiry was about second place, and they let it stand. We had, in fact, lost two races at once, 157 miles apart.
So the afternoon on television was a nohitter. But there was a seven-race programme at Windsor, beginning at 5:00. Orange Squash was 5-to-4 in the 7:20. But The Frummer was giving him only 10 pounds and the going was slft, so . . .