Betting at odds with motor racing?

I have heard that the Jockey Club is investigating riders who are deemed to have deliberately held back a hone. Rather curious, surely, that we never heard such complaints at Brooklands, where it was openly accepted that a driver might drive uncompetitively in early races in the hope of a better handicap later on. It was also common knowledge that some would occasionally disguise the true speed of their cars in practice.

Yet lots of bookies were present, the most popular the legendary ‘Long Tom’, who wrote in an early issue of Motor Sport of how he operated. The Tote was introduced in 1929, and betting was also encouraged on car-racing occasions at Aintree.

There was a suggestion that at least one of the drivers would place a bet and, if he realised he could win a race but in doing so would defeat the car on which his money had been put, he would slow down, preferring a substantial sum from a bookie. I hope this was entirely apocryphal.

That betting on cars was taken seriously was emphasised by The Sporting Life and Sportsman having, in the 1920s, forecasts for Brooklands races, by ‘White Line’. It may be unfair to judge how helpful he was to those laying bets by only one of his predictions, but it’s the only reference I have. For the 1926 Autumn Meeting, of eight forecasts, only two, the Leyland Thomas and Meeson’s 30/98, came in.

The only time I’ve placed bets was at the first Goodwood car meeting, when it was almost impossible to lose as the bookies had no idea of what odds to offer. Putting 2/6d on race after race, I won each time, until my luckless bookmaker said he wished I would go away.