“The ‘Magnificent Seven’ at Ascot in September 1996 was the greatest day of my racing life – and the worst day of Gary Wiltshire’s. How he came back was almost as amazing as how he got there in the first place. Read his story.” FRANKIE DETTORI
“A bell was clanging. It was sounding for my funeral. At Ascot racecourse they still ring a bell as the runners enter the home straight – it’s one of the many quaint old traditions which the course keeps going. Another is the age old tradition of some poor sod doing his bollocks in the betting ring. This time round that poor sod was me.”
Gary Wiltshire, gambler, bookmaker, ‘Belly from the Telly’ and BBC Racing Pundit is almost as well known on Britain’s racecourses and dog tracks as Frankie Dettori, the man who cost him a million pounds in one afternoon by riding his way through a seven-race card. Winning It Back: The Autobiography of Britain’s Biggest Gambler, published by Racing Post Books on 5th April 2011, tells this remarkable story with all the flamboyance, humour and sharpness that is Gary’s trademark in the betting ring.
The book opens with the young Gary Wiltshire working on a flower stall in Leather Lane Market and serving the likes of the Kray family who he describes as “very influential in the local community”! From the age of five or six, he could calculate odds and all he wanted to do was be a bookie. Surviving on his wits and a variety of schemes and scams, he developed an early addiction to gambling which led him to seek counselling at a young age. At one stage he even fled to Jersey, to avoid not his gambling but a proposed circumcision required by the religion of his wife(not)-to-be.
The book tells many fascinating tales from the ‘good old days’ of punting and ways to beat the bookies you’ve never imagined and how Gary and his ‘putters on’ used to dress up and assume different personas in the betting shops of Britain to obtain the best prices.
After establishing himself as a successful bookie with several houses and a top-of-the-range Mercedes, Winning It Back leads inevitably to that fateful day: the traffic jam on the M40 that meant Gary went to Ascot instead of Worcester: how he saw Frankie’s seventh leg as a ‘licence to print money’ and how he lost everything in just a few minutes.
As the title of the book suggests though, after contemplating suicide, Gary sold all he owned, moved to a converted garage, paid back every penny and the ‘bookie who lost a million’ became famous, leading to high profile roles with Sky and the BBC.
Gary Wiltshire is larger than life in every respect and his book is simply this: a tale of winning big and losing big – and winning it back.
Winning It Back is published on 5th April by Racing Post Books, priced £18.99. Winning It Back: The Autobiography of Britain’s Biggest Gambler
Available from www.racingpost.books/shop and all good booksellers