From Bicycle To Bentley

Format: Hardback (144 pages)

Author: Stephen Little

Publisher: Pen & Sword Books

ISBN: 9781036101930 

Published: 15th August 2023

Reviewed: August 2023

We picked up a signed copy of this book during our review of Bath Racecourse in August 2023. 

It's an excellent read, taking you back to the hey-day of on and off course betting, when Coral's was owned by Joe Coral and William Hill, was owned by, William Hill. In his book, Stephen takes the reader from his earliest school days when it became clear he was academically bright, especially in maths, attending prep school, winning a scholarship to major public school Uppingham where he won maths prizes and, aged 16, passed 3 S (scholarship) levels. By then he had decided to be a bookie. He attended an interview for Cambridge University only because it was on his bicycle route to Newmarket races!

Unable to work in any gambling job until 18, he set about visiting racecourses by bicycle, staying in youth hotels (17½p per night), eventually cycling to all racecourses in the UK, including several now-defunct courses.

At 18 he found employment with Beresford & Smith in London; aged 24 he got his first bookie’s licence in 1971 and by the age of 40 in 1986 was betting big on the rails at major meetings such as the Grand National, Cheltenham, Derby, Royal Ascot and Glorious Goodwood, often laying bets to lose £100,000 or more - when money was worth nearly twice today’s value - one of the few bookies who happily stood "toe to toe and traded blow for blow" with big hitters like JP McManus, Barney Curley, Michael Tabor and Harry Findlay.

In 1998 changes in pitch administration prompted early retirement, and he sold his pitches, worked for a few unsatisfactory years for Corals and then departed the big time - with a Bentley as well as a bicycle, a house on the Crescent, in Georgian Bath and a satisfactory bank balance.

In our opinion, definitely worth a read!

Racecourse Advisor Overall Rating: 8/10.