Jeremy Clarke Jeremy Clarke

How I won €160 by mistake

Thanks to our local bar, I ended the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe with bulging trousers

In the final furlong, Sottsass breaks clear and wins the richest race in Europe by a neck. Credit: Zuzanna Lupa/

My French friend André speaks perfect English and is the kindest of men. After reading last week about my futile efforts to place a bet on the French state betting terminal in the village bar, he put himself out during the week to have a word with one of the bar staff. He gave her my description and told her to expect me to appear in the bar the following Sunday afternoon in time for the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. And he drew an assurance from her that she would help me decipher the betting-form multiple-choice hieroglyphics. Or, better still, take a verbal betting instruction over the counter.

I know next to nothing about horses other than that they are frightened of crisp packets and can deliver a terrific kick if you loiter behind them. I should also face the uncomfortable truth that I have won more bets selected because I liked the horse’s name than by any other method.

I have won more bets selected because I liked the horse’s name than by any other method

The Sunday before last, my frame of mind had been oddly grandiose. I had felt inspirited, clairvoyant. I had only to listen to my inner promptings and bet large and the gods would smile and I would be rolling in doubloons and pieces of eight. Since then that particular manic or neurotic episode had subsided and I had returned to normal, which is to say slightly on the sceptical side of realistic. Meanwhile the seed of my earlier fantasy, a three-year-old wonder horse called Love, had been withdrawn from the race. In northern France the rain had come down in stair rods all week long, the Longchamp ground was ‘stinking’ soft, and Love’s trainer feared that her highly bred feet might stick in the mud.

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