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The Betting Man
by [?]

If The Panther wins the Derby,[He didn’t] as most people apparently expect him to do, his victory will carry more weight among frequenters of race-courses as an argument for Socialism than any that has yet been invented. For The Panther is a Government-bred horse, born and brought up in defiance of the laissez-faire principles of Mr Harold Cox. He will therefore carry the colours of a great principle at Epsom as well as those of his present lessee. Who would have thought five years ago that the Derby favourite of 1919 would start under so grave a responsibility?

Not that racing men have much time to spare for thoughts about social problems, even when these are related to a horse. Theirs is a busy life. They enjoy little of the leisure that falls to the lot of statesmen and haberdashers.

Their anxieties are a serial story continued from one edition of the day’s papers to another Nor does the last edition of the evening paper make an end of their anxieties. It is not an epilogue to one day so much as a prologue to the next. The programme of races for the following day suggests more problems than the Peace Conference itself could settle in a month. The racing man, having studied the names of the horses entered, goes out to buy some tobacco. As he takes his change from the tobacconist, he asks: “Have you heard anything for to-morrow?” The tobacconist says: “I heard Green Cloak for the first race,” The racing man nods. “You didn’t hear anything for the big race?” he asks. “No. Somebody was saying Holy Saint.” “I heard Oily Hair,” says the racing man gravely. “Good-night.” And he goes out. His brow becomes knitted with thought as he moves off along the pavement. He tells himself that Holy Saint certainly does offer difficulties. Holy Saint is a notoriously bad starter. If he could be trusted to get away, he would be one of the finest horses of his year in long-distance races. But he is continually being left at the post. To back him would be pure gambling. He could win if he liked, but would he like? On the whole, Oily Hair is a safer horse to back. He has already beaten Holy Saint in the Chiswick Cup, and only lost the Scotch Plate to Disaster by a neck. As the racing man allows his memory to dwell on the achievements of Oily Hair his confidence rises. “I see nothing to beat him,” he says to himself. He has just decided to put “a fiver” on him when he meets an acquaintance, who suggests a drink. As they drink, the talk turns on horses. “What are you backing in the big race to-morrow?” “Have you heard anything?” “I heard Oily Hair.” “I think not. I’ll tell you why. Tommy Fitzgibbon’s youngest sister is at school with two sisters of Willie Soames, who’s going to ride Peace on Earth to-morrow, and one of them told her that Willie had written to her to put every halfpenny she has on Peace on Earth.” “I’m sick, sore and tired of backing Peace on Earth. He’s a cantankerous beast that seems to take a positive pleasure in losing races.” “Well, remember what I told you….”

On arriving home our sportsman goes to his shelves and takes down the last annual volume of M’Call’s Racing Chronicle and Pocket Turf Calendar, and looks up Peace on Earth in the index. He turns up the record of one race after another, and finds that the horse has a better past than he had remembered. He cannot make up his mind what to do. He looks over several weekly papers to see if any of them can throw light on his difficulties. Each of them names a different winner for the big race. When he puts on his pyjamas that night, all he knows is that he has decided to decide nothing till the next day.