The Secret Racegoer joins the Mayfair set
The Secret Racegoer joins the Mayfair set
The William Hill betting shop around the corner from the Secret Racegoer in south London is one of many that now lies empty. Sadly jobs will have been lost. As it was next door to an M&S Simply Food and not a pub, it wasn’t a bookies which the Secret Racegoer visited.
However, the need to pop into a betting shop arose the other day when the Secret Racegoer was rather sweet on a horse running at Warwick. The off time was about an hour before he was due for a meeting in a pub in London’s Mayfair.
Conveniently located in Mayfair was the flagship shop of Star Sports, a bookmaker known for its on-course joints, online operation and having sewn up the sponsorship of Cheltenham Festival Preview evenings throughout the land.
As well as the Mayfair venue, Star Sports have a shop in Reading and plan to go nationwide, adding a shop in Manchester.
But it was the Mayfair office that was conveniently located for the Secret Racegoer to watch his fancied runner.
Wad of £50 notes
Being Mayfair, there was expectation that the Star Sports shop would cater for high-rollers. Should he go armed with a wad of £50 notes. He knew they existed, he’d seen one once.
It seemed fitting that he should arrive in Mayfair chauffeur-driven. Unfortunately, he never knew the name of the driver as you are not supposed to speak to him when he’s driving the bus.
The Star Sports shop is located a few metres from the Dorchester, and just around the corner from the Playboy Club and Crockfords Casino. This is serious money territory.
Just how exclusive things might be at Star Sports became apparent when the Secret Racegoer encountered an entry phone system to gain admission. A button was pressed. Nothing. Pressed again. Could it detect that the Secret Racegoer had fallen at the first hurdle?
Then a sign was spotted which said that to gain entry to Star Sports, please ring the bell.
That gained a response from the inner sanctum of Star Sports, a click sounded, and the door was released.
Once through the door, the Secret Racegoer found himself in what seemed like a “ghost” betting shop. The screens were showing the racing, gaming machines were flashing their offerings, but nobody was about.
There was, however, sounds of activity further into the shop. Following those sounds, the Secret Racegoer found the heart of the operation.
A big bank of TV screens, a number of small round tables, each with a stack of betting slips, a pen, and a copy of the Racing Post. Here was where the action was.
The Secret Racegoer was not in need of a free Racing Post as, due to an earlier “senior moment”, he’d already got two copies.
Behind a counter were two members of the shop staff. “Have difficulty getting in did you sir?” said one. The Secret Racegoer smiled meekly and sat in one of the armchairs. Moments later someone hovered over him.
“Would you like a cup of coffee?” he asked.
There was one other customer in the shop, or so it seemed. But then a voice came from even further into the shop, expressing an opinion on a race just run in South Africa.
Bond film villain
The voice’s master was located in a small room that was surrounded by screens and bore a resemblance to the control centre of a Bond film villain .
The coffee arrived; dash of milk, no sugar.
It was probably the Secret Racegoer’s imagination, but there seemed to be a faint aroma of cigar smoke in the air. Might this be a special Glade air-freshener created to enhance the Star Sports ambience?
What the Secret Racegoer did not imagine was a bowl of fruit on the counter.
A fellow customer popped a large wad of bank notes into his jacket’s inside pocket. They were kept together by an elastic band.
Had the gentleman walked a few metres up the street, he could have turned into South Audley Street where one of its many luxuriant shops could have sold him a nice wallet. Although he would have probably returned without the wad of notes.
The beauty of an independently run shop, unlike the multi-shop chains, is that the screens don’t assault you with talking heads. Instead, there are just pictures from the racecourses.
Whether or not that remains the same when Star Sports becomes a nationwide organisation after the opening of the Manchester shop remains to be seen.
The Warwick race approached and, with a sense that the hospitality should be reciprocated, the Secret Racegoer submitted a betting slip, not with a £50 stake, but something which didn’t seem too apologetic.
King’s Odyssey won at 9/4 and, after a decent interval, the Secret Racegoer returned to the counter to collect his winnings.
“Is it easier getting out?” he asked. It is, he was told, but you can’t leave until 8 o’clock, when we shut.
More Secret Racegoer reports
Joining the Mayfair set http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-2ZV
Ascot’s Beer Festival http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-2JE
A nice lunch in Newmarket http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-2xk
It’s pretty much all Champion in Ireland http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-2CT
Royal Ascot 2019 part 1 http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-2bn
Royal Ascot 2019 part 2 http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-2co
Sydney Arms, Chelsea http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-1E3
Saluting Enable http://wp.me/p8e3Dl-2h2