"I've only been driving for Mr. Banks for a year," Gordon said while waiting for his employer outside the small National Westminster branch bank in Sunningdale. "He does cut things a bit fine, you know, likes to go very fast because he has so many places to go. Had my first speeding ticket in 36 years as a chauffeur driving for Mr. Banks. And my first ride in an airplane when he had me fly up to Glasgow to drive back one of the cars."
Banks has covered as many as three meetings in one day, flying to them in his private plane. "I'm glad we have the Mercedes today," Gordon said. "We have to make time and the Rolls is a bit dicey if the going is wet. This one is a marvel in any weather."
After Banks returned, Gordon set off for Brighton as if entered in a Grand Prix; he had once been chauffeur for a racing driver, and the background showed. Somehow he managed to avoid getting his second speeding ticket in 36 years and arrived at the track well before the 2 p.m. first race.
"I couldn't get a place in Tattersalls here," Banks said. "I'm on the rail, which I don't like nearly so well."
The bookies at tracks in England operate in a line of small stands, many of them in a section called Tattersalls. The transactions are in cash, the bookie paying money out of a leather satchel hanging from the stand that supports the blackboard where he chalks the odds he offers. The odds can vary considerably from bookie to bookie, so that the punters wander up and down the line, shopping for the best odds on their choice.
At Brighton, Banks' stand was alongside a fence that separates public and private enclosures; with him were the giants of British bookmaking—Ladbroke's, Hill's and several others. These are credit books, and they usually handle much larger bets than the individual bookies in Tattersalls.
Banks was dressed conservatively, as befits a book on the rail, wearing a dark suit, white shirt with lace insets on the front, a black tie and black shoes. Incongruously, he had jammed a crumpled black hat on his head. The hat seemed at least two sizes too small, and the bookie's shoulder-length, orange-red hair and red face, turning a bit blue in the dank cold, made him look like a small coal fire smoldering under a little black pot.
He chatted amicably with his confreres while one of his employees took wagers. Now and then Banks would walk off to the side with a customer and discuss a large bet at some length, no money changing hands when the odds had been struck. Just before post time four or five men stood on stands made by stacking little wooden boxes one atop the other, three or four high. It made for a precarious perch, but the men atop them were wigwagging vigorously toward the bookies in Tattersalls, each one looking for all the world like a third-base coach putting on a double steal.
"Those are the tic-tac men," Banks explained. "They're giving the other books the odds they're laying here on the rail and taking what action the individual books want to lay off. It operates something like semaphore."
When the horses broke from the starting gate for the first race, Banks clambered up by the rail and watched them through binoculars, his face emotionless. The track at Brighton is laid out in a huge crescent, unlike the customary American oval, and the horses started at the far tip of the crescent, finishing with a long run up a hill in front of the grandstand. Without binoculars, they seemed the size of ants, growing quickly as they pounded to the finish line, hoofbeats curiously muffled on the thick grass of the track.