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"Aye," said Banks. "The notes know where to find a cozy home."
A shabbily dressed man with cheeks gone red from frost and chilblains sidled up to the front of the stand and watched as Banks chalked odds. "Have you had a winner yet?" Banks inquired, and the man shook his head.
"That I have not, John," he said. "But I will do. I will do." He put 10 bob on the favorite, and Banks took the bet as seriously as he had a wager of 100 pounds a few moments earlier.
Later, with the other books quoting the favorite in a race at 7 to 4, Banks had the same price chalked on his board, but offered the horse orally at 2 to 1, bringing a rush of punters. By the time the race had started, he had taken in something over $10,000 on the horse; the other books had considerably less. The favorite ran a bad third.
"It was a good enough day," a judicious Banks said after the final race. "But then most days are. I have had better; last year in three days at Cheltenham, I handled over a quarter of a million dollars, and I profited by about $35,000. But then I have had very bad days, too. Haven't we all?"
Ironically, his worst day came on the heels of one of the best bits of inside information.
"I'll never forget that," said Banks. "Not that I brood over my losses. But there was a horse called Persian War who had been champion hurdler for four years. Or he had been for three years and it was coming up the fourth."
Banks heard from one of his informants, who include trainers, jockeys and grooms, that Persian War had something wrong with his wind.
"I did not try to hide the fact," Banks said. "In fact, I went on the telly with the owner half an hour before the race, and during the program the owner told the man on TV that the horse was well. 'You're not telling the truth,' I said to him. 'That horse's wind is bad and you should tell the public the truth.' He wasn't half mad."
Banks went out on a limb and booked over $100,000 in bets on the horse, at better odds than any other book offered. "Persian War came down the stretch lengths to the good," Banks said. "Then he gave way suddenly 100 yards from the finish, but he still managed to win the race and cost me $100,000. The information was right, but the timing was 100 yards off."