Q & A with Mike Smith (Let's Hunton)
Question & Answer with West Country Bookmaker Mike Smith
Mike Smith is regularly seen at meetings throughout the West Country with his familiar “Let’s Hunton” pink board. Here he gives his views on his profession.
How did you get into Bookmaking?
I was brought up all my life with bookmaking in the family right back to my great grandfather who first started trading as “Dick Reynolds” when he named the business after a friend of his. My grandfather, father and now myself have carried on the business although I use my name when Pointing.
You are also seen trading on racecourses. How much do you cover?
It used to be every day before the Exchanges came along but they have made things so much harder so now I only cover about 25 days under Rules including Royal Ascot whereas I do 40 meetings during the Pointing season.
What are the differences between when you started and now?
Oh I definitely prefer the “good old days!” The Clerking book, tickets and the Tic- Tac. No-one has a clue what Tic-Tac is any more. It was more fun then. Nowadays anyone can set up as a bookmaker instead of really understanding how it all works – in fact you could switch from working in Tesco’s to do the job no problem. Everything is computerised so it’s easy.
We are seeing more and more “Light boards” Pointing. Do you prefer these or would you rather go back to the “Chalk boards?”
Again it’s easier and more modern. But we do have punters who like to take records of the odds and they don’t reproduce using a camera phone taking shots of the light boards.
The Bookmaking Industry has come under fire recently in the media. How do you see its future?
I think it’s been a bit over the top to be honest. They seem to have all jumped on the mental health bandwagon. Obviously like anything it has to be in moderation but I don’t think it’s nearly as bad as it’s made out to be.
Any tips to someone wanting to set up as a Bookmaker?
Don’t do it! No seriously if I was given the option I probably wouldn’t do it and although my sons work with me, they have other jobs. They will probably continue the pointing and maybe Royal Ascot but less than I currently do.
Is there any rivalry between Pointing bookmakers?
Yes definitely. I was always taught there are no friends in this game so there are only a real few I would trust. I try to stay on the right side of the punter and not everyone has that view.
How many serious punters are there within Pointing?
Probably no more than about half a dozen these days which has changed hugely from the past.
Are there any you fear if you see them approaching?
What’s the biggest bet you have ever laid?
It was at Larkhill about 25 years ago. One of Pipes in the Mixed Open and I should have known better. The guy just came along and stuck a bundle of notes in my hand – it was £2k. The horse p****d in at 6-4. Now I always check the amount regardless and I tend to be more cautious in maidens and when an unknown Welsh horse turns up!
What’s the best horse you have seen Pointing?
Difficult as there have been so many. Possibly Let’s Fly who Polly Gundry used to ride in Ladies races. I remember a race they won at Bratton Down when four of them came over the last in a line with Polly just denying Rachel Green & Diana Hobbs. Just a fantastic race.
And what about your favourite horse?
It has to be Pastoral Pride who was owned by my Dad and brother and trained by Polly Curling. He ran in hunter chases as well and won at the Evening Meeting at Cheltenham. We won so much money we didn’t get home for 3 days!
Ston Easton – it’s my local course and it’s also very fair.
Funniest moment that you’ve had Pointing?
Not so much during the racing but after a meeting a Buckfastleigh a few years ago, I joined Ed Walker and one of his owners Mick Rayner for a drink or two afterwards. My son waited for 2 hours and then gave up and went home. I didn’t get back home until Monday evening – the wife was not overly pleased!
Who do you rate as up and coming trainers/jockeys?
I’m a big fan of Chris Barber, Richard Barber’s grandson who is now training. Richard himself did so much for Pointing and he is much missed.
Of the jockeys, Angus Cheleda is making a good impact this season and Millie Wonnacott has also hugely improved.
How do you see the future of Pointing?
I think that although it has obviously declined, we have a good person in charge in Peter Wright and I have been encouraged by what the PPA are doing – so I’m more hopeful!