Magazine article The Spectator

Double Trouble

Magazine article The Spectator

Double Trouble

Article excerpt

For followers of every sport there are trigger words, often in pairs, which immediately bring great moments to life. 'The Thriller in Manila', Muhammad Ali's third fight against Joe Frazier, probably does it for boxing. Any bracketing of 'Coe and Ovett' brings back famous finishes for athletics fans. No true cricket supporter can hear mention of 'Lock and Laker' without recalling the Old Trafford Test when the last-named spinner took 19 wickets - and went home to his Australian-born wife to meet the puzzled inquiry: 'Jim, did you do something good today?'

The yellow and russet leaves still on the trees beside the A11 to Newmarket last Saturday reminded me that two words in racing hold a special magic for me. The 'Autumn Double', the joint title given to two big Newmarket handicaps contested in early October, starts with the Cambridgeshire, qrun over one mile one furlong. A fort-night later comes the Cesarewitch, run over twice that distance, two miles two furlongs, and named in 1839 in honour of the then Russian Crown Prince or Tsarevich. The two races draw big entries of tough and proven horses racing towards the Flat season's end with the form mostly out there for all to see.

With big prices on offer for many they are tempting betting mediums and linking the winners of both races at multiplied odds can bring handsome profits.

The coupling seized my imagination early.

The occasion when I pushed my way into an Oxford betting shop past a fringe of plas-tic streamers to write out my first Autumn Double wager with the stubby pencil provid-ed remains in my mind's eye as an essential rite of passage, along with my first legitimate-ly ordered pint in a pub and the first time I was asked by a lady of the streets if I wanted to do business. …

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