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Offline Arsenal

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O.P. « 2017-Aug-28, 09:14 AM »
Ex-bookie’s days of plunder when Coast’s ring was our strongest
NATHAN EXELBY, The Courier-Mail
August 27, 2017 8:53pm
FORMER big-betting bookmaker Laurie Bricknell has been made a member of the Gold Coast Turf Club’s Hall of Fame in recognition of a 28-year career at the course once recognised as the biggest betting ring in Australia.
Perhaps a little ironically, Queensland’s adopted idol Rough Habit was also inducted on the same night, with his trainer John Wheeler making the trip from New Zealand to accept the honour.

Rough Habit stripped plenty from bookies’ bags during his Queensland visits, which included two Hollindale Cup wins on the Gold Coast, but back then, there was enough clientele on course for bookmakers to balance the books.

Bricknell can still be found most Saturdays at the Gold Coast races, like the rest of us, trying to find a winner. But these days, the telephone number sized bets have been replaced by a more ‘social’ approach to the racing game.

Bricknell worked in the Gold Coast ring from 1971 to 1998, before seeing out his career in Brisbane.

He retired in 2000 and has been “a punter ever since” although he says he’s only betting “small” these days.

“Under today’s conditions the punt is better than bookmaking. There’s no money on racetracks anymore. The only money that comes is on telephones and it’s often tough money,” he said.

“I can’t see there being any improvement on racecourses. There needs to be a dramatic change.

“The corporates have stuffed it and there’s no watchdog on corporates. They can do whatever they want to do and they are not forced to bet. On a racecourse, you are forced to bet every punter that comes along, whether they’re a professional or amateur.

“Back when I was bookmaking, I was betting enormous here at the Gold Coast.

 Former legendary bookmaker Laurie Bricknell at his second home at the Gold Coast races on Saturday. Pictu Grant Peters

“Every day you came to the racecourse here there were punters galore and the money was enormous. I held over $1 million a day on several occasions and was turning over $$25 million a year.

“When you’re holding that type of money, you can be a real bookmaker.

“The punters would be five deep on one side of the rails and four deep on the members, poking money in your face wanting to get on.

“The big punters from Melbourne and Sydney used to fly up to bet here.

“They recognised us as the strongest ring in Australia. Sydney may have been stronger, but guys like Mark Read would fly up here just to bet with me.”

Read was the centrepiece of one of Australian racing’ biggest ever plunges, when his horse Getting Closer won at Canterbury in January 1982 after firming from as much as 200-1 into $8.

“The ex-President of the Gold Coast Turf Club Peter Gallagher was the commission agent here on the Gold Coast,” Bricknell recalls.

“His first bet was 33-1. He said ‘I’ve got to have a thousand on this with you mate’ in that drawly voice of his. He said ‘It’s going to be hard to beat you know.’

“It wasn’t the biggest losing race I ever had but it was the biggest plunge I’ve seen.”


Bricknell described it as an honour to be recognised by the club last week and takes particular pride in the role he and fellow bookmakers helped in building the club in its early years.

“The club struggled in the first few years of being a Saturday race club and they nearly hit the wall. The bookmakers banded together and half bailed the club out,” he said.

“I look back with good memories that we had something to do with keeping the club alive.

“So I was delighted to be given that honour last week.”

One of Bricknell’s legacies to the club is the Ken Russell Memorial, run on Hollindale Stakes day each year.

It started out as the Laurie Bricknell 2YO Classic, but he handed the name over when his close friend Ken Russell died.

“Ken Russell was a great mate. I did the eulogy at Ken’s funeral,” he said.

“Instead of calling it the Laurie Bricknell Classic, we turned it into the Ken Russell Memorial and I sponsored it for many years.”

He also recalls when he saved a riot on Magic Millions Day after one of his bookmaking colleagues “did a runner” after a presumably ugly day.

“After the second last in Melbourne, he picked his betting bag up, left the track and left the clerks with the betting legers and no money to pay out the winning tickets,” Bricknell said.

“I went to the stewards and told them to send the punters to my stand after the races and I paid them out.

Ray Murrihy, the chief steward, thanked me and said I had saved everyone a lot of embarrassment.

“The bookie was never sighted again, but I did get paid back through the bookmakers association.”


Bookmaking gave Bricknell a great life and he’s still grateful to the halcyon days.

He had the likes of former Prime Minister Bob Hawke who would call him every Saturday for “tips” and in retirement he even met former US President George Bush Senior after being upgraded to one of the top suites on the Queen Mary cruise ship.

“I loved those days.,” he says.

“Bookmakers were in control of their own business. Today they are not because they are being handled by the punter, whereas in those days, the bookmaker handled the punter.
“On the big days I would have to bring $100,000 in cash. I remember putting up $3.50 a horse and a punter coming along and having $32,000 on it to win $80,000. I was here to give service, but now that doesn’t happen.

“I had massive security. I lived out at Carrara and I would have a security guard arrive at my house half an hour before I was due home and half an hour before I left, because there was a time where bookies were being knocked off.

“I had little hints from people, who would tell me to look out, so security was a massive thing in those days.

“But overall bookmaking was good to me.” ENDS

Well Done to Nathan Exelby more stories like this would be good. I never met Bricknell but a mate who he used to punt for occasionally told me he was always there with the winnings upfront after the race .
Many years ago I remember one day in the Leger  at Eagle Farm a bookie a big fat grub named Berry-Hill did a runner when he couldn't or wouldn't pay and another bookie stepped up and paid the punters I can't recall his name momentarily but I still can visualise his face .

Giddy Up :beer:

Offline arthur

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« 2017-Aug-28, 01:35 PM Reply #1 »

The crowd at that opening night of night-trotting in Mackay was huge

A little guy in a light-blue safari suit (that's D-M-L stuff) had brought a team of trotters for the occasion, and they left the local hayburners in their wake; while he put the local bookies (a very strong ring in those days) to the sword

His wife had quite a large handbag, and it was chock-a-block

From memory , his name was Bricknell . . or something like that   

Laurie would have  many fond memories of Mackay . .

And he is part of Ooralea folklore . .

Many Mackay locals still relate tales of the 'amateur day' when Bricknell and his neighbour and golfing mate the 'enforcer' were guests of the club

Strangely that day, a red hot favourite, ridden by the 'guest' rider, missed the kick by a 'panel' . .

 But . .  that was of little concern to the other GOH, who being the good judge that he was, had had a big whack at the winning second fav. . .

MKY was a very strong ring in those days, and the visitors well and truly covered any expenses that were not met by the amateur 'chappies'

The 'roar of the ring' is but a dull murmur . .  :wavecry:

No wonder that Nat Gould, Damon "Life is 6 to 5 against" Runyon, and others of their ilk made a good living from their racetrack 'fiction'
« Last Edit: 2017-Aug-28, 05:35 PM by arthur »