It is strange how quickly a mood of euphoria can change to one if sadness.
On Saturday evening most in racing were looking back at what was almost universally accepted to have been the best Royal Ascot for many a year.
Superb equine performances from the likes of Henrythenavigaror, Art Connoisseur, Patkai and, last but not least, Yeats taking his third Gold Cup.
On the human side Aiden O’Brien and Johnny Murtagh must top the honours with an honourable mention for the irascible Jim Bolger and his son-in-law jockey Kevin Manning. But also mentions for Suzy Smith, John Best and Ryan Moore all breaking their Royal Ascot ducks.
Even the most ardent republicans also noted the look of sheer delight on the face of The Queen when her Free Agent took the first on Saturday.
Then next morning racing woke to the sad news that “Fearless Freddie” Williams, the bookmaker who was happy to take on JP McManus has passed away the previous evening.
Most outside racing will ask Freddie Who? Inside racing he really was the last of the big time bookmakers.
Not for him looking at the exchanges to set his prices – he had an opinion and he was prepared to put his money where his mouth was. If he though a horse could be beaten he would lay it to large sums. He wasn’t called “Fearless” without reason.
Bookmaker Barry Dennis called him a “throwback to the high rollers of the 40’s and 50’s.”
In an age where the big bookmakers are controlled by bean counting accountants Freddie was a bookmaker from the old school.
It will be interesting to see where the big hitters like JP McManus manage to get their bets on in future, if at all.
I said he was little known outside racing, however he did make the press outside racing when on his way back to his hotel at the 2006 Cheltenham festival he was robbed of £70,000 at gunpoint, this after losing over £900,000 to JP McManus that afternoon. Any lesser man would probably have given up and gone home, not Freddie, he was back at his pitch the next day, taking on all comers.
That’s the sort of man he was. Honest, straight as a die and all who dealt with him had nothing but praise for him. A man from the “old school”.
The expression “end of an era” is one of those overused expressions which has been devalued over the years. However in the passing of Freddie Williams we really have reached the end of an era.
He was the last of a long line of gentlemen bookmakers .
Of course his loss will be devastating beyond words for his family and our sympathies go out to them at this time.
Moreover his loss will be greatly felt within his extended racing family. The betting ring is never going to be the same again.
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