This is part II of 'Blackford Bert' - Part one can be found at this link - Speedy Gonzales AKA Blackford Bert
Blackford Bert was a 'ringer'. A dog which had won every race it ever entered - in Ireland (or so Gordon had been told). If he could enter it in a race in Scotland without its pedigree and history being known it would win easily and the family could clean up from betting on it. Thing was though, once it had run that first race it could never be a ringer again. It's speed would have been noted and it would be placed in higher quality races from then on and none of us had the know how to train it properly. The upcoming race at Shawfield was the do or die, all or nothing, once in a lifetime chance to make a small fortune. No one was left out. Long lost cousins were called, everyone Gordon owed money to, even our own landlord was let in on the secret - Friday night we'd all be rich.
Bertie had been drawn trap 1 that night - the most favourable position, up against the rail and the shortest route to the finish line if he just hugged the corners. The prize money was pennies and not worth worrying about, the real money was going to be made on betting. Looking around Shawfield Stadium it seemed to me there were more Grants at the dog race than I had ever seen at a wedding or funeral. My Dad's five brothers were there, Gordon, Jimmy, Alex, John and Jack. His sisters were there too, Mary, Flo, Doreen, Maisie and Moira. Then the cousins, nieces and nephews. Everyone it seemed was here to put their their rent money on Bertie. Moving between them I could hear the nervous whispers "What if Gordon's wrong?", "Are you absolutely sure?"
I had every confidence in Bertie - I'd been taking him out the communal back yard and attaching his leash to the washing line for a week and throwing him biscuits, he seemed to move pretty fast. Through my ten year old eyes a dog which could reach a biscuit before the biscuit even hit the ground over a distance of ten feet was undoubtedly a racing champion.
The Bookies started calling the odds "Trap one - Blackford Bert nine to one" The huddled Grant masses started moving toward the assembled bookmakers and Uncle Gordon cautioned them "Don't all rush - too much money in one go will give the game away. The Bookies will suspect he's a ringer. Nice and easy. Just amble up slowly."
I gave my Dad the two shillings I'd got from Uncle Gordon for 'training' Bertie on the washing line "On the nose Dad". I had no idea what it meant but everyone else had been saying it during the previous races - it seemed the right thing to say. Dad smiled "Well if it wins son it means you get eighteen shillings back. Let's hope Gordon knows what he's talking about."
The odds tumbled to two to one as the bookies realised money was pouring in for Blackford Bert and that a sting was most likely under way, but that didn't matter to the Grants - they'd already grabbed him at nine to one.
We all gathered at the trackside, up against the rail, the starting bell rang, the electric Hare took off and the traps sprung open.
Blackford Bert was everything Uncle Gordon said he was - He came out of the traps like a bullet and reached the first corner two lengths clear. His red jacket distinctly showed him four lengths clear by the second corner. The race was virtually over by the third corner so great was the distance between him and the other dogs. We all hugged one another in astonished disbelief as he headed for the final corner and when the realisation dawned that this was the biggest pay day ever - no one could contain themselves any longer. The nervous silence erupted into a crescendo of ''C'MON BERTIE!" - The whole family were screaming it in unison - and that's precisely what Bertie did - He 'Came on'. Without breaking his stride he ran to the trackside rail, and in a single bound flew over it onto the terracing where we stood. Delighted to see us he wagged his tail furiously and leapt up and down between Uncle Gordon and myself. Stunned silence ensued. Five other dogs flashed past on the track and we all stared down at Bertie in horror.
In a strained and terse voice Uncle Gordon asked "Who called out 'Bertie?"
Everyone shook their heads even though everyone had.
No Taxi home that night, not even a bus. It was a long silent walk through the dark.