Wiltshire recalls costly afternoon
Gary Wiltshire can afford to smile now but 20 years ago that was about all he could afford after losing more than £1million through Frankie Dettori's 'Magnificent Seven'.
Frankie Dettori celebrates after completing his 'magnificent seven' on Fujiyama Crest in the Gordon Carter Stakes
The on-course bookmaker can hold his head up high after rolling up his sleeves and working hard to pay back every penny and reflect on the day that changed his life forever.
"It doesn't seem like 20 years. I'll never forget that day," he said.
"I was just caught up in the excitement and everything. I had no intention of going there and laying the bets I laid. I just got carried away with the atmosphere.
"It was the best day for racing ever and it was certainly life-changing for me."
Yet Wiltshire should not have been at Ascot. He was on his way to the jumps meeting at Worcester but a motorway pile-up saw him change course – a course that would have a lasting and dramatic effect on his entire life.
"I was on my way to Worcester. I had no intention of going to Ascot. There was a pile-up on the M40 at Banbury, so I decided to turn back.
"I thought the seven races looked hard at Ascot, so I thought I'd go there and try to win a few quid, never dreaming it was going to end like that.
"It was just an amazing thing that happened.
"I lost over £1million – and just in the one race. I was winning going into the last.
"It (Fujiyama Crest) was a 16-1 shot really and I was laying it at 2-1. I've done my money, but the beauty of that day was that small punters won the money, those staking their 10ps to £2s on trebles and accumulators.
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"There was no big money bet on the track. It was only the offices trying to shorten their liabilities. It was one of those days I was caught up in it, I had no intention of playing as big as that. I was only a very small bookmaker.
"The worst thing about the day was hearing the bell when the horses turned into the home straight for the last race.
"I had a look and thought 'oh dear'. I didn't think the horse (Fujiyama Crest) was going to win until they rang the bell and I saw there was nothing getting closer to Frankie."
He went on: "In one way it destroyed my life, but I fought back, so in another way it made me, but it was hard.
"I was there, I was in the middle of it, but I've still got my health and my family.
"Money has never been my god and never will be.
"I paid with my own money and you have to take the rough with the smooth.
"It was 20 years ago but it never did me any harm. Out of it, I got a job on the BBC and I worked on Sky Sports as well.
"I could have walked away because in those days you didn't have to pay your gambling debts. They weren't recoverable by law, but I had been a barrow boy selling flowers in the market in London and one thing we learnt was never not pay a debt. I was brought up that if you made a mistake you paid for it.
"I made the biggest mistake of my life, but you have to battle away.
"I'm still a bookmaker. I've got 80 pitches on my own over the country and I go racing five or six days a week. It's a hobby for me these days.
"I've still got a pitch at Ascot but I don't think I'll be there on Dettori day. I don't fancy the walk back to Car Park One!
"I might go to Southend instead and have a bowl of jellied eels and walk along the pier!"
Making light of it masks the pain Wiltshire went through and the cost that included selling his house.
It is a credit to him he got back on his feet, although walking is not one of his pastimes as he made clear when recalling a momento from the day he managed to obtain.
"I've still got the race seven board. I bought it from Sothebys. My luck was out that day as well. It wouldn't fit in the taxi, so I had to walk and I've never liked walking," he said.
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