Luck on veterans side
FINE Cotton, advent of mobile betting, fashions on the field - a lots changed in racing since bookmaker Brian Shannon first made an appearance at the Stanthorpe Cup in the mid 1970's.
October 20's Stanthorpe Cup day will be Brian's 31st appearance as a bookie. There's been plenty of good and bad years - but he's always drawn back to his hometown showcase.
"I started bookmaking in 1987 but previous to that I worked for other bookmakers around here.
"From probably around the mid-seventies - 1975 I think. I did that for a few years and decided to get a licence myself,” Brian said.
His love for horses came from his dad, while some of the family had involvement in the industry.
"Dad was an avid punter and I had an uncle (Pat Shannon) who was a hell of a penciller. He was unbelievable with figures.
"I was always interested. We raced horses when I was young - we had a few when I was around 21.
"Paul Molan was a publican here (in Stanthorpe) and we bought horses together and raced them. We raced them in Brisbane and Toowoomba. Won a couple races but nothing to brag about. Pretty hard to win a race.
"We had a little bit of luck but not a lot. In the end I thought it might be best to go to the other side.
"I found out it was better bookmaking than backing them.”
Brian's been an ever-present bookie in Stanthorpe, Toowoomba, Warwick, Ipswich, Clifton, Allora, Goondiwindi and Texas over the years.
He says the industry, and the way people engage it, had dramatically altered.
"There's been a lot of changes. All the corporates have come in - all the ones that you see on the TV.
"People start betting on Wednesday so by the time Saturday comes most people have backed the horses they want to back.
"It's just like everything else - people don't go to things like they used to. Of a Friday afternoon everyone got to the pub at 5 o'clock... well that doesn't happen any more.
"Its all changed and its the same with the races. They go to the clubs and watch them in the air conditioned comfort and bet on their phone.
"The non-TAB races are still good. Stanthorpe is still one of the best ones of those,” he said.
For more than 40 years Brian's watched on as the Stanthorpe Cup has evolved.
"The last 10 years its really kicked on. Back in the '80s there was no fashions on the field or social events - it was just racing.
"Now there's so many different things. The young people love getting dressed up and that didn't happen years ago... and they'll have their flutter.”
He'll be there this year, but how many he has left in him, Brian's not sure.
"It's just the sort of thing that gets in your blood. I'm getting towards the end of my tether now - getting too old.
"I've got one staff and he's been with me ever since I started - Barry Brunckhorst. He's seen the good days and the bad days.”
It might have happened at Eagle Farm, but the Fine Cotton ring-in scandal still goes down as one of the most memorable.
"It was probably the most exceptional thing. Unbelievable, that day. It knocked the industry around and proved there was a criminal element there.
"I suppose it probably wasn't the first time it happened but it was the first time they got caught,” he said.
Brian's got his fingers crossed for a clear day on October 20, with local races always preferred by punters.
"It falls away a lot when there's no local racing. That's where about 60 per cent of your business will come from that day, local races.
"It's a thrill seek - punting. There's some big punters about and people wanting thousands of dollars on horses.”
In his 30-plus years he says his biggest pay out was in the vicinity of $4000-5,000.