Remembering the Legendary Professional Gambler: Simon ‘Dodger’ McCartney

Over the past few weeks, I've delved into several books chronicling the lives of professional gamblers. From the exhilarating A Bloody Good Winner by Dave Nevison to the gripping Gambling For Life by Harry Findlay, these tales paint a vivid picture of the tumultuous journey of those who make a living through betting. Larger-than-life characters, these men share stories of placing astonishing five and six-figure bets as if money were going out of style.

While Nevison and Findlay may be extroverts, the realm of professional gamblers encompasses a diverse range of characters. Some are quietly spoken, knowledgeable, and introverted. Simon ‘Dodger’ McCartney, a professional gambler I recently discovered, falls into this latter category. Although I can't confirm if he perfectly fits this description, I'm certain he would have regaled us with remarkable stories.

My introduction to McCartney came through a piece by racing journalist Brian Lee, published in the Western Mail under the title ‘The Dodger Lives On In Legend As Much-Loved Pro Punter.’ The moniker 'Dodger' originated from McCartney's knack for slipping through bustling crowds to place his bets at National Hunt courses across the country.

Lee fondly shared insights from his 30-year friendship with McCartney, one of a dozen pros navigating the National Hunt circuit. McCartney, whose love for horse racing was inherited from his bookmaker father, left no National Hunt racecourse untouched. Driving 1000 miles a week from his Gloucestershire home, he was a fixture at courses nationwide.

Initially betting on greyhounds at London tracks, McCartney transitioned to jump racing, having been involved in the sport since the age of 16. Hereford held a special place in his heart due to its lovely atmosphere and friendly people.

In a candid moment about his gambling philosophy, McCartney revealed his aversion to each-way bets, preferring to place his money on two horses in a race if the odds were right. A cool-headed gambler, he would cheer on his chosen steeds with a collected "come on, my son" as they cleared the last jump.

Respected on the racecourse, McCartney enjoyed a positive rapport with owners, jockeys, and trainers who sought his opinion. Never one to seek tips, his word and character were trusted. Tragically, McCartney's life was cut short in 2002 at the age of 69 in a road traffic accident, shortly after recovering from throat cancer.

His funeral in North London drew 150 mourners from the racing community, including prominent figures. Nick Gaselee, describing McCartney as one of National Hunt racing’s greatest characters, highlighted his warmth, wit, and lifelong passion for racing. McCartney's success in gambling was evident in his lifestyle, from owning an E-Type Jaguar to a Ferrari and homes in Hampstead and Epping Forest. At his peak, he bet £6,000 a week, yielding a profit of £400.

In the words of Gaselee, McCartney represented all that is good, fair, honest, fun, and amusing in the world of racing, offering a stark contrast to the negative press surrounding gambling in the sport. 

Simon ‘Dodger’ McCartney's legacy lives on, a testament to his passion and love for National Hunt racing.

He is, indeed, sadly missed.

Photo: Pixabay (free) 

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