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He has pitches at 19 racecourses, and is putting them all up for sale. Speaking of his decision to hang up whatever it is that bookmakers have to hang up, Webster told the Racing Post, “I’m not really happy about retiring, but it is the sensible thing to do at my age. What has really got to me is the driving. When I went to Cheltenham last month it was a 12 hour day and four of them were spent in the car.”
It’s a far cry from the days when he started helping out in the family bookmaking business at the old Halifax greyhound stadium. He subsequently had his own betting shop in the town, but after selling that to Ladbrokes in 1973, has spent the last 40 years in the racecourse betting ring, earning the epithet “Lord of the Ring” from John McCririck.
For many years Webster had a close association with professional punter Jack Ramsden, and there were many suggestions that Webster used to pay Ramsden £5,000 a year for advice on horses. This is something Webster says is untrue, through he acknowledges that he often hedged the bets Ramsden had placed with him.
He was a role model for up and coming bookmakers. Justin Carthy had a major share in Irish bookmakers Chronicle, and recalled how he looked up to Webster and Victor Chandler. He said, “I remember going over as a racegoer to the meetings like Cheltenham long before I was betting there, standing in the ring by the rails and looking up at people like Victor (Chandler). He’d always be wearing this beautiful dark brown overcoat and smart suit and tie. All his men would be in smart suits too and you’d see all the big punters congregating around them and all the big bets going down and I knew that’s the kind of bookmaker I wanted to be. I’d still rather look at what Chandlers or Colin Webster are doing than at Hills, Ladbrokes or Coral.”
Webster won’t have any difficulty selling his pitches at Cheltenham, Royal Ascot, Epsom, Sandown and Newbury, although the others may prove less attractive. He says he’ll carry on betting until they are all gone. It would be appropriate if that were before May, and that his farewell to the industry would be success at the 5th Annual Betview Awards. He’s one of three nominations for Best on-course Betting Operator.
Whenever it is, Webster says, “I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in the industry and it will be a sorry day for me when it’s over.”