Last year’s COVID crisis ended a long streak for 91-year-old bookmaker Jack Veale.
Veale had fielded at an amazing 57 Warrnambool carnivals in a row before missing last year’s three-day event, which was run in front of empty grandstands.
But Veale was back at Warrnambool bright and early on Tuesday’s opening day of the 2021 carnival, which he rates among the best racing events in Australia.
“I did 57 years straight before last year, which was a real shame.
“This carnival is second to the (Melbourne Cup) week at Flemington. I did that for 57 years running somewhere or other, mainly Flemington, as well until last year.”
Veale could easily have retired and not brave the hardened punters that get to Warrnambool every year but he said he still relishes the chance to head to the betting ring.
Veale, who was also a country football legend in his day, said the mix of catching up with old mates and the challenge of the betting ring made Warrnambool an essential part of his year.
“I just love this meeting. I’ve met so many great people of the years,” Veale said.
“There’s a lot of blokes that have been betting with me for years and it’s great to see them.
“They seem to come and see me just to back more winners and take more money off me.”
Veale even raises a smile when his clients come to collect their winnings after a race.
But the bookie doesn’t want it to happen to often, even when the winning punters are long-term friends.
“I also know my clients well and it’s a good chance to catch up with them and see how they’re going,” Veale said.
“My son clerks for me and we still really enjoy coming and doing this week.
“It’s terrific – as long as I don’t lose too much money.”