By Chris Hill
Friday, April 4, 2014
If anyone is due a winner on the Grand National it must surely be 103-year-old George Atkinson – who has bet on every race for more than seven decades without success.
The centenarian from Swaffham is believed to be Britain’s oldest punter, and he is certainly one of the unluckiest.
Despite placing bets on the world-famous steeplechase each year since the 1940s he has never managed to back a winner.
This year he is pinning his hopes on 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Long Run and is desperate for the long-awaited victory which will mean he can “die a happy man”.
Mr Atkinson said: “Any winner is nice – but the national would be a dream come true. I could die a happy man.
“Horses are my favourite, but I love a dog race too. Number seven is my lucky number, but I’m not the luckiest punter.”
Mr Atkinson, from Swaffham, placed his first bet on the Grand National in the 1940s after leaving the army.
His first-ever flutter was when he was just 12, after his bookmaker grandfather took him to the Epsom Derby.
He said: “I can’t remember the name as it lost – in fact they all lose. I’ve never even had a place.
“I was once told to back Oxo in 1959 but I didn’t place a bet on it – it won and I’ve regretted it for 55 years.”
The widowed father-of-seven, who is a grandfather and great-grandfather, goes to his local branch of bookmaker William Hill in Swaffham twice a day and even celebrated his 103rd birthday there.
In recognition of his loyal custom and perseverance, the company has given Mr Atkinson a £103 bet – £51.50 each way – as he tries to fulfil his dream of a Grand National win.
He decided to put it on Long Run, owned by Robert Waley-Cohen and trained by Nicky Henderson, whose odds of winning stood at 14/1 yesterday. He said: “It has been a long run without a winner and it feels like my time.”
Yvonne Dobinson, manager of William Hill in Swaffham, said: “George is living proof of how hard it is to win the Grand National with over 70 years failing to pick a winner.
“But he has picked a corker this year and even we will be cheering Long Run on for his sake.”
Although Mr Atkinson has failed to pick a Grand National winner, he has enjoyed some success with other bets – winning £301 from a £1 stake in 2013 by correctly predicting three of the numbers on the Irish Lottery.
See today’s paper for your free pinsticker guide to the Grand National.