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|The heating engineer who hit the £1.5m jackpot for a £2
|Chris Cook at Exeter
Whiteley was on a free day at the races
Horse that sealed bet was
breaking duck on 29th run
Steve Whiteley travelled by bus to the races here on Tuesday, used a
free ticket to get in, placed a £2 bet and went home a millionaire. The
61-year-old heating engineer achieved what no other punter in the country could
manage, picking all six winners here to land the Jackpot, a Tote bet which had
been rolling over for more than a week.
"I'm shaking like a leaf," he said, having been
dragged into the winner's enclosure to pose beside Lupita, the chestnut mare
whose improbable victory in the last race has changed his life. She had been
beaten in all 28 previous starts over hurdles.
The crowd was boosted by many hardened gamblers
trying to win the bet, for which the pool had swollen to £2m by the time
of the first race. Most of those men would be reduced to tears by the almost
entirely random method of selection described by Whiteley as he was presented
with a bottle of champagne.
"I like racing, yeah, but I don't know
nothing about it, do I? I come with my mates," he said. His presence here was
entirely due to a promotion by the racecourse which gave free tickets to him
and six friends.
One of those friends suggested Whiteley have a crack
at the Jackpot but his attempt almost fell at the first fence when he wrote out
a ticket with two selections in each race and was told it would cost £32.
"I couldn't afford that," he said, "so I picked one in each race."
the intense world of serious punters, this kind of cavalier approach makes you
a mug. All around Britain yesterday, form students spent hours putting together
perms that combined dozens of runners and cost hundreds of pounds. That he
should succeed where they failed will be the cause of lasting chagrin.
Pressed as to what had made him pick Lupita, he replied: "Lodge is just
a name that sticks in my head". It was a reference to the jockey, Jessica
Lodge, who was having just her 20th ride in public and her first success.
"Well, I didn't know that," Whiteley admitted.
It would be fair to say
that Whiteley rode his luck in the fourth race, when two serious contenders
fell and a third unseated at the final fence when challenging the eventual
winner, Mr Bennett. This, he said, was "the most exciting bit. My mate said to
me, there's only seven people in the whole country who are still in, and you're
one of them.
"And then, after the next race, he said there's only one!
I couldn't believe it."
When it was revealed that the sole remaining
Jackpot ticket was relying on Lupita, many punters will have assumed the bet
would roll over once more, generating an expected pool of £4m at
Catterick today. Even at quite late stages in the race, success seemed beyond
her and it was only in the final furlong that she plugged gamely past Only
After deductions by the bookmaker, Whiteley won
£1,445,671.20, almost three times as much as the previous biggest
dividend paid out in the 45-year history of the Jackpot. He may use some of it
to upgrade his seat on the flight he had already booked to Australia for a
holiday next week, but he will not retire. "I'll work til I die," he said.
There will surely have been celebrations last night in his home of
North Tawton, a small town north of Dartmoor, but the shocked Whiteley seemed
unable to make any plans as he left the course, still talking of the importance
of attending "our penny-share meeting tonight".
His friends were more
agile in adjusting to his new status as a rich man. "He did my bathroom for
me," said one, "and, if he thinks I'm paying now, he's mad."