Best Investment I Ever Made
THE FLYING FERRET
I used to own a greyhound. Well, a bunch of us did actually. It was a yuppie post-university indulgence organized by one of the West End wide boys I worked with in my early stockbroking days in London.
He had picked out an Ad in the Greyhound Star for a ‘Sales Trial’ at the Wimbledon Dogs, a dodgy little affair where they run greyhounds around the track in twos and threes and then auction them off. It is much like auctioning a lotto ticket and the skill, of course, is to glamourise the experience. And they did. We were treated like royalty that night.
There is no Glass’s guide for greyhounds and the closest we came to knowing the pedigree was that “E’s come from a top-notch brood bitch.” Well that was enough. We bid and bid hard and the fact that there were probably close to a hundred of his brothers and sisters splattered across the West End as genetically slow domestic pets didn’t get mentioned. And although he blitzed the field in his ‘trial’ how were we to know they had put him up against the greyhound equivalent of Bassett Hounds. It didn’t matter, to us he was a Champion.
In hindsight, our inexperience must have stuck out a mile and I do hope we gave the auctioneer, the breeders, agents, trainers, kennel operators and other owners at the track a really good laugh as we paid the top price of the night. Perhaps we’d have done better if we hadn’t worn black tie. They don’t see a lot of that at the Wimbledon Dogs Sales Trials.
But it didn’t matter, we were budding eighties stockbrokers in one the biggest stock market rallies of all time and between the eleven of us it was costing about 50p a day each. All in all, it was, as they say, a “Greyt” night out, and when it comes to the dogs, that’s what it’s all about.
We named him the Flying Ferret.
And so a tradition began. Friday nights at Wimbledon Dogs. You could always find us there in the absence of a better offer. At the end of the season we held the inaugural Flying Ferret Black Tie Ball. It became an industry charity dinner night. The stockbroker’s equivalent of the Brownlow Medal. A great “excuse” to go out.
The “Ferret” turned up each year, the star attraction, and everyone wanted in, “Ferret shares” changed hands at huge premiums, girls wanted to know us and no matter how many other syndicates bought dogs, the Flying Ferret was the goods, legendary, all except for one thing. He never won a thing.
Every Thursday night we would put a call into Dell. He was a hard man to track down. No mobile phones in those days. He was our Trainer and our ‘inside man’. “Is he running?” “What are his chances?”
For years we got the standard response. “Who’s this? Oh. Yeah he’s running. No, not tonight. Sorry Son”. And so it went on. And on. And on. The Friday nights, the Flying Ferret Balls, the fun, the frivolity and the excuse to meet. He once came second. Probably by mistake.
But we were happy with our investment and there was a tremendous lesson in that. Expect nothing and you will not be disappointed. And he delivered nothing. But he gave us everything.
Then a funny thing happened one Tuesday. Dell rang us. It was unheard of. Dell bothered to ring us. He said two words. It was all he had to say. “Friday night.”
Well that was it. The news hit the stock market floor and the gold rush was on. I’m not sure whether the Wimbledon Dogs has ever sold out before but there was a record attendance that Friday and by the time the West Enders had loaded up on the Flying Ferret he was paying £1.01p. But still he took money and when he came flying home by two dog lengths, there was not a patron at the track that didn’t revel in his glory. It was perhaps the most majestic sporting moment of all time, ever.
So I’m sorry to tell you that the next Monday we got another call from Dell. The Ferret had died. “Every dog has its day” he told us.
Funny old game the dogs. Miss the old Ferret. Best investment I ever made.
Moral of the story: The result doesn't matter if the journey was worth it. Hopefully you enjoy investing, if not you're missing out on half the fun.
Footnote: For anyone feeling sorry for the Ferret - I'm pretty sure he was at home on the couch with his real owner that Friday night, watching the Wimbledon Dogs on the TV, as some painted imposter delivered for Dell and an ecstatic 'Flying Ferret' syndicate. His 'disappearance' more a legal necessity than a reality.
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Marcus Padley founded Marcus Today in 1998 and leads the team of analysts and market commentators that publishes a daily stock market newsletter, presents four podcasts and runs an $80m Australian equity fund. He is passionate about educating and...