It all began with a wonder horse called Arkle and a lifelong passion for the race track was born, which led Alex Salmond to organise Scotland’s first royal race meeting with the Duke of Rothesay.
He was just nine years old when an uncle captured his imagination with talk of Irish race horse Arkle, which went on to become a racing legend.
The former First Minister remembers it well: “I put half a crown on, and got 7 and 6 back. I was really, really pleased and thought this is the sport for me the sport of kings.
“That was my first bet and I came to the conclusion that this was something that happened every time you put your half-crown on and got more money back. However, it turned out there was a wee bit more to it than that.”
Mr Salmond is fascinated by how betting works. He never spoke of what he thought the odds were for winning the “referendum stakes”, but felt he was favourite on the day.
“Folk like my uncle owned dogs because he couldn’t afford to own a racehorse. He was interested in racing as many working people are, through society to the Queen, who I have spoken to about racing on many, many occasions. It captures something few other sports do.
“There are bits of it I could give or take I’ve never been to Ascot and I don’t think I ever will. But I’ll go to Cheltenham. It’s amazing.”
Betting, of course, carries a dark side and many potential pitfalls.
“If I’m at a race meeting, I’ll put a bet on for the fun of it. It’s not something I’d ever suggest someone does seriously unless you wanted to take it very, very seriously. You should treat it as a hobby.”
At various times, he’s written racing columns and is proud of his “spectacular” 50% win rate.
“When I became First Minister I realised that it wasn’t going to be possible to continue my racing column. You can survive a lot in politics, but a run of losing naps is difficult to explain.
“The only occasion I’ve done a racing column since I became First Minister was once for The Courier.”
The occasion was Scotland’s first-ever Royal race meeting and it came about in 2011 as a result of a collaboration with Prince Charles.
“I’ve got a huge amount of time for Prince Charles,” he said.
They decided on Scotland’s first royal race meeting at Perth to raise money for charity.
“As part of it, we got good sponsorship from DC Thomson. And as part of that, I agreed to come back as a tipster for one day for The Courier. I am delighted to say it was a 100% record in naps. We raised a mighty sum.
“We were planning a TV interview with Prince Charles, but when we got there his advisers were less keen on an interview being a bit over-protective.
“So what I did was when it was time to present the trophy, which the Prince was presenting for the race, I introduced him and said the Prince would like to say a few words.
“He was great considering I handed him the microphone without any warning. He did a great speech, impromptu and witty and on the spot. You asked me about risk-taking there’s an example.”