An English racehorse trainer and horse dealer's son, John Goldsmith was born and brought up in Paris and spoke fluent French. In 1942 he was recruited in to the legendary SOE, and dropped three times behind enemy lines. In 1943 he organised the escape of a French air force general across the Pyrenees. A few months later he was caught by the Gestapo in Paris only to engineer his own getaway from a locked third floor hotel room. By the end of the war he had been awarded the DSO, MC, Croix de Guerre and Legion d'Honneur. Resuming his peacetime occupation in 1946 Goldsmith found uncanny similarities between the secret agent's milieu and the black market world of Britain's post war racetracks. In partnership with a high stakes Mayfair bookie, he orchestrated some of the most audacious betting coups in racing history.