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Monday, 24 January 2022

It's a Classic Tactical Affair

As a follower of two-year-old horse racing, I don't take much interest in the three-year-old Classics: 1000 Guineas, 2000 Guineas, Epsom Derby, Oaks & St Leger.  

Perhaps I should.

I was going to say it's a time thing, but thinking about it, that can't be the case as it doesn't take any longer than a few minutes. I guess I'm just not that interested which is a shame as these should be races to savour. 

I'm sure many race fans enjoyed the Oaks and the Epsom Derby. 

As it happened, I intended to watch the Derby but got carried away with work and then the next thing it had come and gone. 

I checked the result to see big-priced horses filled the frame. 

I still haven't watched the race. 

However, my good friend Eric Winner asked: ''Did you watch the Oaks?''

An hour or so later, I watched it. I knew what he was referring to because we had a conversation about pacemakers. 

I wonder what is your opinion about pacemakers in high-class races? I guess they are there for a reason. Strangely, trainers would, I imagine, say they have a pacemaker so it is a truly run race. Using tactics so it isn't a tactical affair. It doesn't sound very logical to me. 

The way the Aidan O'Brien and John Gosden horse stormed to the front, to me, made the race a ridiculous sight. It took away from the atmosphere and spectacle. Should these horses even be in the race? 

The pacemakers were ridden in splendid isolation. Then dropped back. The race was won easily by Love. 

A brilliant horse. 

I wondered what I was watching. The circus of the pacemakers. Any form of manipulation brings about problems if not ethical issues. Something very honest and true is tainted. 

To me, there's something wrong with this whole approach.

I guess pacemakers are needed?

A trainer, I guess, can instruct his rider to run any way they wish, as long as they are trying.

However, I wonder if these high-profile races are lessened by such tactics. If a horse is a champion then I'm sure it will win. To challenge adversity and win whether than is being held up or being brave enough to lead from the front.

That is a champion.

Isn't that the truth of the story and the one we want to watch and read about?

Whether a pacemaker or not any horse has the right under the present regulations to lead. So we may be questioning is a front runner simply a horse that leads or is it a pacemaker? 

But the whole premise of the argument is the intention. Clearly, the respective trainers made the decision to have pacemakers and I think it undermines everything good about horse racing. 

The Oaks wasn't the race it should have been. 

A superb winning performance was made to look poorer for the tactics employed by those so wanting to win.

No wonder I stick to my run-of-the-mill two-year-old racing. 

Tuesday, 11 January 2022

What Happened to the Traditional Bookmakers?

Can you remember Honest Joe your local bookmaker?

You may have to ask your uncle, dad or grandfather. I remember my dad use to like a bet and there was an independent bookmaker at the top of the road next to the corner shop. It was a tiny place, a prefabricated building, most likely a remnant of the Second World War. It was run by one of the Scotney's. I will have to ask my cousin whether it was Fred or Michael, although I know it wasn't Joe (and I'm not sure if he was honest or not). 

I wasn't old enough to place a bet, and by the time I was, it had gone. Fell by the way like many independents. 

As I have said before, we live in a competitive world. And the idea of thinking every bookmaker is guaranteed a life of luxury off the back of numpty gamblers isn't quite as common as the public may believe. 

The mentality of the general public that the bookmaker always wins isn't true. Although most bookmakers shrivel up and die because of competition from other bookmakers rather than a comical scene from the film Carry On at Your Convenience where Sid Plummer's pet budgie gave him a string of winning tips and luckless turf accountant Benny The Bookie swiftly closed his account. 

Sid Plummer [played by Sid James, who was a problem gambler in real life] said to Benny The Bookie: ''What kind of sportsman are you?'' 

He replied: ''If I was a sportsman I'd be riding the horse!''

Perhaps my view of the good, old, honestly bookmaker is just built on nostalgia. Isn't it always the case those bygone days were much better (even in times of war). I'm sure such a nostalgic view is sickly sweet in response to the bitter pill of the modern reality. I'm talking about bookmakers but it could be anything. Talk to a football supporter about the olds days they remember with pride. Passion, truth & loyalty have been superseded by money and profit and loss. 

I know that was probably the score back in the day but the funneling of where all the money goes is a different story. We have only to see the proportion of sponsorship/advertising which goes to the Premier League compared to the lower divisions to see the truth. It is the same with the Premier League for PDC Darts. But that's another story...

Perhaps I have got it wrong but my thought of the old-time bookmakers contrasts greatly with today. 

Today's bookmakers remind me of a wolf in sheep's clothing. Or perhaps that should be that mass of gooey jelly The Blob, the villain in the 1958 independent science fiction-horror film.

The Blob was a growing, corrosive alien amoeboidal entity that crashes to Earth from outer space inside a meteorite. It devours and dissolves citizens in a small community, growing larger, redder and more aggressive each time it does so, eventually becoming larger than a building. 

I think The Blod was, in fact, Bet365. You may think it is Ladbrokes, Coral or umpteen other bookmakers who have a corrosive approach to punters - winners and losers. 

Bookmakers have changed to be monster, tarted up with make-up and expensive spin doctors and fancy ad campaigns to portray the image of Mother Mary who is giving in all ways until you are met by the truth which lurks behind a curtain something akin the Wizard of Oz who spoke through a voice machine, with smoke and flashes of light to make him seem important compared to a small man with a big mustache and a love of emeralds. 

I have a growing hatred of bookmakers. Their cynical ads that pollute every sporting event, contaminating the minds of naive gamblers who ''really need that free bet'', or the spin that ''somehow'' having a bet on a game makes it more fun, interesting... I mean, why don't you buy a pair of Harry Potter glasses to look more intelligent, too. 

The sad fact of the modern bookie is that they are like a filter system to weed out the winners, close their accounts, or stitch them up by saying they are betting for someone else or money laundering to, basically, make up a reason not to play fair and actually payout a winner. Instead, they nurture losers, in a manner that's akin to a drug dealer giving away free drugs to get someone hooked and then taking all their money thereafter because they have morphed into a zombie-like being who doesn't have very deep pockets but a suitcase full of problems. 

Let's nurture the losers, steal all their money, we know its immoral, but we can make it ok because we have a disclaimer which says ''when the fun stops - stop!'' and we will be the good samaritan by telling them to go home when they have run out of cash. 

Thank you (fill in space with your corrosive bookmaker name). 

Like smoking advertising and promotion used to be plastered over every snooker match back in the day. Bookmakers need to tread carefully and start acting in a manner which befits a true gambling experience with a touch of heart and soul. What will be the benefit if their greed destroys their own business? 

Gambling, in my opinion, isn't about having fun and I would advise anyone not to bet unless they view it as a business. 

That may seem a bit strong but the truth is that most punters are taking a journey which isn't a pleasant saunter through an idyllic forest filled with magic and wishing wells. 

In truth, they will be met by The Blob. It doesn't care about you, your life, your family, hopes, dreams... 

It is a corrosive ball of goo that will keep you alive but suck every last penny out of your pockets, bank account and challenge every aspect of your life including loved ones who will, in truth, never have an answer to your problem.

God bless.

Photo: Pixabay free for commercial use and no attribution 

Saturday, 25 December 2021

Who is Stanford Wong?

Stanford Wong
was one of the seven inaugural inductees to the Blackjack Hall of Fame, founded at the Barona Casino Resort in San Diego in 2002, at the behest of celebrated analyst and commentator Max Rubin, to honour the leading lights in the history of the game. However, revered though it may be, Standford Wong is not the name of a real person, but rather the nom de guerre, or assumed name, of Georgia-born author and professional player John Ferguson.  

Born on April 3, 1943, Ferguson was introduced to playing blackjack after learning the '10 Count' method of card counting from the book 'Beat The Dealer', written by Edward Thorp and first published in 1962. Still only twenty, and an undergraduate student at Oregon State University, he practised card counting in his spare time until he was of legal age to play blackjack in a casino. Shortly after his twenty-first birthday, Ferguson made the first of numerous, successful visits to the casinos of Reno and Lake Tahoe. His first experience of Las Vegas casinos, though, was a short, abortive affair, lasting only three days, because of the blatant dishonesty which appeared to be innate among blackjack dealers in 'Sin City'. 

It would not be until 1970 that Ferguson would return to Las Vegas but, when he did, was delighted by the new-found integrity of the dealing fraternity. By that stage, he had completed Master of Business Administration (MBA) at Oregon State, taught mathematics classes for two years and served in the United States Army for two years, including a twelve-moth tour of duty in Vietnam. Prior to being drafted, Ferguson has continued to play blackjack in Renoe and Lake Tahoe as often as his academic commitments allowed. Following demobilisation, he carried on in similar vein, pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) in Finance at Stanford University, playing blackjack occasionally and working on the material that would become his first book, 'Professional Blackjack'

The relative proximity of the Las Vegas Strip to Stanford University and San Francisco State University, where Ferguson began teaching finance classes, full-time, in 1974, proved an obvious attraction. In fact, by 1976, he was earning more money from playing blackjack than from his 'day job'. In a compromise with university authorities, Ferguson agreed to teach classes in the final term of what he later described as his 'last real job' for a nominal salary of $1, on the understanding that he did not have to attend faculty meetings. In so doing, he created free time to play blackjack in Las Vegas. 

By his own admission, Ferguson did not make a conscious decision to write 'Professional Blackjack', but rather realised that, between them, his paper calculations and instructional paper on blackjack – which, itself, evolved over time in response to questions from would-be card counters – were enough to constitute a book. Having verifed that the calculations presented in 'Beat The Dealer' were, in fact, correct, Ferguson prepared his own tables for scenarios, such as the dealer standing on 'soft' seventeen, which Edward Thorp did not cover. 

Indeed, it was the publication of 'Professional Blackjack', in 1975, which led Ferguson to decide that he needed a pseudonym to protect his real identity. At the age of thirty-two, he was playing blackjack under his real name in Nevada casinos and did not want to draw attention to himself. Seeking a complicated first name and simple last name, Ferguson liked the sound of 'Nevada Smith' – a fictional character from the movies 'The Carpetbaggers' and 'Nevada Smith' – but eventually settled on 'Stanford Wong' on the suggestion of fellow Ph.D student Denny Draper. Ferguson said of his sobriquet, 'I thought it was perfect. It had an academic ring to it and the mystique of the Orient.' 


Aside from 'Professional Blackjack', Ferguson also published several other celebrated blackjack titles, including 'Tournament Blackjack' in 1987, 'Basic Blackjack' in 1992 and 'Blackjack Secrets', which was originally part of 'Professional Blackjack', in 1993. In 1996, as soon as message board software became widely available, Ferguson founded the website 'BJ21.com', one of the principal aims of which was to allow like-minded blackjack players, intent on beating the game, to contact each other and exchange information. Ferguson sold 'BJ21.com' to LCB, an award-winning gambling information site, in March, 2016 and, interviewed in October that year, revealed that he had no plans for future involvement with the website, books or any other active engagement with the public. 

Ferguson, or rather Stanford Wong, was also responsible, albeit indirectly, for introducing the term 'Wong', used as a verb, to gambling parlance. Although he neither invented the technique, nor referred to it by the now commonly-used name in any of his books, Ferguson was an advocate and early practioner of back-counting. Back-counting essentially involves counting cards, as a spectator, until the count becomes strongly positive or, in other words, the deck is rich in aces and tens, to the advantage of the player. When it is, the card counter enters the game – provided, of course, mid-shoe entry is permitted – and places one or more bets at, or around, the table maximum. The term 'Wonging' was coined by blackjack players in Atlantic City in the late Seventies to describe this playing style.

Monday, 20 December 2021

Learning from Experience: Betting and Life

I used to play rugby union for my local team ''The Bears''. March Bears, a town named after the third month of the year. That isn't quite right because it was originally called Merch so I guess someone in the Fens couldn't read or write the Queen's English and the letter E turned into an A. 

Hardly surprising, hey. 

As if you look into your family history a surname often changes for no apparent reason. 

Anyway, let's talk about the subject matter of Learning from Experience: Betting and Life. 

Thank the Lord we learn a few things on our long or short journey of life. I guess some people are as stubborn as mules and either fail to learn or do so all too late. Sean Coronary, didn't listen to his ticker until it didn't go tick-tock.  

I used to be quite a good rugby player and a leading try scorer for consecutive years. 

However, I was stopped in my track when I tried to kick the rugby ball as did an opposing player (who was wearing shin pads) and my leg snapped. I'm not sure if you have ever heard a human or animal bone crack but it sounds like a piece of wood. The harder the impact the louder the noise. My tibia and fibula cracked in two causing a compound fracture to my right leg. The sound could be heard from one end of the field to the other. A sickening crack that seemed to echo in my ears. 

I'm not sure if the spectators or my teammates heard it twice, but I hope not as the first time was enough to make people feel sick. It was a horrendous leg injury. Bones sticking out the back of my leg. I was still standing and this is the thought that ran through my mind 'How do you fall over with a broken leg?'' I did so as carefully as I could, falling on my backside, laying flat out for a second or two then looking at my lower leg to see the damage. It looked pretty gruesome; as if about six inches of the shin bone had been removed and the skin sunk down. 

I can imagine you are reading this and wincing if not feeling sick. 

I can't say I was feeling too good myself but strangely it wasn't too painful, a pins and needles kind of feeling no doubt due to nerve damage. The only time it hurt was when my leg was moved to put in a splint and it felt as if someone had stabbed a red-hot knife deep into my leg and dragged it about a bit for fun. I don't mind admitting I gritted my teeth at that moment and said to myself: ''Keep calm and be strong.'' 

I did exactly that.

I was in shock. The incident played through my mind as if on a loop. I could hear the sound and impact playing in my mind and it felt as real as the original. I'm sure this is what happens to a stressed mind as it tries to make sense of what is happening. People say when you are drowning your life flashes before your eyes. I'm pretty sure they mean if you are involved in a serious impact and injury you revisit it a few times before the dust settles.  

You may be thinking what did I learn and how does it relate to gambling. Firstly, I realised trying to kick a rugby ball wasn't the best idea when it was bouncing all over the place. 

I learned that I was strong, tough enough to cope and that if I grit my teeth and battle on it would be ok.  

This doesn't make me any different to 99% of the population who would do exactly the same. 

The thought of breaking your leg so it looks quite mangled isn't what you would wish for. 

However, you would cope even if you don't relish the thought.

Someone asked me if I wish it hadn't happened. Logically, you say yes. It seems a little bizarre to say I was pleased to have been involved in this injury that took one second to happen and almost two years to recover. I was walking on crutches for a year after a two-hour operation to put a titanium rod down my tibia (shin bone) via removing the kneecap and two screws holding it in place at the top of the tibia and two at the bottom a few inches about my ankle. After eighteen months I had to have the bar and screws removed. In all, my leg didn't feel right for about two years. 

In many ways, I'm pleased to have had the experience however disturbing at the time. I am a wiser person for it and learned something about myself and importantly about others. 

A number of my teammates rallied round and looked after me as I lay flat out on the turf thinking about the situation. All good people. They were most certainly there for me in my time of need. One of the spectators, who played regularly for the team, and a paramedic didn't help because he said he was off duty. I'm not sure if there was a legal reason for not helping me but he didn't. I don't hold it again the person but I don't forget either. Like it or not I don't think it was a particularly caring attitude. Perhaps they had a perfectly understandable reason and I will take that as being the case. I can't say I was impressed and I never looked upon the person the same thereafter. 

So not only did I learn something about myself, I learned something about others. 

In ways, gambling is the same. It is all about living and learning. And we can be wiser for both wins and losses. It may be a big loss or a small loss. It may be a big win or a small win. But each happening is a moment to learn. It may be the case something minor triggers an understanding that will save or make us a lot of money in the future or a wise decision for ourselves or others. 

So even a bad day can turn good if we learn a thing or two. 




Monday, 6 December 2021

This Racing Lark is Bad for U.S

I can't say I know much about American horse racing. 

Is it true that they all run left-handed or is that an old wives' tale? I could Google that very point but I would rather be oblivious until the end of this post. I'm sure one of my lovely friends will tell me the answer.  

Over the last two years, I have been lucky to live in West Palm Beach, Florida. It is a beautiful part of the world. I think the closest racecourse is Gulfstream Park, which is nearer Miami if not Fort Lauderdale. Searching on Google Earth, I was surprised how it was just a stone's throw from the coast. 

I haven't been to the races in the U.S. 

Why is that? 

I don't understand American horse racing. 

I'm most definitely a creature of habit. 

After spending 30 years plus understanding British two-year-old horse racing I have neither the interest nor motivation to dip my toe into the unknown. As I have said before if you can make your racing pay simply double your stake rather than read twice as many books. 

With one thing and another, I run a lot of horse racing websites. Well, they are related to sports, gambling, with a touch of wit & wisdom. For the most part, I enjoy what I do. It can feel like there aren't enough hours in the day but I'm sure there are plenty of people who feel the same. I don't really need to do anything, so it is my choice. And that is a luxury few can share at this time.

Anyway, I have been updating Horse Trainer Directory. It is a curative website detailing UK horse trainer websites, blogs, social media, articles and lots more. Basically, we promote horse trainers for free.

I've been updating broken links. I should have done this task months ago as I noticed a good few point towards the abyss of pages no more. I am gradually getting sorted. The website is a valuable resource which basically saves time. 

It's free. 

I noticed one trainer Patrick Gilligan. I'm not sure why I left his name on the list as he must have retired from training in the UK for a good few years. I often leave them on the page as a mark of respect, the same as those who have sadly passed away. Alan Swinbank, Pat Eddery and many more. 

While checking the info regarding Patrick Gilligan I noticed a story on the Paulick Report. It detailed that Gilligan had a dim view of U.S racing. He moved over the pond in 2014 to help his son, Jack, a jockey, pursue a racing career on the Midwest circuit. 

In an interesting and informative read, he said: ''U.S racing is seemingly designed to harm the horse in some way.''

 He continued: 


“I have to start with the track and the strict diet of left-hand galloping, day after day, after day. “You don't need to be an expert in equine biomechanics to understand that horses – who are designed to run more or less in straight lines – are likely to be harmed by the repetitive, unrelenting galloping left-handed on a daily basis. 

And then they start breezing left-handed, flat out around a turn, placing more torsional stress on the pastern and cannon bone.” 

Gilligan also points a finger at dirt surfaces, which he says are at odds with a Thoroughbred's lower limbs since they evolved to run on grass. “There is no bounce from a dirt surface, the horse's leg just hits it, time after time, two and a half times a second when breezing or racing, and the dirt does nothing to help the horse spring forward into its next stride at all.” 

Gilligan considered synthetic surfaces, which he notes have been substantially improved since they were first installed years ago, and on Lasix, he opines that bleeding is not an issue that needs fixing: “Minor bleeds are not a serious health or welfare issue. If the horse bleeds to an extent it negatively impacts performance, tough. That animal is not fit for purpose. Retire it, find it another life. Do not breed from it. The old adage is breed the best to the best and hope for the best – not breed the unsound bleeder to the unsound bleeder and find some stronger meds.” 

Photo: Pixabay free fro commercial use and no attribution but given 



Friday, 3 December 2021

Are Gamblers Superstitious?

Wait a moment, I'm putting on my lucky socks.

I wonder if you are a gambler? I wonder if you are superstitious? So are you a superstitious gambler?

Only 13% of the population admit to being superstitious. I imagine the true figure is much higher. To test out my theory I would love to run an experiment that tests a ''subject'' to the max with black cats, ladders, mirrors, rabbit's foot, and a free bet to assess beginner's luck whether at the races or local bookmakers.   

I don't know the percentage, but I have an inkling gamblers are more susceptible to a magpie or two than your average homo sapien. 

I know I have some funny, little way...but let's talk about gambling superstition. 

There is one thing I never do and that's tempting fate when assessing the chances of a given ''no-hoper''. Just by saying: ''That horse can't win'', literally cuts its odds in half...and every word after that in the negative halves it again and again. So that 33/1 shot is 6/4 before the start of the race. You watch, smiling in your confidence that you are tempting fate, to learn you made a mistake. The one-eyed, three-legged beast trotted up (well in a tripod fashion).

I've seen it happen too many times. In fact, Tony saw a Michael Bell debutante filly at Great Yarmouth racecourse and started to question its chance because it looked, to him, a touch small and skinny. A bookie heard him talking and the odds halved! (Yes, that is a joke.) But Honest Joe wishes he had when Lady Light cruised home to win by four-and-a-half lengths at odds of 8/1. 

Tony wished he'd kept his mouth shut. He actually fancied the horse before looking at it under the microscope of skepticism. He really should buy some rose-tinted spectacles.

No wonder I keep stum because I could tempt a three-legged pit pony to beat Shergar if I slagged it off enough.

I guess punters always fear the unknown or try to make the unknown known with a lucky four-leaf clover. A rabbit's foot or a sprig of heather from a gypsy with a winning smile. 

I wonder if you are superstitious - whether good or bad.

Good luck!

Tuesday, 30 November 2021

Which Racecourse is your Nemesis to Bet?

I am coming out in a cold sweat just thinking about this question. 

Perhaps I should just run my fingernails up a rubber boot, or chalkboard or jump in a vat of fermenting horse shit.

In truth, I don't think I would take any of those options in favour of betting at my nemesis course. 

Although, give me a year or two and you may find me standing on the edge of a highrise car park in Milton Keynes. I'll be babbling on about Brighton and holding a tuft of luscious, green grass in one hand and a losing betting slip in the other as I take flight plummeting like a stone. 

I really do paint a rosy picture, hey. As dark as blood. 

So, on a lighter more jovial thought, which racecourse do you just dread to bet? 

Even if you have been following a horse, it's primed to win and even the trainer's wife gave you the wink as she breezed through the paddock in a flowing summer dress, you start to question the double gamble which you know is wrestling within the brain. Like a devil and angel on either shoulder, a tug-of-war where the rope enters your left ear and exits the right and the friction from all the pulling too and throw carves your grey matter like a pork cheese. 

Betting on the said horse is a gamble but the fact it is running at your nemesis course is the kiss of death. 

Now, for no particular reason, your despicable course may be different from mine. You may say Chester and I'm almost mocking you with the fact that I'm like a winning machine there.

Don't talk to me about Epsom Downs, I've never backed a loser. 

It's so easy. 

But Brighton...

I mean, I love the Royal Crescent. 

But ask me to bet at Brighton racecourse and I go quiet. You can see my brain working overtime trying to resolve some crazy equation that even Isaac Newton would run from. 

But you know what it's like...

I really fancy that horse today. 

Trying not to think about the last twenty-five bets that went south. Trying to convince myself that some old, ghostly witch that had been following me around the course for years had finally died or given up the ghost (so to speak).

Let's face it, even the bubonic plague died off in the end. 

So I chance my luck with a bet. I'm sure it will be ok. Just take a few deep breaths of the beautiful sea air and think pretty thoughts. 

As soon as the stalls open I realise the old witch has climbed on my back, whispering words of death and pointing me in the direction of Milton Keynes. 

I wonder, which course do you fear to bet?

Monday, 22 November 2021

Fond Memories of the Grand National back in the Day

One of the first horse races I can remember was the Grand National. 

Being a 70s child I grew up with the greatest steeplechase in the world on the TV. Every April, we were glued to the box, come rain or shine. 

In fact, it was one of the reasons I grew up to have an interest in horse racing although these days I am more of a flat racing man that the National Hunt, although I do appreciate both. 

I've been the Huntingdon and Fakenham racecourse for the National Hunt and enjoyed the meetings. I think 90% of the racegoers were local if not regulars. It was nice to see they allowed patrons to take their pet dogs as long as they were kept on a lead. I think I had as much fun watching a selection of pooches, some wearing little jackets to keep them warm, on what was a truly bitter-cold day. There is something about being on a racecourse in the middle of winter which gets to the bones of young and old alike. I guess I had got used to enjoying summer days at Great Yarmouth although I have been caught in a storm or two there. As they say in the UK, we have four seasons in a day and that is what makes it special in its own way.  

I enjoyed my day at Fakenham, which is located in the county of Norfolk, as it had a very traditional feel about it.

My Dad loved his racing. I'm not sure if his father enjoyed it or not. I know his brother, Keith, did as do many of my cousins and Uncle Fred was a keen racing man as they all enjoyed the Eastern Festival at Great Yarmouth, which takes place every September. 

Our summer holidays always coincided with the Eastern Festival and we loved our family holidays. The worst part was coming home because the school had started the week before and it was a nightmare trying to get a timetable or work out where to go. I remember this especially well when starting our secondary school. It was a return I would rather have forgotten.    

I think every race fan has fond memories betting on the Grand National. My brother followed a horse called Classified who never fell in his life but was tarnished with that tag when his jockey was unseated. I remember another fan writing to the Racing Post to display their utter disdain at this slight. 

We all have our favourite horses and that's what makes it special. You could pick a 100/1 shot and no one can say your horse is a loser until after the race - and even then, sometimes, you will be correct. 

Classified never won the Grand National but was remarkably consistent either placed or in the first five for a number of years. 

I was lucky enough to pick Aldaniti (pictured) who won the big race on the 4th of April 1981. It was a truly remarkable story for both horse and jockey. Many gave up hope on both steely characters who said: ''Just you wait and see.''

Bob Champion rode the race of his life and successfully battled against cancer and raised millions of pounds for charity in the process. 

The Grand National has always been a race where dreams are made, built on blood, sweat, and tears (and a glimmer of hope). 

For many, Red Rum is the greatest Grand National winner of them all. 

He won an unprecedented three times: 1973, 1974 & 1977. 

In truth, every winner of the Grand National tells a story few would ever believe. 

Whether, horse, trainer, owner, jockey, even commentator, or lucky punter down the road. Those who would never bet in all their life are ready to put the cash down and hope it is their lucky day.

We all remember the year we had a winner on the greatest race of them all. 

The Grand National. 

Professional Gamblers: Patrick Veitch – Enemy Number One

Who is Patrick Veitch? 

A professional gambler once dubbed 'The Baby-Faced Assassin of the Betting Ring' by the tabloid press, Patrick Veitch is one of the most successful punters of modern times. As detailed in his autobiography, 'Enemy Number One: The Secrets of the UK's Most Feared Professional Punter', first published in 2009, in an eight-year period from 1999 he recorded profits in excess of £10 million. 

Notoriously reticent to reveal any details of his personal life, Veitch was a mathematics prodigy and not only applied to, but was accepted by, Cambridge University at the age of just 15. Unsurprisingly, he read mathematics at Trinity College, but soon launched a premium-rate telephone tipping service, operating under the moniker of 'The Professional', and recruited from the student body to man the telephones. Heading into his third year, his service was realising over £10,000 and, eventually, he abandoned his studies altogether. 

Veitch attracted the attention of leading owner Michael Tabor, one of the richest men in the country and a shrewd, unflinching punter, who paid him a seasonal retainer for his tips. Once, and only once, in a three-year period did Veitch tip what he considered a 'certainty' and, unafraid of 'putting his money with mouth was', invested £20,000 of his own cash. His selection, Blue Goblin, in the Coral Sprint Handicap at Newmarket on May 31, 1997, was sent off a heavily-backed 11/10 favourite and duly quickened clear to win, easily, by two-and-a-half lengths. 

Everything appeared to be set fair for Veitch, but the following June his association with Tabor, his career and his life, as he knew it, was brought to a shuddering halt. Faced by a disgruntled local businessman demanding money with menaces, Veitch refused to pay the stipulated £70,000, but contacted the police and, on their advice, immediately went into hiding for a period of nine months.

Veitch eventually testified against his would-be extortionist, Calvin Hall, an infamous and, as time would tell, highly dangerous criminal in open court, wearing a bulletproof vest. Hall was sentenced to five years' imprisonment in November, 1998 and subsequently received a much longer jail term after being convicted of the attempted murder of a police officer. The extortion episode took its toll, emotionally and financially, and by late 1998 Veitch was, by his own admission, 'at rock bottom'. However, in typically industrious, single-minded and self-confident fashion, he set about redressing the balance. 

In 'Enemy Number One', Veitch writes that his success essentially boils down to 'finding a bet where the odds are greater than the true chance of that event happening.' However, he does concede that any successful punter must possess the characteristics of a 'brain surgeon', when studying form and assessing odds, and of a 'mad axeman', when actually placing a bet. Nevertheless, such is his belief in his own ability, he once said, 'The chance of me having a losing year is basically zero.' Indeed, the main inconvenience that Veitch faces is placing bets with bookmakers; such is his notoriety that he cannot do so himself, so he employs a network of associates to wager money on his behalf. 

Veitch apparently makes most of his profits from his own hard work, rather than being 'privy' to inside information. However, Veitch and his partners, collectively known as 'The Exponential Partnership', did pull off a major betting coup with their own horse, Exponential, in the Wright Brothers Maiden Auction Stakes at Nottingham on August 16, 2004. 

The two-year-old son of Namid, a good source of useful juveniles, had made an unispiring debut for trainer Stuart Williams when last of 13, beaten 17 lengths, in a slightly better maiden race at Beverley the previous month, having weakened just after halfway. At Nottingham, Exponential opened at 100/1 but, having shown improved form at home, was backed into 8/1 joint-fourth favourite. Once underway, Exponential raced prominently and, once ridden into the lead a furlong-and-a-half from home, kept on to win by a length; Veitch landed winning bets worth in excess of £235,000. The racecourse stewards understandably questioned Williams regarding the improved form shown by Exponential, but accepted his explanation that the gelding had strengthened physically since his debut and benefited from the experience of his previous outing.

Monday, 15 November 2021

Myth: You Can't Make Money Gambling

It always makes me smile when people talk about gambling. 

In fact, it is one of the main reasons why I don't chat with people who have no understanding of this subject matter.

Why?

Because they lack knowledge. And that leads to them falling back onto cliches. 

''Gambling, it's a mug's game!''

''You can't beat the bookies!''

I could go on forever. It really is a waste of time giving your thoughts, time, or energy to someone who doesn't have a basic understanding of the subject at hand. To me, it's the same as someone going to the doctors and trying to tell them what it's all about. You know what the doctor thinks when you leave the room. 

''What a twat!''

Most GPs are probably a bit more polite even in mind but they think it. Because you are literally taking the piss out of them (but the individual is too brainless to register that point).

Talking to someone who doesn't have a foundation of knowledge has nothing to offer (unless you want to talk about the weather or how many furlongs in a mile, because they don't even know that, but they ''know everything''). I don't waste my time with such people. It's a survival method - for them. Because I feel like cracking their skull before the conversation has ended. They tell you where you are going wrong even though they have not the slightest idea about anything. It really defies comprehension. I base this chatter on a person who has little intelligence. Sad (for them) but true. 

I don't take fools gladly. 

I have met more stupid people than I care to consider. Those days have gone because I only talk to people who I wish to express an informed opinion. My opinion, knowledge, wisdom has worth and I don't intend to try and convert brainless morons who don't even know the basics. 

I follow the niche of two-year-old racing. I've had people trying to tell me that horses start racing at three. This is the level of ''knowledge'' in the primordial soup.

Anyway, you get the message. 

Expertise is no different in any area of life or work. To prove a point, you would have enjoyed talking to my dad's brother. My uncle Keith was a painter and decorator. He was old-school. He was trained to a high level. He painted with a brush, after preparing whatever surface as if he was painting the Mona Lisa. You may consider yourself a painter and decorator. And I do admit times have changed. However, if uncle Keith saw you painting a wall with a roller (even if you had a decade of expertise) he would have considered you an amateur. He would have laughed at your efforts and considered you a joke. I'm not saying it to be nasty. It's just a fact. If there had been a competition he would have painted your wooden spoon with his brush. Sure, you completed the decorating job but while you painted the house down the road, he's been patting a corgi down the neck after Her Majesty the Queen remarked how pleased she was with this work.

He was in a different league. I think the word we are looking for is an EXPERT.

Gambling is the same. Some people just know a lot more than others. They didn't wake up one morning and magically know more. They worked hard and that put them ahead of the game. It's like a student who revises for a year while another pupil didn't read any books and just kind of hoped they would pass. 

When you consider how many businesses are operating in the country. How many make more than a million pounds a year? As a percentage, it would be small. That means most are just about getting by while a few are coining it in. 

Gambling is the same. 

What I find astounding is the number of gamblers who simply do not improve from the first bet to their last - even if this is over decades. It doesn't make any sense. Would you go to college or university for a decade without learning something more than most? 

Before making your next bet, consider how you can improve your knowledge and successful betting will follow suit.

Photo: Pixabay free for commercial use and no attribution but given