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Thursday, 25 February 2021

7 Brocklesby Conditions Stakes Winners You Will Never Forget

The Brocklesby Stakes heralds the start of the Flat turf season.

Are you ready for the Brocklesby Stakes 2021?

Take a look at these past winners. 

This race has a long history dating back to 1849 as an all-age 12-furlong race at Carholme racecourse, Lincolnshire, which closed in 1964. 

The Brocklesby Stakes has been dedicated to two-year-old racing over five furlongs since 1875.

It moved to Doncaster in 1965. 

Historically, the best horse to win the Brocklesby Stakes was Donovan (1888) who went on to win the Derby and St Leger (1889). 

One horse that readers may remember fondly is Provideo, trained by Bill O'Gorman, who was a class handler of speedy thoroughbreds. A brown son of Godswalk, he won the Brocklesby Stakes by four lengths in 1984. This exceptionally durable colt set a 20th-century record for a British-trained two-year-old winning 16 of his 24 races. O'Gorman placed this horse to perfection considering Timeform rated him 20lbs below the best juveniles racing that year. However, Provideo still secured victories in two Listed races. In addition, he was crowned British Horse of the Year (1984) & Timeform Horse of the Year (1984). 


For many punters, the idea of betting on a debutante in a field of horses making their racecourse bow is a minefield. To be fair, I'm not keen wagering two-year-olds on their first day at school. It can be a tricky time. The combination of inexperienced horses, a draw bias in a large field and possibly testing ground doesn't add to confidence. However, only a handful of winners have been double-figure odds.

The Brocklesby Stakes is a significant race. If you need proof, there have been a number of talented juveniles winning this contest for horse trainers large and small.

Would I bet on a horse in this race?

Probably not. 

Denham Green won the Brocklesby Stakes back in 1988. Price at odds of 25/1, Steve Muldoon's two-year-old beat eleven rivals by two lengths. He is the joint longest odds winner in modern-day history. The other horse being the 2003 winner Red Power, trained by Paul Blockley. 

A number of very classy horses have started their career over this flying five furlongs at Doncaster.

Let's take a look at 7 Brocklesby Stakes Winners You Will Never Forget: 

1994 - Mind Games, trained by Jack Berry, who won by a neck at odds of 4/1. A talented colt who won at Group 2, but never could get his head in front for a Group 1 victory which he attempted 8 times. He finished a 20-race career by going to stud and although not the most successful stallion (fee £1,500 2010) he did sire Tangerine Trees. Mind Games was a horse very much associated with the man who wore the red shirt and a gifted sprinter.

Cost: 18,000 Gns (yearling) Prize Winnings: £200,772

Interesting Brocklesby Stakes Fact: Mind Games was odds-on (10/11) to win the Nunthorpe Stakes in 1995 when finishing behind So Factual in 6th place. 

2002 - The Lord, trained by Bill Turner, who is a name synonymous with the Brocklesby Stakes. Sadly, in recent years, Turner has struggled to capture former glories that have seen him win this race six times. The Lord was a talented colt and worthy of note for a number of reasons. Firstly, he won the Brocklesby Stakes by an impressive five lengths in a seventeen-strong field at odds of 13/2. Racing in the familiar silks of Mrs. M S Teversham, this son of Averti went on to win the Lily Agnes Stakes at Chester. He disappointed in the Norfolk Stakes (Group 3) at Royal Ascot. 

The Lord won at Listed class and achieved an official rating of 102. A durable horse, he raced 68 times winning just 8 races. 

Cost: Homebred. Prize Winnings: £108,777

Interesting Brocklesby Stakes Fact: The joint easiest winner of the Brocklesby Stakes since 1988. In fact, the only other horse to win by five lengths was Bill Tuner's Mick's Yer Man (2013). 

2009 - Hearts Of Fire, trained by Pat Eddery. This son of Firesbreak was a classy horse who must have been the apple of his trainer's eye. He won the Brocklesby in decisive fashion winning by two-and-a-quarter lengths at odds of 12/1, ridden by his brother, Paul Eddery. Hearts Of Fire ran creditably in the Brian Yeardley Continental Stakes when runner up at Beverley after a disappointing second start. 

This colt looked pretty smart but there was a key factor to his future successes - he loved very testing ground. Racing at Listed class, he thrashed the opposition winning by over five lengths at Deauville, France. Next, a trip to Baden Baden, Germany, saw him trounce six opponents at Group 3. 

Hearts Of Fire would next set hoof on the sodden ground at San Siro, Italy. Stepping up to 1m for the Gran Criterium (Group 1) he ran on well to win catching Godolphin's Vale Of York, the pair some five lengths clear of the third. 

Thereafter, this exceptional colt would run at the highest grade and every inch a globe trotter concluding his career at Meydan. 

In a 16-race career, he achieved an official rating of 118. 

Cost: £13,000 (yearling). Prize Winnings: £326,543

Interesting Brocklesby Stakes Fact: Cost just 6.000 Gns as a foal.

2013 - Mick's Yer Man, trained by Bill Turner.  This son of Bahamian Bounty has a story which is something of a novelty. As stated, since 1988, Mick's Yer Man ran out the easiest winner of the Brocklesby Stakes by five lengths (shared with The Lord). This 5/1 winner was ridden by 7lb apprentice Ryan While [grandson of Bill Turner]. This March foal won in comprehensive fashion on his next start at Musselburgh. 

Then the wheels fell off when returning after a long layoff which suggested Mick's Yer Man suffered an injury. 

He wasn't seen to any effect until his four-year-old career when winning at Leicester. Later, a Listed win at Ascot. He was raced once more at three and not seen again for almost three years. In that time, Mick's Yer Man was gelded and sold privately by Turner and trained by T P Yung to race in Hong Kong. There were rich pickings to be had and this gelding proved to be an inspired purchase. He won three times in Hong Kong and pocketed substantial prize money.

Cost: 10,000 Gns as a foal. Prize Winnings £328,456.

Interesting Brocklesby Stakes Fact: Mick's Yer Man had a change of name to Always Win when racing in Hong Kong. 

2016 - The Last Lion, trained by Mark Johnston. This son of Choisir certainly made an impact in his formative season - racing 10 times and then retired to stud. This bay colt made a sparkling start to his career when winning the 2016 Brocklesby Stakes by one-and-three-quarter lengths: ''Pushed clear and eased towards the finish''. 

On his fourth start, he headed to Royal Ascot to compete in the Norfolk Stakes (Group 2). The 20/1 starting price didn't hold him back running a storming second place, headed in the final 150 yards to be beaten by half a length in a blanket finish. 

Next race, Sandown's Dragon Stakes Listed race went to The Last Lion who powered clear of the field over five furlongs on soft going at odds of 10/11f.  

This February foal would make his last five races at pattern class and ran the highest standard every step of the way. 

Finished 2nd in the Victoria Racing Club Molecomb Stakes (Group 3).

Finished 3rd in the Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Gimcrack Stakes (Group 2).

Effortless winner of the Totequadpot Sirenia Stakes (Group 3).

A narrow loser when third in the Pepsi Max Flying Childers Stakes (Group 2).

The Last Lions' final race of the two-year-old season and his career saw him face nine rivals in the Juddmonte Middle Park Stakes (Group 1) at Newmarket over 6f on good-to-firm going. In a truly spectacular conclusion, the 25/1 shot made all under an expert ride from Joe Fanning, battling on gamely, always holding rivals to win by three-quarters of a length holding Charlie Appleby's Blue Point which started at fractional odds-on (10/11). 

QUOTES: After the Brocklesby Franny (Norton) said THE LAST LION would be far better on faster ground. But if you look at his form behind Yalta at Goodwood (when second in the Molecomb Stakes on good), everybody thought his only chance would be when there is cut in the ground. Here he is, on fast ground, running the race of a lifetime on his tenth start of the year! It is another advert for going on and running them - Mark Johnston, trainer.

Cost: 82,000 Euros (yearling). Prize Winnings: £225,663.

Interesting Brocklesby Stakes Fact: The only winner since 1988 to start at odds-on [4/5f].

2017 - Santry, trained by Declan Carroll. Sometimes the best horses have the least luck and that was the case for this bay colt a son of Harbour Watch. This February foal was fancied to go well when making his debut in the Brocklesby Stakes at Town Moor.

Backed to 4/1, he led one furlong out, idled in the last 75y but held on by a head from David Evans' Last Page. 

There was a lot to like about Santry's second start when winning in style at Ascot under a penalty keeping on strongly when seriously backed from 4/1 - 9/4.

Next stop - Royal Ascot 2017. Declan Carroll's charge was made a 13/2 shot to win the Norfolk Stakes (Group 2). Santry was only denied by half a length from Aidan O'Brien's Sioux Nation who raced on the far side of the course. In fact, Santry had trouble in running and kept on well but couldn't peg back the Irish raider. 

Sadly, this young colt's career was cut short when he broke a leg on the gallops. Carroll said: ''I can't believe we've lost him.'' 

Cost: 24,000 Euros. Prize Winnings: £40,419. 

Interesting Brocklesby Stakes Fact: Probably one of the most talented winners. 

2019 - Show Me Show Me, trained by Richard Fahey. The Ontoawinner syndicate is no stranger to talented juveniles and this son of Showcasing was fancied to go well on debut in the Brocklesby Stakes and obliged with a purposeful victory winning by three-quarters of a length. 

This horse ran seven times at two including a placed effort at Goodwood when third in the Markel Insurance Molecomb Stakes (Group 3) when losing a left front shoe.  

Interesting Brocklesby Stakes Fact: The First winner for Ontoawinner syndicate but there will be more.  

Cost: £24,000 (yearling). Prize Winnings: £72,655. 
The Brocklesby Conditions Stakes: Future Winners.

In many ways, the Brocklesby Stakes is far from a significant race but special because it is a celebration of the start of the two-year-old Flat turf season. It is the race trainers have hopes and dreams of winning in cold, winter months.

There have been a number of exceptional horses that have won the Brocklesby before going on the win at the highest level and conclude their success standing at stud. These seven horses have all started their career by tasting victory on debut. Very few horses achieve such a milestone. For some, it will be their first and last victory while other winners such as the 1996 Brocklesby Stakes winner Indian Spark (trainer by Bill Turner) ran an incredible 143 times. 

The Brocklesby Stakes Q & A

Which is the best Brocklesby Stakes winner? 

There is little doubt the seven horses mentioned are some if not the best. Personally, Mind Games, The Last Lion & Hearts Of Fire are exceptional talents. 

What is the biggest priced winner of the Brocklesby Stakes?

In modern history (since 1988) Denham Green (1988) and Red Power (2003), both won at the starting price of 25/1. 

Which horse won at the shortest odds?

That goes to The Last Lion (pictured), trained by Mark Johnston, who won at odds of 4/5f in 2016. He was the first horse to win the Brocklesby Stakes at odds-on. 

Which horse ran the fastest time?

Hearts Of Fire won the 2009 Brocklesby Stakes in a time of 0:59.71 on good to firm going. In fact, he was the only horse to run under one minute since 1988 (this was due to fast ground conditions and a true talent). 

In modern history, which horse trainer has won the Brocklesby Stakes the most times?

Unsurprisingly, that mantle goes to Bill Turner who has won the race 6 times since 1996 when Indian Spark won by four lengths at odds of 100/30. Turner's other winners include The Lord (2002), Spoof Master (2006), Sally's Dilemma (2008), He's So Cool (2011) & Mick's Yer Man (2013). 

For me, the Brocklesby will always be a race to cherish and winners to hold dear.

Related story: Is Bill Turner the Brocklesby Stakes King?

Tuesday, 9 February 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. 

Wednesday, 20 January 2021

Get Ready for Royal Ascot 2021

Last year, Royal Ascot took place, even though the start of the Flat turf season was held up until June. It was a miracle the meeting went ahead, especially for the two-year-old horses who had about ten days to gain vital race experience. Even Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and entourage stayed at home, as did the crowds. 

Coronavirus has a lot to answer for but, thankfully, horse racing continued in earnest - even with the limitations imposed with regard to health and safety.

Race fans will be looking forward to having a bet on Royal Ascot 2021. From the 15th - 19th June, the best of the best thoroughbred horses, from leading owners and trainers, will be racing for not only prestige but big prize money. 

Sprinterstogo is not only dedicated to sprinters but two-year-old horse racing and a number of high-profile races. 

These include: 

Day 1:

3:05 Coventry Stakes (Group 2) 

This race is run over 6f. Last year saw a shock 150/1 winner in Nando Parrado, trained by Clive Cox, ridden by Adam Kirby.  

In the last ten years Aidan O'Brien has won this race three times with War Command (2013), Caravaggio (2016) & Arizona (2019).

Day 2: 

5:35 Windsor Castle Stakes (Listed Race) 

This race is run over 5f. Last year is was run by Tactical trained by Andrew Balding and ridden by James Doyle. 

Day: 3 

2:30 Norfolk Stakes (Group 2) 

This race is run over 5f. Last year saw Michael Bell's The Lir Jet win, ridden by Oisin Murphy. American trainer Wesley Ward has target this race with a few very speedy two-year-olds including winners No Nay Never (2013) & Shang Shang Shang (2018). 

Day: 4

2:30 Albany Stakes (Group 3) 

This race is open to two-year-old fillies racing over 6f. Last year saw an impressive winner in Dandalla, trained by Karl Burke and ridden by Ben Curtis. 

Day: 5

2:30 Chesham Stakes (Listed Race) 

This race is run over 7f. Last year Battleground won for Aidan O'Brien when ridden by Ryan Moore. It is a race O'Brien has done very well over the last year winning four times including Maybe (2011), Churchill (2016) & September (2017). 

Royal Ascot 2021 is likely to be another quiet affair with the pomp and ceremony having to wait. However, with the Flat turf season scheduled to start in April this year's Ascot will give trainers' a chance to prepare for some of the most prestigious races on the calendar. 

It's a race meeting to enjoy.

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

The Most Frightening Experience of My Life

I guess there are many experiences that deserve reflection. 

Man puts head in a lion's mouth. 

SAS man jumps through an open window. 

However, the blog title: ''The most frightening experience of my life'' was retorted from a lady who lived at Great Yarmouth, painting a picture on a TV programme called Watercolour Challenge. The Channel 4 daytime television lifestyle show was broadcast from 5th June 1998 - 23rd November 2001. 

Now you may be thinking, what does a watercolour painting of a scene from Norwich Cathedral have to do with gambling. 

There seems little relationship. 

However, you may say a tiger doesn't have much in common with a table - but they both have four legs. 

What on earth could be so frightening about painting a picture?

It sounds quite a calm endeavour, peaceful if not therapeutic. 

You must be thinking, there's got to be more to this specific painting than meets the eye. 

You're correct. 

The painter from Great Yarmouth struggled because it was a competition! 

The competition saw artists face an unknown location, two competitors and four hours to do the business (so to speak) and paint like Rubens to win the dough. 

Those tranquil brushstrokes transformed into someone grappling with a wasps nest. As it happened, the winning prize: a new set of paints, brushes and a chance to go through to the weekly final and then there's an opportunity to compete in the grand final. Scary stuff if you aren't van Gogh. Perhaps even Vincent may have felt a twang of nerves, frustration or fright.  

The competitive nature of the challenge made the situation, even for a talented individual, very different from the norm. 

In many ways, gambling, in theory to practice, is very similar. 

Without question, we live in a competitive world. Are we naive to forget this point? Can we separate ourself from the shark tank? You may deny the fact that there's someone from the pool of talent who knows more or you may relish the challenge because you are a bigger fish in the pond. 

That's the intriguing aspect of gambling. 

Even if you bet for fun, you are still in the competition whether you like it or not. Perhaps you are betting small stakes so you consider it doesn't really matter. 

You may be correct.

However, if you are a gambler, do you really think about the layer? It may not register - if you win you win, you lose you lose. 

Do you have a hatred of the competition or a friendly revelry? 

Do I consider who is taking my bet? Yes. It intrigues me what they know.

When I lose I am fearful of the opposition and my own lacking.

The win details I know more. A loss details I know less. The latter is a problem I need to find an answer. 

Appreciating the competition is worthy of thought. It may help me work harder or have the discipline or process to contend with the competition or improve my game. 

In that sense, the most frightening experience of your life is very much about the context which may vary from pleasure to pain.

Photo: Jean Haines

Thursday, 7 January 2021

The Millionaire Betting System

I'm surprised more people don't ask this question: ''Why do you bet on the horses?''

This can be specific to you, me, or the bustling crowd at the Cheltenham Festival. 

I'm far from a natural gambler. In fact, I don't really like gambling. I don't bet for fun, the buzz, or all those things many gamblers do from day to day. 

Each to their own. 

If it makes you happy, doesn't lead to the wolf knocking on your door, or affects your life, family, or lead you to suicide you are onto a winner. 

That probably sounds a bit flippant - but you know what I mean. You have to be responsible for your actions and if you can't you need to find an answer.

Anyway, you meet all sorts of people under the umbrella of the gambler. To be fair, you see some very sad sights, especially fixed to the betting terminals in the local bookmakers. 

For many gamblers, betting gives a live hope of making a killing. That's winning cash not holding up a bookmaker's shop with a gun. 

The good side of finding a winning betting angle is that you can easily outweigh the cost of living. You simply bet more money and win a grand a day! Well, you can if you know something the majority of the population doesn't. 

Namely, you win money long term. 

The holy grail is finding a system that gives a regular income. If you attach this to a bot that places your bets automatically, you have a passive income. 

You could be sitting on the beach in the Bahamas, living the life most can only dream. 

If you get to that level you are well and truly a winner. Because let's face it, very few people make their gambling pay. They simply don't know enough to separate the wheat from the chaff. 

Is there a system, simple or complex, which guarantees you will make a profit? Better still, is there a system which shows hundreds if not thousands of points profit every season?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. 

I'm saying no names because these things are private but I've heard something incredible.

There could be a Millionaire Betting System out there. What I mean by this, is a system that can take let's say £100 and in a year, two, three or four and turn that small sum of money into one million pounds profit. 

Many of you reading this will be thinking it's pie in the sky. It can't be possible. How can it be possible?

In fact, by the end of this Flat turf season, I will be in a position to detail whether or not this is fact or fiction. 

Unfortunately for me, and you, I don't understand how this system works. But I imagine it won't be sold for any amount of money. (Even two million pounds!)

It's interesting to consider what goes on behind the scene of the betting exchanges. You see a bet and you have no idea who is behind that transaction. It could be a little old lady down the road placing her first bet. It could be a trader looking to make an easy £5 here and there. It could be a professional gambler with his finger on the pulse. It may even be Harry Findlay recouping his losses lumping on the next odds-on shot. The stories behind each and every bet and gambler are unknown. 

But consider for a moment the next bet you place could well be a plus or minus for this new gambler on the block as he puts the Millionaire Betting System through its paces. 

This time next year, he'll be a millionaire.

Wednesday, 9 December 2020

The Forgotten Winner of the Grand National Abd-El-Kadar (1850)

The Grand National has a long history. 

In fact, the first winner of this race dates back to 1839 when Lottery won for jockey Jem Mason, trained by George Dockeray. Under the welterweight of 12 stone he made owner John Elmore's day winning at odds of 5/1. 

Just for good measure Dockeray won the following year's Grand National 1840 with a horse named Jerry.

When you consider there has been 180 Grand National winners and counting, this is one race that doesn't lack stories to tell. 

Probably the greatest being the three victories of the legendary Red Rum, trained by Ginger McCain, who won this historic race at Aintree, Liverpool in 1973, 1974 & 1977. 

This is unprecedented. 

Just to prove his astounding ability, Red Rum finished runner-up in 1975 & 1976. 

Upon his death on the 18th October 1995, he was buried at the finishing post of this grueling steeplechase which covers a distance of four miles and two and a half furlongs and thirty jumps. 

Most race fans will have a favourite winner whether it is Red Rum, Mon Mone, who won at odds of 100/1 in 2009, or Abd-El Kadar. 

Unless you are a true aficionado of the greatest race in the world, it may be a name you have never heard. However, if you went back to 1850 Abd-El-Kadar would have been a name on every punter's lips, as this eight-year-old won for Irish raider Joseph Osborne. This 'pintsized' horse won at unquoted odds, and bookies only offered 20/1 in running as jockey Chris Green looked to hold some promise. 

He went on to win by one length. 

Owner Joseph Osborne was prudent enough to place a bet of £100 to win £4000. In today's money that would be worth the princely sum of £100,000. 

There's one thing we can say about the difficult-to-pronounce Abd-El Kadar, (Little Ab) he wasn't considered by most a likely winner until after the race. 

However, this wasn't the case the following year as this nine-year-old was noted as one of the major horses to beat at odds of 7/1. Everything was much the same bar a six-pound rise in the weights and ridden by Tom Abbot. 

Abd-El Kadar won by the official distance of half a neck. 

In many ways this horse was the original Red Rum, with high hopes of winning three Nationals in a row. When you consider the nature of this course and the fences back in the day this would have been deemed impossible.

Could Abd-El Kadar be the first horse to win the Grand National three times? 

Sadly it wasn't be as the ten-year-old carrying a weight of eleven stone four pounds, ridden by Denny Wynne, and starting at odds of 9/1, was pulled-up at the seventeenth fence. 

The race was won by Miss Mowbray at odds of 50/1 for George Dockeray in the ownership of T. F. Mason.

To his credit Abd-El Kadar ran in the 1853 race when finishing 5th at odds of 20/1. The winner of that race being Peter Simple, trained and ridden by Tom Oliver for owner Josey Little. 

Unfortunately the lad had forgotten to put the nose band on Abd-El-Kadar and his trainer feared his chance would be gone. In fact, the owner/trainer rushed to the start and begged Lord Sefton to delay the race but he refused. His fears were realised as the horse pulled its way to the front on the first circuit, to the point he led by one hundred yards when coming back on the course but couldn't keep up the pace as he was challenged and passed by Peter Simple at the Canal Turn, his fate sealed.   

The history books show that Abd-El Kadar never raced in the Grand National again, although there were rumours he did, but he is one of the few horses to not only win the Grand National twice but nearly make it three on the run. 

Other horses to win the Grand National on consecutive years include:

The Colonel (1869, 1870)

Reynoldstown (1935, 1936)

Tiger Roll (2018, 2019)

With Tiger Roll disappointing on his return, it could well be the case this consecutive winner will be another Abd-El Kadar if he gets to the race at all. 

Good luck to all runners in this year's Grand National. 

Tuesday, 1 December 2020

Professional Gamblers: J.P. McManus - From Humble Beginnings

Professional Gamblers: JP McManus - From Humble Beginnings
John Patrick McManus
, almost universally known as 'J.P.', was born in Limerick, Republic of Ireland on March 10, 1951. 

From humble beginnings, McManus rose to become a horse racing tycoon – at the last count, he had a net worth of €2.2 billion – with hundreds of horses in training on both sides of the Irish Sea. He became tax-resident in Switzerland in the Nineties but, while he conducts the lion's share of his currency dealing operation from Geneva, he owns Martinstown Stud in Kilmallock, Co. Limerick, which acts as his base on his frequent visits to the Emerald Isle.

McManus' racing colours, adorned in recent years by retained jockeys Sir Anthony McCoy and Barry Geraghty, were originally 'borrowed' from his cherished South Liberties Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) club. Nevertheless, since he bought his first horse, Cill Dara, in 1976, his distinctive green and gold hooped silks have become synonymous with National Hunt racing in Britain and, in particular, with the Cheltenham Festival. Indeed, McManus is the most successful owner in the history of the March showpiece with 66 winners, including seven during the four-day event in 2020. 

Nicknamed the 'Sundance Kid' is his early years, McManus is also one of the greatest professional gamblers of modern times. At the Cheltenham Festival, two early gambles, on Jack Of Trumps and Deep Gale in the National Hunt Chase in 1978 and 1979, respectively, went awry when both horses came to grief, but McManus finally opened his account with Mister Donovan in the Sun Alliance Novices' Hurdle in 1982. Trained, like Jack Of Trumps and Deep Gale, by Edward O'Grady in Co. Tipperary, Mister Donovan was, as O'Grady later fondly remembered, 'a maiden with a heart murmur'. Nevertheless, having been bought by McManus just a month before the Festival, he duly prevailed at odds of 9/2, landing bets worth £250,000 in the process and offsetting what his owner described as a 'distastrous first day'. 

Down the years, McManus has been the architect of several more notable betting coups at the Cheltenham Festival. 

In 2002, his unbeaten Like-A-Butterfly was sent off at prohibitive odds of 7/4 to win the Supreme Novices' Hurdle and had just been headed by Adamant Approach, who looked the likely winner, at the final flight; the latter parted company with his jockey, Ruby Walsh, leaving Like-A-Butterfly to pick up the pieces. 

Thursday, March 16, 2006 was another red-letter day for McManus, when he won £600,000 in one hit from legendary bookmaker 'Fearless' Freddie Williams, courtesy of Reveillez in the Jewson Novices' Handicap Chase, and a further £312,500, courtesy of Kadoun in the Pertemps Final later the same afternoon. 

More recently, in 2013, McManus landed another Cheltenham Festival gamble with Alderwood in the Grand Annual Handicap Chase, which, since 2009, had been the 'getting out stakes' for the week. Already a Cheltenham Festival winner, having won the Vincent O'Brien County Handicap Hurdle, all out, in 2012, the nine-year-old was having just his fifth start over fences and, consequently, lined up just 1lb higher in the weights than the previous year. Backed at all odds from 6/1 to 3/1 favourite throughout the day, Alderwood took over from Kid Cassidy, also owned by McManus, at the bypassed final fence and drew away in the final hundred yards to win, comfortably, by 3¼ lengths. Kid Cassidy finished second to give McManus a 1-2 in the race, in the right order, while Alderwood chalked up win number fourteen for Irish-trained horses during the week. 

Nowadays, McManus makes fewer excursions to the betting ring than was once the case and appears to be in no desperate hurry to announce a successor to Barry Geraghty, who retired in July, 2020, as his new retained rider in Britain. Nevertheless, with the likes of Epatante, Champ and Easysland, to name but three, at or towards the head of the antepost markets for their likely engagements, in the Champion Hurdle, Cheltenham Gold Cup and Cross Country Chase, respectively, at the 2021 Cheltenham Festival, he has plenty to look forward to.

Author: David Dunning

Sunday, 22 November 2020

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.' 

Professional Blackjack by Stanford Wong
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 '', 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 '' 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.

Friday, 13 November 2020

Why Do Men Go to the Pub: To Talk Shit & Tell Lies

Unfortunately, we can't go to the pub with the lockdown but I'm sure we can all associate with this blog title. 

It was inspired by my actor friend, Simon Fowler, who does a daily live chat on Facebook. He talks about life and all the toils and tribulations. Also, all the love in the world which he says in his own kind of way. 

He talks about mental health and issues especially true to men who have often suffered from the British stiff upper lip. 

Simon quoted the comedians Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones. When they used to sit across the table and chat about nothing (but at the same time everything). 

I used to drink like a fish when I played rugby union for March Bear, based in the Fenland town of March in Cambridgeshire. As I have said about my experiences of playing rugby it is a sport you learn a lot about yourself and others. One thing you can guarantee is that if you play rugby long enough, you will suffer an injury or two. I noticed with the forwards and lot of dislocated shoulders, the odd broken leg, nose, and even jaw. 

No wonder people used to like a good drink after the game - it was a pain killer. 

I must admit I've never been too much of a drinker at the races because the combination of alcohol and betting isn't a good mix. Not even Del Trotter would have a Creme De La Menthe at Kempton Park. To be fair, people have outlandish stories about gambling before they get stuck into the amber nectar. 

We'd go to Yarmouth races and then spend an evening at the Grosvenor casino. You don't need many pints an hour to slip under the table. 

In fact, the last time we went, just before lockdown, my cousin, who I won't name, returned from the casino at 6am. 

I concluded that he must have been winning at 4am because drink and tiredness must-have set in by stupid o'clock. I figured winning was the motivation to keep alert enough to play a few more hands of three-card poker (a game that really plays itself). I don't know what sort of conversation was going on but it was definitely pub talk. I'm sure there were a bit of swearing and pork pies too. 

As the old TV advert used to say: ''It's good to talk.''

It is good that in recent years people have felt more open to express their concerns about mental health because we have all had our moments. Once upon a time, people were stigmatised by saying they were struggling. I'm not saying people are still not tarred with the same brush but I think the UK is more accepting (especially in times of lockdown) that people may be suffering. 

And, you know, I'm pretty sure that's why so many men love to go to the pub and talk shit and tell lies. 

If anyone is struggling with depression or mental health problems then it is good to talk. 

So often in life, all we need is someone to stop for a few minutes to listen. 

If I can help, I'm always here.

Saturday, 31 October 2020

Do You Need to Bet Thousands to be a Professional Gambler?

Lots of people like a bet. 

They do as they do. 

Although I am not in favour of punters betting for fun. 


Simply because too many gamblers are naive to what they are doing and the potential implications of that first, small, bet. 

Sure it makes the football match more fun. 

But tell that to the compulsive gambler or addict who started the same way. I know you will say: ''Well, that won't happen to me!''

And you know what, I agree with you. On a statistical basis, you are, thankfully, unlikely to become a problem gambler or struggle with psychopathology. 

But here's the thing you need to consider. If you bet for fun, and you lack experience, knowledge, understanding then don't consider yourself the same as the few gamblers who make their betting pay. 

I'm not trying to be funny, but you are a million miles away from them. 

''Well, how are they so good?''

They have worked for years to hone their skills. You see to be a professional gambler isn't about betting thousands of pounds. You may have seen a few wealthy (naive) punters betting thousands like you bet £25. 

Trust me, that doesn't make them a professional gambler. They may be a professional idiot with a bundle of cash to burn but it's like saying the person who shouts an answer to a question is the most intelligent person in the room (just because they have similar DNA to a foghorn). 

You notice a lot of these professional gambler/pundits on TV. Most of them made their name by betting big money. That doesn't mean they know more than the person who bets quietly £100, £200 or £500 a time. However, everyone wants to know about extremes. TV shows are built on stories based on conflict. That's why Emmerdale Farm went from talking about cows in the field to a plane crash where half the cast was killed (partly, I guess, because their acting skills weren't much better than Ermintrude from the Magic Roundabout). In this day of political correctness, we cannot say she was a pink cow just in case there is some confusion about sexual orientation or prejudice.

In ten years' time, Emmerdale will see an alien invasion where the actors are replaced by robots.    

It's the same as all forms of media. 

That's why the Daily Sport wrote a story about the Men of March Public House in our little town saying it had so many windows so the girls in the ''brothel'' could easily see the police coming (no pun intended). 

It was all lies but it sold a few papers. 

A professional gambler, in my opinion, doesn't need to be a big bettor. 

They simply follow their undoubted passion in a very professional way. They didn't wake up one morning and consider they are a professional gambler just because they bet their gran's inheritance. 

Just as a plumber, an electrician or plasterer didn't wake up one day and decide they would be a tradesman (or woman).

You may think betting is betting but it's not. It's no different to someone trying to change an engine on a Porsche 911 but they have no idea the engine is in the back. In fact, you don't even have any tools. 

This is why to be a gambler with any hope of winning money comes down to a game of knowledge and principles. You can be exceptionally good at picking winners but still make little money because you lack the many and varied principles to be efficient in all you do. 

This aspect of gambling is even more important than the exceptional knowledge you may have at hand. 

In truth, the best gamblers are the ones who don't really enjoy gambling at all. They do so because they are convinced they have the odds in their favour. Anything can happen short term. You could have 20 losers in a row. To others, it may look like you have no idea what you are doing. However, long term the truth will show. 

TV adverts detail gambling as fun. The buzz. If you bet for the buzz then start beekeeping, at least you get a jar of honey. 

Betting is a serious business. 

When you calculate how much a gambler can lose over a lifetime betting a tenner here and there it's a scary thought. If you smoke, drink, and gamble (to excess or badly) your health and finances are going to look like you - a shadow of your former self. 

The best gamblers in the world aren't the people with books and notoriety they are the clever people who keep their mouth shut and get on with business in a professional manner and love their sport with a passion. 

They don't need anyone to pat them on the back to say well done. 

They couldn't give a toss.