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Saturday 31 December 2022

The True Story about Professional Gambler Jack Ramsden


In 1997, Jack Ramsden was hailed by ‘The Times’ as ‘one of the shrewdest backers in the land’. However, two decades earlier, when he married his second wife, Lynda, in March, 1977, Ramsden was still plying his trade as, by his own admission, ‘a pretty useless stockbroker’ in the City of London. Nevertheless, in 1980, Ramsden abandoned the Square Mile and the couple started out, with a few horses, as trainers on the Isle of Man. They sent their horses across the Irish Sea, by ferry, to compete on the British mainland but, after a while, sought new premises in the North of England. They finally settled on Breckenborough House in Sandhutton, near Thirsk, North Yorkshire, which was described by one observer as ‘little more than a pig sty’ at the time of their arrival. 

Jack Ramsden Betting Philosophy

At Breckenborough House, Lynda Ramsden held the licence, while Jack Ramsden focussed on buying and selling horses, deciding where they ran and his professional gambling activities. Indeed, Ramsden once said that, to him, a horse was ‘a pedigree and a handicap rating that had to be placed.’ Aside from studying form, Jack Ramsden was a speed figure enthusiast, believing that, while even a superior performer could produce a slow time, an inferior performer could never produce a fast time. He also set exacting standards for his jockeys, in terms of pace judgement, famously mentoring Kieren Fallon, who was stable jockey to Lynda Ramsden between 1993 and 1996, and sending him to the United States to perfect his work in that respect. In his heyday, Jack Ramsden also had his own, retained bookmaker, Colin Webster, who paid him £5,000 a year for his advice.

Jack Ramsden Betting Successes  

Soon after his arrival in North Yorkshire, Ramsden started to attract attention for his gambling activities, not least from the major bookmaking firms, who were quick to limit their liabilities by restricting, or closing, his accounts. As is often the case with professional gamblers, separating the ‘wheat from the chaff’ when it comes to betting stories is not entirely straightforward. However, one notable for success for Ramsden that is definitely true – at least, it formed part of the evidence in a subsequent court case – was the victory of Arbory Street in the Billesdon Selling Handicap at Leicester on April 3, 1989. Returning from a 151-day break, the moderate four-year-old, who was winning for the one and only time in his 17-race career, was ridden clear in the closing stages by jockey Alan Munro to win by three lengths at odds of 13/2. In so doing, Arbory Street landed two bets of £1,000 to win and £500 each-way, both at 14/1, for Ramsden. He used the proceeds to fund an equine pool at Breckenborough House. 

The aforementioned court case produced another victory, albeit of a different kind, insofar as the High Court upheld a libel action brought against ‘The Sporting Life’ by Lynda Ramsden, Jack Ramsden and Kieren Fallon and collectively awarded the plaintiffs £195,000. After Top Cees, trained by Lynda Ramsden and ridden by Fallon, had won the Chester Cup in 1995, the ‘Life’ had suggested that the horse had not been allowed to run on its merits in his previous race, the Swaffham Handicap at Newmarket three weeks earlier. Jack Ramsden, who personally received £50,000 as part of the settlement, later said of Top Cees, ‘He’s been a good earner, one way or another.’ 


Jack Ramsden’s son from his first marriage, Joey, has been a leading trainer in South Africa for over twenty years. He summed up his father very nicely when he said, ‘He has an incredible knowledge of pedigrees and form. He devoted most of his life to racing.  I suppose he has been a professional gambler for most of it too. He was never a huge individual punter, more a cumulative gambler, but a successful one.’ Ramsden Snr. came close to giving up in 1991, when he had difficulty placing bets and, therefore, making money, but reportedly made a profit in thirteen consecutive seasons before Lynda Ramsden relinquished her training licence for the second, and final, time in 2005.

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