Showing posts from January, 2013

Drawn in

Mindful of last season’s profit-sapping ante-post performance at Cheltenham, I had been determinedly keeping my oars clear of the swirling pools of Festival disinformation. This was no easy ask. Ante-post punting has been a staple of my Festival build up for 13 years or so: a financial and mental outlet for the simmering championships build-up and a chance to be a smug stride ahead of the bookies come the big day. The scales tumbled from my eyes in the aftermath of last season’s Gold Cup. Keeping pace with the frontal lobe thump of a Laphroig hangover was the insistent snare drum of mug punting realisation. I declared  that there would be no raft of ante-post bets in 2013 until bookies began offering Non-Runner-No-Bet guarantees. This would rule out finding fancy-priced early season value. Injuries and drops in performance I could take on the chin. That’s part of the ebb. The flow is the rare joy of a long-priced ante-post winner sent off at short odds on the day.  But I

"The biggest cheat sport has ever known"

I've developed late as a fan of road cycling. I registered the seven consecutive victories of Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France as notable feats in a gruelling competition. But doubts that clearly existed at the time about the validity of his first and subsequent achievements passed me by. Indeed, like many I bought entirely into the story of a supreme athlete who had overcome massive odds to beat cancer and then to land the tour titles. Superhuman, I thought. A genuine good news story. The Armstrong myth had taken flight and I wanted to ride it. A few years ago, I even suggested Lance as the subject of my daughter’s school topic on sporting heroes. How duped I feel now.  Drug abuse has been a well known blight on the tour throughout his (now) discredited reign and since. I suppose I cynically thought that the whole road cycling game was so riddled with doping that Armstrong was no worse than the others. To the extent that I had given it any thought at all, I had conclude

Bookies a blight on the High Street?

Harriet Harman has had the humble bookie in her sights this week. Labour's Deputy Leader described betting shops as a "blight" on London's high streets. Her comments come after the Government on Friday ruled out a crackdown on high-stakes gambling machines from betting shops despite warnings about their addictive nature. This gives me a chance to dust off my hobby-horse again: the role of the ethical bookmaker. Ms Harman has commented before about the way that the betting industry preys on the most vulnerable in society, particularly by moving into the high streets of deprived areas, often in high concentrations.  Interestingly, betting shops are classified as financial services, meaning that if a bank closes a betting shop can open in the property unchallenged. There are 1,773 betting shops in London, according to the Campaign for Fairer Gambling. But it is what goes on in them that was the subject of this week’s House of Commons Culture debate. Fix