I’m trudging back into the annals of historical punting to dust off part two of last month’s Betting by auction post.
So I’m picking up the hot trail laid down by Nick in his school silent auction. I had been so very impressed by his stunning precedent-setting blend of altruistic education support and hedonistic gambling pursuits. It was a little later that year when I got my own chance.
The Greenway First School Promises Auction was from much the same mould as Nick’s silent auction. It was a fundraiser designed to fleece parents of their cash whilst convincing them that they were having a good time. In this case, the committee had put together a brochure of eclectic activities, products and offers on which we could bid during the course of the evening. Mixed bag could have been coined for this collection. At one end of the scale a well-heeled couple had put up a week’s holiday in an apartment in downtown Singapore and another family had offered a New Year’s Eve break in their Norfolk hideaway cottage. At the more modest end of the auction we had promises of babysitting, photo framing and mince pie baking.
In a weak moment, I had tentatively suggested to Sue, the no-nonsense chair of the school association, that I could offer up a betting deal: I would fund a two quid bet of my selection every day for the month of November. The winning bidder would keep any winnings and I would swallow the losses. A very generous potential contribution to the cause of £60, I reckoned. Although I knew that I would want to double up all my selections. There was no way I could bear to tip up winners (thinking optimistically, as ever) without collecting on them personally. So on that basis, my adjusted maximum potential wipe-out could be £120 and I felt comfortable batting away cheeky allegations of dipping into long pockets with short arms. We can’t all offer up swanky apartments overlooking former Colonial outposts. On the other hand, who else was laying down such obvious trading profit potential? (Investments can go down as well as up…)
I didn’t hear anything further for a while and was quietly hoping that the offer had been dropped: perhaps it was not quite the thing to be promoting at a respectable middle class school, or maybe the concept was too convoluted compared to, say, ’24 fairy cakes, choose your own icing’.
But then Mrs A brought home the catalogue shortly before the auction and there was my promise, sitting mid-brochure, Lot 28, ‘Horse Race Tipping Service’. My offer had made the cut. I immediately had doubts. Who was I to put up something so audacious? What sort of track record did I really have? Smug punting ( © Bacchy, 2010) indeed!
The evening was a riot. The school hall had been transformed into the sort of hot-headed auction ring more reminiscent of the Doncaster Breeze Up Sales. The floor was heaving with twenty or so octagonal tables, each crammed with high-spirited parents filling the space where children usually gathered for assembly. A commercial property auctioneer, thickly coiffed grey hair and sharp, laughing eyes set in a face suspiciously well tanned for October, surveyed the scene from the stage. He had been recruited to sell the promises the hard way. He did a fine job of cajoling, bullying and inspiring the packed school hall into a frenzy of generous bidding.
The bring-your-own booze probably helped too. Our group was getting merrily plastered on vats of cheap vin rouge that loosened the tongue and the wallet. Andy, opposite me, was shouting up for anything going: tree trimming services, photography portrait sessions, haircuts... He finally won an over-priced meal for two at the local gastro pub and collected a few vicious digs in the ribs from his missus to boot.
Brian the auctioneer was bigging up everything. Enthusiasm increasingly gripped the room with every passing lot. The cottage in Norfolk went for £200 more than the Singapore apartment half an hour previously.
It came to my promise. “I’ve been looking forward to this one,” said Brian. “Betting tips. I’m not even sure this one is legal!' The bidding started modestly and smoothly rose to an unsustainable level. I was pulling faces flitting between incredulity, pride and fear. Mrs A was just laughing. Andy considered a bid until I added to his collection of rib ticklers. The hammer finally fell at 120 quid. Much too high.
I did permit a little satisfaction at having boosted the school library fund by scamming some unsuspecting parent of a good few quid. But the fleeting delight was quickly overshadowed by the looming, sheer, vertiginous challenge in front of me.
“Shit!”, I mouthed. “I’ll never win that back!”
The evening ended with a fish and chip supper during which over exuberant winning bidders were relieved of their cash and then hooked up with their donors to arrange delivery of the promise. I scanned the list pinned to Brian’s impressive rostrum and went in search of ‘Tim, Table 12’.
“Hello”, I introduced myself to a well-groomed, smart-casually attired bloke of about the same age, stature and level of inebriation as me.
“I’m the amateur tipster. I think you’ve purchased my promise”.
There was good natured back-slapping and licking of lips. He introduced me to his brother who had put up half the stake, and to his wife whom I vaguely recognised from the school run.
“We assumed you were a bookie? Or maybe a professional gambler? This is money for old rope isn’t it?”
I wiped some errant ketchup off my chin and looked at the smear of red on the end of my finger. Was that the time to tell them that I was a mug punter and that they would never see their money again? Maybe they had begun to realise this for themselves.
But I was undeterred. The betting bonanza kicked off at the Cheltenham Paddy Power meeting the very next day. The Gold Cup is one of the crown jewels of the jumping calendar and I already had a horse in mind.
Sunday 14th November
Well, we got off to an absolute flyer yesterday. Celestial Gold showed all the fortitude of a gilded heavenly body to win the Paddy Power Gold Cup at Cheltenham, landing the odds at 12-1. That will do nicely. Jockey Timmy Murphy gave the horse a peach of a ride, holding him up out the back and letting the strong pace bring Celestial Gold's stamina into play. Murphy had him jumping like a dream and produced the gelding with his trademark exquisite timing to repel the challenge of Thisthatandtother. Masterful riding. We can do with a few more like this if we are turn ourselves a tidy profit.
Today's principal meetings at Cheltenham and Haydock do not offer as much obvious value. Nevertheless, there are some good races and I've plumped for the Greatwood Handicap Hurdle, 2.40pm at Cheltenham. This is an excellent race with some of the best hurdlers making their seasonal reappearance. The selected horse is TROUBLE AT BAY who is a young horse (4), improving all the time. This is a tough race and he is up against older and more experienced horses here, notably in the shape of former Champion Hurdle winner Rooster Booster, and Accordian Etoile an Irish raider with strong credentials. These two will likely vie for favouritism. But Trouble is well weighted at the bottom of the handicap, has won four of his last six races and has had the benefit of a good 2nd last month which should put him spot on for this race. I've backed him this morning at 6-1.
Best of luck
I could hardly believe my luck! What a way to start. On a personal level it was even better as another of Martin Pipe’s runners Stormez had also won in the 3 mile handicap chase at the end of the card, despite hitting every single fence down the back straight. I was delirious. Breathless. Our neighbours popped over to see how our loft conversion was progressing.
“Come in, come Fay, Adrian. Come in. Lovely to see you. Sorry, bit all over the place. Stormez just won me a packet at Cheltenham. Ha! And I’m running this tipping service and the first one has come in! Ha! Would you believe it? A tipping service? Me? Right just going out for some air. Need to breath. Helen’s in the loft. See you later.”
Fay was nodding and smiling politely, trying to comprehend the merest sliver of the molten garbage I was Lewis-gunning her way. But the eyes betrayed mirth and pity in equal doses. Once outside I marched up the hill, grinned, breathed deeply and finally began to feel the adrenaline subside.
Monday 15th October
I have to say I'm most impressed and I wish that I had been able to watch the Gold Cup to share a bit of the excitement. I should of course have placed a side bet on that one!!!. Perhaps we can see what's on next weekend.
The level of info you're giving is brilliant, although I hope you don't feel obliged to produce race reports like this everyday!
Onwards and upwards.
He didn’t even have a bet! Unbelievable! There I was, busting my nuts…
Monday, 15th November
Shame yesterday's selection didn't quite do the business. Trouble At Bay ran with credit and was with the leaders until 2 hurdles out when he weakened to finish a game 5th. But I guess the conclusion is that he hasn't quite made the jump to join the top class hurdlers yet. One to keep an eye on.
Today's selection - and apologies for the lateness of this tip – emerges after casting around some very thin cards at a couple of pokey little tracks around the country. They provide a shocking antedote to last weekend's stellar meetings. So we head to the East Midlands in search of inspiration. The 2.20 at Leicester is a long way from inspiration. However, the Ladbrokes.com Novices Chase (Class D), looks like the best we will get! The tip is JODANTE at 13-2 in a race where all the money is for a horse called Raw Silk. I think the favourite can be opposed on the basis that Jodante was beaten only a length last time they met and our horse gets his favoured good ground today. Jodante's form is solid and I'm hopeful of a good run.
Tuesday 16th November
How do you follow the races? Internet? Do you place your bets over the net or do you live above Corals?!
Could you please also copy emails to my work address, where I spend a lot of time during the day?
So a couple of losers to follow up the winning start. But at least Tim was getting into the swing of things.
We had a non-runner yesterday. Monger Lane was withdrawn well before the off. The stake is returned so I'll put up two selections on Saturday to keep us on course for the month. There are plenty of good fixtures over the weekend.
The best fixture today is at Kempton, but the fields are small and there are too many poor value odds-on runners. So we head north to Hexham. Bandit Country. The 1.55pm is a decent handicap hurdle with a field of 16. The race is wide open, offering value opportunities. The key here will be the going conditions. The ground is heavy and so we are looking for mudlarks. Horses that like it hock deep. I've backed FLORRIES SON at 14-1. He has won on soft and heavy going, loves it round this track and comes from a stable in good form just now. He has been chasing most recently and so he reverts to his hurdles handicap mark where he has been placed in every one of his seven runs and has won 4 of them. He has been off the track for over 200 days which is reflected in the price. But the trainer is adept at getting them fit first time out and I think he could go well.
Fascinating stuff. "Mudlarks in bandit country" raised a chuckle. When do you have time to work?!
Florries Son was another non-runner and reappeared in the strategy later on. More evidence here that Tim was at least enjoying the ride. The old clichés were suckering him in.
We really came off the rails yesterday. Barrow Drive ran an absolute shocker. Rain came and turned the ground soft, but even so this ultra-consistent gelding should at least have been competitive. He was pulled up with about 3 fences to go. I was quite confident about his chances before the race. I mentioned him to the bloke who sells me the Racing Post at the station. So that's another newsagent’s I can't go back to.
Belting action today. Three-time Gold Cup winner and all-round superstar Best Mate returns to action in a four runner race at Exeter. He lines up against at least one genuine pretender to his Crown, Sir Rembrandt who ran him a very close 2nd in last season's Gold Cup. Sir R is a horse I love (in a platonic way, naturally), but can't see him winning today. Although the race will be a cracker, then, it's actually a non-betting race.
‘So where's the value?’, I hear you utter. Well I'm suggesting a win double today. SAY WHAT YOU SEE from the Martin Price stable in the 1.20 at Exeter, who should go off at about 3-1 and ATAHUELPA in the 3.45 at Windsor at about 7-4. Both selections are skinny prices - too short by my value principles to stick a mere £2 on - but hold very strong chances on earlier form this season and so it's worth chancing a double.
Second, last or a non-finisher, I guess it matters not (almost philosophical!), although your pride is clearly at stake!!
Why don't you call me at home on Saturday morning with selections for tomorrow and we can have a chat. We might not yet be ready to retire, but I am really enjoying all this!
This was rank bad form. Half a dozen bets in and I was already putting up ridiculous win doubles. Absolute mug punting territory and a simple product of self-inflicted pressure. No good could ever have come of such shambolic tactics and sure enough nothing did.
Sunday, November 21
A couple of shockers today. Turgeonev ran a stinker in the handicap hurdle and Native Emperor, whilst running well for most of the race, never landed a blow in the Becher Chase.
Tomorrow's selection comes from Ludlow. In the 2.20 handicap chase for amateur riders, I've backed CARRYONHARRY at 11-2. This horse has decent form, but has been carrying too much weight in recent outings to trouble the judge. The handicapper has relented by dropping him a few pounds and on this mark, he should go well in a tight little race.
Celestial Gold is starting to feel like a long time ago!
Another winner! Carryonharry absolutely hacked up at Ludlow. Won by 27 lengths, virtually unopposed. I took 11-2 last night, which is just as well.
Stable confidence behind the horse saw him backed in to 7-2. So much the better for us. Not that eleven quid will break the bank, of course.
Tomorrow, we are back in the frozen North. Sedgefield. Grim as they come. The race is grimmer still. 3pm, Ken Bright Memorial Chase, 3m3f, Class F. Why Ken Bright’s folks would choose to commemorate him with this bilge is hard to fathom. We can’t go much further down the grading alphabet without backing Blackpool Beach donkeys. It's an open race though, which tempts us in. TROOPER, at 8-1 is burdened with our wedge in this stirling encounter. Down in the weights, soft ground performer, course and distance winner, top jockey booking. Must go close.
RESULT!! Well done.
I didn't ask you what you do for a living, although judging by the jargon-loaded reports, I now assume you must be a sports journalist, aspiring to be a racing commentator!
That winner was a long time coming. Slowly I was convincing Tim that I was not a mug punter at all, but a seasoned tipster who knows what he’s talking about. Who says jargon is a bad thing? Or clichés for that matter. And a bit of bullshit is never a bad thing. Take that away and there’s not a lot left.
All good stuff. Tell me, when you go into Corals, are the odds printed in the papers on the walls the ones they give or am I misunderstanding how they operate. When I popped in on Saturday and checked the odds following our conversation, I found that they were a lot shorter than you had got i.e. 11-1 was printed up at 11-5 ??
28 November 2004
Yeah, the forecast prices on the eve of racing are called ‘tissues’ and are often wayward. Some bookies will offer prices for the Saturday cards and the big races on the previous evening and that’s what I try to plough into. The other factor is that the prices can massively see-saw on the day, in response to the weight of money. Mind you, 11-1 in to 11-5 is pretty extreme. Clearly a plot horse lined up for an imponderable handicap! Good to see you are venturing into the local bookies now!
As regards the most recent raft of bets, no amount of cool analysis and dispassionate observation can swerve me from the view that on Saturday at Newbury we was robbed. Fleeced. Shafted. You probably feel the same about events at Twickenham. Two runners-up. Albahuera and Claymore. Each beaten by less than a length. I was gutted.
Puntal ran well for 6th in the big chase. You may have noticed our old mate Celestial Gold trotted up in that race. I passed over him on the basis that the price was too short. It didn't look too bad when he crossed the line in front though! The horse is in the form of his life. Royal Shakespeare also ran well for 3rd at Newcastle. Though the winner, Harchibald, looks something special. A real Champion Hurdle prospect. The bookies have already slashed his odds for that race next March.
No point moaning about near misses though. We need winners. We are now over half way through the bets. Only two winners in the bag at this stage is a touch below par. This is where the gloves come off.
Back to Newcastle tomorrow. FLORRIES SON runs in the 3m handicap hurdle at 2.20. I've backed him at 10-1. This formerly useful chaser reverts to the hurdles on a handy enough mark. He goes well fresh, is a dour stayer and holds a strong chance in this very open race.
29th Nov 2004
You were gutted and so were we! My brother-in-law and I placed £5 side bets on all Saturday's runners and watched the races on video, without knowing the results, after the rugby. I persuaded myself that the law of averages had to apply after an empty week and that one of the four would come in. WRONG! Found the races exciting all the same.
Just to compound matters, we then tried to recoup our losses by getting stuck into the 6 - 15 point winning margin in the France - New Zealand game. We backed both teams at 11-1. How could we lose? As you must know, the All-Blacks went on to stuff Les Bleus 45 - 6 !!!!!!!!
My wife is very concerned that you're a bad influence on me…
Onwards and upwards
Nice to see the gambling seed sown in October was beginning to flourish with such vigour (paving the way for inevitable disappointment…)
Wednesday 1st December
I hope it comes as a pleasant surprise to you to learn that we bagged a winner today. MIOCHE D'ESTRUVAL landed odds of 12-1 in a handicap hurdle at Newton Abbot, 2.50pm.
I couldn't place the bet on-line at work. Damn, they must be catching up with me! So I left the bet cooking nicely in my addled brain til I could watch the race in the bookies. I couldn't believe that the horse had drifted out to 12s! I was expected 8-1 and no better when I plotted this one up. Our talismanic jockey, Timmy Murphy delivered the beast on a beautifully timed run out wide to pouch the race on the line. Spectacular stuff.
We've had three positive returns now, all from the Martin Pipe stable. I'm not usually a big fan of his – the prices are often too short - but I can't complain at this return. We've backed four of his, three have delivered and the other was 2nd! This brings us to £59 profit. I may not win you back all your £120 auction wedge, but I'd hope to land at least another two winners or so from the remaining 12 bets.
Tomorrow, the action comes from Plumpton and Catterick. The cards are more threadbare than a hooker’s panties though, and I'm not putting up a selection. I'll double up on Saturday when there is an outstanding meeting at Sandown and you can sit in front of the box and watch the money roll in. I'm at the track for the first day of the meeting on Friday. It's a belter and I can’t wait.
We did indeed have a good day at Sandown. The Friday of the wonderful Tingle Creek meeting has been a regular fixture in our diary for many years. Whilst it does not offer the same glitter and glory as the following day’s main event, that dank day we saw both the future winner and runner up of the Festival’s RSA Hurdle which would be run a few months later. We also saw my mate Bacchy snaffle the winner of the lucky last at 25-1 and polish off his hip flask in the Albert Arms on Esher High Street a brief moment before being invited to leave by the management.
I rang Tim on Saturday morning with that day’s tips, speaking slowly and quietly so as not to unduly disturb my fragile state of being. Atahuelpa at 9-1 and Historic at 11-2.
Sunday, 5th December
Don't know if you caught Saturday's racing. Atahuelpa never landed a blow in that massive handicap hurdle, but Historic was simply magnificent in the marathon chase. Jumped his rivals ragged. His nearest pursuer coming acropper four out was a handy outcome for us. I'd expected odds of 11-2, but as the price was drifting all morning, I waited till nearer the off and we landed 8-1. Bit of a bonus. So 75 quid in the bank and 8 selections to come.
Tomorrow we head north of the border to Ayr for a 2m5f handicap chase. JALASTEP is the selection - assuming I can get better than 6-1 tomorrow morning. This is a tricky little handicap, but this horse loves the track and his best form has come on good ground. The market is made by Huka Lodge on whom I have collected before, but tomorrow's distance is likely to be too short and he seems to like bottomless ground. The race is due off at 1.30pm.
I'll double up on Saturday so that the last bets of this series come at the very decent Cheltenham Bonusprint meeting this weekend.
Tim rang, ecstatic that he’d finally managed to cheer home a winner on a big Saturday afternoon. Unfortunatley, Jalastep received a huge bump approaching the 1st fence at Ayr, knocking the jockey clean out of the saddle.
Thursday, 9th December
Bridesmaid again yesterday. We are getting too many of these. Lou Du Moulin Mas had every chance chasing the leader at the last fence, but he couldn't quicken and was beaten by three lengths. Cosy enough for the winner.
Today we venture to sleepy Huntingdon: land of animal research, former Prime Ministers and Martin Pipe hurdlers. HENRIETTA is the girl for us in the 2.20pm 3m handicap hurdle; part of Pipe's carefully assembled raiding party. This mare landed a three-timer over timber last season before being found out in a listed event at Aintree. Back to her level here in a Class D race I'm hopeful that she can land odds of 7-1.
I've been passed a tip today too. TOULON ROUGE runs in the 1pm Huntingdon novice chase. Currently trading at 10-1 I find it hard to believe that this beast is nailed on to win; but the source is adamant that the tip is 'red hot'. I don't know the source personally so can't vouch for his credentials. But I do know that the horse is trained by Ferdy Murphy who is a right old rogue and well capable of plotting up something like this. There's a chance that the info might have come from the stable, in which case the price should tumble. I've had a couple of quid on. Just for interest you know.....
Henrietta was a well beaten 3rd and Toulon Rouge went down by a mere three parts of a length at 12-1. I never found out whether Tim had got on at that price, but it was clear each-way territory and I satisfied myself with a small consolation collect.
Friday 10th December
Last three bets Tim, on this, your roller-coasting™ charity auction purchase. Unless we land all three races, I can’t see this adventure turning into any real profit on your initial outlay, but we’ll go down all guns blazing at any rate. Today is a good quality opening day of the Bonusprint meeting at HQ. We find our eyes drawn yet again to the winning machine master of Pond House for our first selection in the last race of the day. Martin Pipe’s THEREALBANDIT is just that. A horse known to criminally waste his prodigious talent and thieve the hard earned wedge of honest punters. A bandit indeed. But we can’t let him go off at 6-1. If he recaptures a smidgeon of his novice form last year he will be bang there at a track he would like to roll up and take home.
Tomorrow, GAZUMP has the look of an improver about him in the novice chase. He has winning track and distance form and looks very solid at 11-2. And in the novice hurdle at 3.45, there should be more to come from JACKSON over hurdles and this extra 2 furlongs should play to his stamina strengths.
Here’s hoping we go out with a scream!
Monday 13th December
Therealbandit seemed to win very nicely on Friday. Well done.
Although having placed some modest each way side bets on Saturday and watched races on video on Sunday, I cannot help but think that this business is a bit of a lottery!! Gazump got us off to a particularly bad start!!
I managed to derive some satisfaction from Jackson edging a second place in the 3.45, but I only got 7-1 odds with Ladbrokes on Saturday. Hey Ho!
Notwithstanding that this has not proved to be a positive investment, the money went to a good cause. I've really been won over by the experience and have enjoyed the winners. And your commentaries have been excellent, so thanks for all your hard work.
It would be nice if you and the family could make it round for a pre-Christmas drink, either next weekend, or one evening next week when kids are off school. How are you fixed?
So in the final analysis, I didn’t win back Tim his £120 promises auction outlay. Indeed I was left with a lingering sense that he felt I should have done better. And yet by any standards the statistics during this period were solid. I landed 5 wins from 30 bets, which is a very respectable strike rate of 16%. The winners were big fat prices that you can properly scream home. None of that odds-on thievery: 12-1, 11-2, 12-1, 8-1 and 13-2, netting a profit of £28 on top of £60 staking (30 bets). This gives profit on turnover – the Daddy of punting performance indicators, so I’m told – of 46%. Four of the winners were trained by Martin Pipe. Never before had I had such a healthy return from his barn.
Mrs A and I, together with the girls gathered at Tim’s for a lovely evening with him and his family just before Christmas. I thought I had detected the merest leveling off of Tim’s enthusiasm for the project by the end. I projected onto his conversations his realization that there was no easy route to glory. In hindsight this is something I should have stressed to him and in the auction at the outset, rather than bigging up the operation. Expectation management or something.
But over a few glasses of deep red claret, Tim was incredibly generous in his praise of my pimped up racing reports and was a tad disappointed to discover that I was just another desk-bound fantasist rather than an insider from the racing industry. If only he knew how I had ploughed every avenue of hackneyed Racing Post one-liners I could muster. Another day would have sent me over the edge.
Tim’s wife Hilary had equally become fascinated by the murky world of tipping and feared for the very moral soul of her hubby on a couple of occasions.
I wrote out a cheque for £88 which was the gross profit on the winners. I’d said in the auction that I would swallow the losing stakes. But to my client this was still a loss of £32, plus his own side bets, (for which I naturally could not take responsibility). So friends made, entertainment consumed and charities supported. Not quite everyone a winner though, but this was good enough.
That said, Tim has never asked me for a tip since…