Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Breaking the silence

What happened there? Write a post in February, blink your eyes and the next thing it’s Halloween. The hottest Summer since 1976 proved to be a barren desert for this blog.  Arctic interludes are already muscling a benign Autumn out of the way and I haven’t yet dealt with the Spring festivals.

Picking up the baton from that February missive, I feel it is time to draw to a close the hairy tale of the Grab-a-Grand initiative. The deal, you may or may not remember, involved a work colleague investing a straight £1,000 with which I would gamble over the course of the Jumps season. In return, come April, I’d present him with a guaranteed £1,100. A six-month 10% profit margin that he would never secure in the High Street banks. My incentive was that any profit I made over £1,100 was mine to keep. An investment of a grand would provide me with the raw materials for bigger, bolder bets. I was confident of a 30-40% return on investment.

That February blog reported the notching of my worst ever, ever punting run: a 38-bet tale of woe in pursuit of profits on that grand investment. I also chronicled some Cheltenham ante-post action. Those two subjects intertwined neatly when the latter became my salvation in regard to the former. A barn-storming Festival, courtesy of decent bets on the gorgeous Shattered Love, the canny Benie Des Dieux and the tough Rathvinden, together with a more productive Spring campaign all round, turned my losses in to a profit.

Heady with this hard-won success, I offered Pete the chance to take his guaranteed investment up to a £200 return by October. Naturally, he bit my hand off. My greed, in turn, bit me in the arse. A double metaphorical masticating injury. I contrived to lose bucket loads of cash on half-hearted handicap plots and dithering pattern race punts. Keen to draw the exercise to a close, I paid up Pete’s £1200 in late August, thereby negating the chances of losing over the Summer everything I had scrambled to bank over the Winter.  

Building from my colleague’s £1,000 investment in October 2017, I had retained a profit of £274 by the time the transaction closed, down from £440 in April, meaning I trousered a puny £74 after paying over Pete’s guaranteed £1200. Pfft.

I have mixed feelings about the experiment. Clearly the profits were not what I’d hoped for. The mistaken Summer extension saw a return to lilly-livered punting on horses about which I had little opinion. Yet the NH campaign was a blast.  Even before the sphincter-busting 38-bet losing run had ended, there was a residual nugget of confidence that matters could be turned around.

The Festivals were a chance to have decent bets which topped up, for once, a profitable ante-post portfolio. In fact, I had very little ante-post betting before the middle of February. Activity began to ratchet up in the fortnight before the meeting, when value began to spill around. Some firms went non-runner, no-bet while others were still ante-post. Coupled with the clarifying of targets, there was opportunity to take a chance on some fancy prices.

I backed Rathvinden at 16/1 for the National Hunt Chase when Willie Mullins said in his stable tour that he was a likely runner (though as Tony Keenan said just after the festival, “that’s not a cast-iron guarantee, I’ll grant you”). Rathvinden won at 9/2. The same with Shattered Love, whom I backed at 14/1 for the JLT after Elliot declared her for that race (I gather 20s were also available). She won at 4/1.

And here we are at the start of the jumps again. Bacchy has circulated his Twelve To Follow competition for the season and markets are already forming around bankers for some of the Festival’s defining races: Kalashnikov for the Arkle? Samcro for the Champion Hurdle? Faugheen for the Stayers? And Altior v Footpad for the Champion Chase could be a modern-day classic.

I’m looking forward to seeing Monalee in open company, Black Op over fences and, at the other end of the experience scale, a couple of Fergal O’Brien bumper horses in Time To Move On and Strong Glance. Paul Nicholl’s novice hurdler Secret Investor was impressive in the Persian War a couple of weeks ago.

The boys have already had our say. Over the wreckage of an Indian Diner fantasy cricket curry, the unanimous shout was to entrust the remains of the whip money to the chances of Presenting Percy in the Gold Cup.


Cheltenham opened its door last Friday and the Charlie Hall meeting at Wetherby this coming Friday and Saturday sees the first high quality meeting of the season. Banish those Flat blues (and pay no more than cursory attention to the events at Churchill Downs this weekend), we are all about the jumps. And I’m ready.

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