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I’ve been lurking on here for sometime before joining. I am a huge racing fan although would not call myself an expert by any stretch of the imagination. I hope to join in the debates as it’s really interesting to hear others opinions even if they differ from my own. I’m not really a betting man nowadays just into the sport. I wrote the following for another forum (non racing) as an introduction on a sports betting section. It may be a bit long but hope it gves an insight to me.
Ever since I was a child I have had an interest in gambling of some kind. At school I used to organise jumping bean races and acted as the bookmaker. I would buy a tube of five jumping beans. These were real Mexican jumping beans which were a small nut shaped object with a live worm of some kind inside. If you shone a light or heated them up they would move. On a sheet of paper I drew to a small circle in the middle and a larger one on the outside. Each bean was marked with a different colour. I placed them within the small circle and shone a light on them. The first bean to reach the outside circle was the winner. I used to take bets on which one would reach the outside first. I made a bit of extra pocket money this way, particularly from one of the richer kids who
insisted on betting ten pence each time on the worse bean. Ten pence was a lot of money when your pocket money was just forty pence per week. This must have been around 1976 0r 1977 and I was 14 or 15 at the time.
As a child and a young man starting work I had no real interest in Horse Racing as such although, even as schoolboy I like everyone in the country had heard of Red Rum and his trainer Ginger McCain, the greatest Grand National horse in history who, in a five year period between 1973 and 1977, won the National 3 times and came second twice. Rummy was stabled behind McCain’s used car lot in Southport and trained on the beach. He was a real celebrity who opened supermarkets, appeared on Sports Personality of the Year, you could even buy posters of him. He was the Cheryl Cole of the seventies and would almost certainly been an X factor judge had Simon Cowel been around at the time.
At the age of 21 one day changed my life. Tuesday 5th April 1983. The Grand national was due to be run on the Saturday. I knew nothing about the sport but as usual fancied a bet on the race. On the Tuesday I
was in my local newsagent in Fishponds in Bristol and saw a publication on the stand called Racing and Football Outlook. This was a weekly publication which gave tips and write ups on racing and football betting,
the football betting was mainly the pools which most people did then, and enabled you to win huge amounts for a small outlay if you could predict eight score draws. This was of course before the lottery started in the mid nineties. The headline in RFO was for a horse called Corbiere to win the National. On the Saturday I duly placed my bet on Corbiere in the local Joe Coral shop. Of couse Corbiere galloped into history, winning at 13/1 and become the first horse trained by a woman to win the race.
From that day I was hooked on racing.
I was a postman at the time and used to spend most of my afternoons in Corals, even when I was on afternoon driving duties I used to spend my time between each letter collection in Corals which was convieniently located next door to the Fishponds delivery office. I straight away started to buy both the Sporting Life and Sporting Chronicle on a daily basis, within weeks I was also getting the Handicap book ( now Raceform Update) weekly and also spending a fortune on Timeform publications.
Betting shops in those days were nothing like now. Windows weren’t allowed nor were televisions or even refreshments. The government were determined to make them places people wouldn’t want to visit. You had to listen to the races on the blower and the results and betting shows were written on a huge white board behind the counter by the mark up man as they were announced on the blower. They were dark, dirty horrible
places populated mainly by old men with fags hanging out of their mouth but, I loved it.
I used to spend every minute I could watching racing on BBC and ITV and dreamed of winning the ITV Seven, a bet where you had to predict the winners of the seven races shown by ITV on a Saturday. My second year in racing was difficult and I had to record a lot of the racing as on saturday afternoons I used to watch the racing til about 2.30 before rushing down to watch Bristol Rovers at Eastville just a mile down the road from my flat. I used to go home after the football, watch the racing I had recorded, before returning to Eastville for the evening Greyhounds.
Being April the Jumps season was coming to an end, there was no summer jumping then nor winter flat racing, the year was clearly divided to Jumps in winter and flat in summer. So my first real interest was in flat racing. The first flat race I took a real interest in was the William Hill Lincoln which was won by Mighty Fly and ridden by American jockey Steve Cauthen, who soon became my first racing hero.
My first vist to a racecourse was the King George and Queen Elizabeth Diamond stakes at Ascot at the end of July 1983. I had got a voucher from the Daily Mirror for cheap entry. I backed Time Charter who duly won the big race. I was well and truly hooked by then. I used to swop shifts at work so I could work mornings and dash to Bath races and, the next winter, to Chepstow and of course Cheltenham. In 1985 I became a junior member at Cheltenham and have been a member ever since.
For the first few years my main interest was in Flat racing and I went to my first Derby in 1984 and managed to back Secreto to win at 14/1. I was now starting to do quite well and making a small profit from my betting although, of course I backed many losers but was learning all the time.
There was of course no such thing as the Internet at this time, we didn’t have PC’s at work , let alone at home, and all of my racing information had to come from books and papers. The papers were full of advertisments from racing tipsters and I decided to have a go myself. I placed an advert in a racing publication and got a dozen or so people who subscibed to my tips which I sent out by post for the weekend racing. I managed to make a small profit for subscribers over the time I did this. I called myself
Turfguide. This was quite hard work and I decided not to continue. I did however, attempt to write my own monthly racing publication, which included speed ratings, write up’s and I even managed to get the well known Bristol trainer Richard Holder to do an interview where he took me on a tour of his stables and I wrote up on his horses. I did the first issue and sent a copy to the leading Racing journalist Brough Scott for his views. He wrote me a lovely letter back saying how much he liked it. He even suggested i write to the Sporting Life and Timeform for jobs. He even said I could mention his name. He asked me to introduce myself to him when next at the racecourse, this I did and met him at Epsom.
I was now totally absorbed in racing and every spare minute I was reading about and studying it. Everything from the betting to the breeding. From 1985 my summer holiday involved going to the York Ebor meeting on the Tuesday, wednesday and Thursday, followed by a rush down to Goodwood for the Friday and Saturday.
As time went on I became more interested in the Jumps and to this day that remains my main interest. Cheltenham is my mecca and the March festival meeting is, to me, the best four days sport in the world. I have had some fantastic days there. Highlights being Dawn Run win the Gold Cup in 1986 and of course the great Dessert Orchid winning in 1989, a day made even better by managing to back Ikdam trained by Richard Holder to win the Triumph Hurdle, I bet him on the tote and he won at 143/1. My favourite moment though has to be Denman winning the Gold Cup in 2008. My favourite horse of all time.
In 1991 my racing interests were curtailed when I went on a world tour. I still managed to visit racecourses in Singapore and New Zealand and also made it to the Melbourne Cup, Australias biggest race. I even remember listening to the Cheltenham Gold Cup on the world service in the middle of the night. This is the only time I have missed Cheltenham since 1985.
When I came back in 1992 my racing became less of an obsession but is still my main passion in life. I don’t go racing as much I was would like now but wouldn’t miss Cheltenham for the world.
My main interest is now in Racing as a sport rather then as a betting medium. I could quite happily never have another bet but would still love the sport.
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Of course the American horses could always come over here Lastword. I’m sure they would be most welcome.