Glorious Goodwood 2016 - best bets

Glorious Goodwood provides five days of top class flat racing at one of the UK’s most impressive racecourses and the 2016 meeting is no different. With the weather expected to be dry and warm in the lead up to this year’s festival of racing, the ground should be on the fast side which will suit those horses who have been longing for Good ground all season. Here are the best bets for this year’s meeting.
Tuesday – Lennox Stakes (Group 2)
Godolphin won this contest 12 months ago with Toormore and the boys in blue could have further success in the third race on the opening day of the meeting with Home of the Brave who can be backed at 5/1 with Betway. Trained by Hugo Palmer, this four-year old has had the perfect season so far with two wins from his two starts. He started his campaign in a Listed race at Leicester back in April where he scored by just over two lengths, while more recently he was the winner of the Group Three Jury Stakes at Haydock. He remains at his optimum trip of seven furlongs for this race and the better ground at Goodwood will play in the in-form horse’s favour. The danger will obviously be Ribchester but he has yet to score on Good or Firm going.

Bet: Home of the Brave 5/1
Wednesday – Sussex Stakes (Group 1)
Galileo Gold has been the star miler from the three-year old division this season with success coming in the opening Classic of the year, the 2000 Guineas, while he also followed that up with his win in the St James’s Palace Stakes at Royal Ascot.
Hugo Palmer’s runner will once again take on the French Guineas winner The Gurkha at Goodwood but it is hard to make a case for that form being reversed on the downs.  The one blip Galileo Gold has on his form card this season is his second place finish in the Irish 2000 Guineas at the Curragh. The ground on that occasion was yielding and the complete opposite to what suits the horse. There will be no such concerns at Goodwood, therefore he is the one they all have to beat in the three-year old contest.
Bet: Galileo Gold 7/4
Saturday – Nassau Stakes (Group 1)
Aidan O’Brien’s Minding will go off as the hot favourite for the Group One Nassau Stakes, however, it could be worth siding with her stablemate Alice Springs to upset the odds at Goodwood. As we saw recently in the Irish Oaks where Ballydoyle’s Seventh Heaven beat Even Song to claim the Classic at the Curragh, it is not always the O’Brien favourite which claims the spoils.
Alice Springs showed her class when she won the Group One Falmouth Stakes at Newmarket recently in impressive style. She finished that race strongly coming home ahead of Very Special by over two lengths.  Usherette was a long was back in sixth as she proved the big disappointed in the 1m contest for fillies.
Bet: Alice Springs

6 Dark Horses

Just a few unraced two-year-olds.

Portledge - Trained by James Bethell

This bay colt is a son of Acclamation out of a five times winning mare who won at Listed class with a best official rating of 101.  James Bethell is a clever trainer who keeps his cards close to his chest but this 60,000G yearling purchase has something of a reputation. Tony Buckingham did well last year with Fast And Furious so connections will be hoping this April foal can win this formative season.

Twiggy - Trained by Jane Chapple-Hyam

Chapple-Hyam doesn't have many juveniles in her string but she does have an odd talent and Twiggy could well be worth an interest second start. This bat daughter of Sixties Icon is out of a winning mare who was similarly owned and bred by Mrs T Brudenell. Twiggy ran in a fair Yarmouth maiden where she was too keen but far from disgraced. I am pretty sure this filly will step up markedly next start. I know connections have been considering pattern class which should give good chances for winning an average maiden.

Wadood - Trained by Robert Cowell

I see this bay colt a son of Kodiac is entered to race on Tuesday (19th July).  This April foal is owned by Abdulla Al Mansoori and cost 55,000G at the yearling sales. This colt is definitely held in some regard by connections and if not shining on debut is likely to progress well with racing. 

Kruger Park - Trained by Richard Fahey

Fahey is a supreme talent when it comes to hitting the mark with his debutantes and this son of Requinto out of a winning mare. A recent breeze-up purchase at £40,000 this horse owned by Andrew Tinkler is earmarked for the Gimcrack Stakes (group 2). 

Lockheed - Trained by William Haggas

This son of Exceed And Excell needs little introduction after a supreme debut performance at Ascot behind John Gosden's son of Frankel Seven Heavens. Lockheed [pictured] is owned by the China Horse Club who simply don't have poor juveniles and forked out a colossal 450,000G for this chest/grey colt. I'm not jumping on the bandwagon because I detailed this colt to a number fo people before debut. Physically, a beautiful specimen and he will be racing at Group level and most likely be winning at that level too. 

Rich And Famous - Trained by Mark Johnston 

This son of Bernardini is well thought of and worth following. 

Professional Gambler Series: Dave Nevison

Punter makes easy money the hard way

There are barristers and stockbrokers who are neighbours to Dave Nevison and even a woman four doors down called Gloria Hunniford who has made a career out of sitting on sofas. But when Nevison himself emerges from his Sevenoaks home each morning he is embarking on a quite different business. He is going to the racecourse to make money.

There are barristers and stockbrokers who are neighbours to Dave Nevison and even a woman four doors down called Gloria Hunniford who has made a career out of sitting on sofas. But when Nevison himself emerges from his Sevenoaks home each morning he is embarking on a quite different business. He is going to the racecourse to make money.

Of the dozen or so men countrywide who are thought to make a career out of backing racehorses Nevison, at 38, is just about the newest on the block. Along with the Runyonesque pairing of Eddie "The Shoe" Fremantle and "Beardy" Alan, his is now one of the most recognisable faces in the rings of the southern circuit.

Nevison says he makes "a comfortable living" from punting, which should be measured against the fact that he used to work in the City. Certainly he still has the keys to his £500,000 property in green and pleasant land, and next month celebrates his sixth year on the racecourse.

When you hear of his big wins, the liberation of money from the bookmakers, the parties, it can be immediately intoxicating. But just contemplate a moment before you take your coat from its peg. "Someone once said that is a very hard way to make easy money," Nevison says. "When you get it right a bloke just opens up a big satchel and hands over great wads of cash. But I think you'll find my hourly rate is probably not that high. Against that I am out in the fresh air every day doing something that I love and getting rewarded for it. But, make no mistake, you have got to keep a grip on yourself and you have got to put the hours in. There is simply no substitute for hard work."

Nevison has been getting up at 4am for some time now. It makes a change from joining the pinstripe wave crashing into the City, from existence as a foreign-exchange dealer. "I was a bit mug-punterish then," he says. "I was a City fizz kid. It was lager every lunchtime and lager every night and I wasn't compos mentis about my racing even though I'd bought a few horses.

"For the last two years I was virtually punting and getting paid in the City. Eventually I got the tap on the shoulder and the suggestion that I might as well move my office to Coral's. We were going our separate ways. I told my wife I was going to go punting full time."

There was the pot of his £70,000 pay-off to play with but also anxiety in the household. However, Lotte Nevison no longer waits at the train station with child in pushchair wondering how the family wealth has fared that day.

So what is the Nevison system? He does not trust his eyes, paying little attention to paddock inspection or how a horse moves to post. He does not trust his ears much either and rarely acts on "information". "It can be a question of spotting things early," he says. "There's the obvious. If Lord Carnarvon wanders up to the rails at Windsor and has £25 on a two-year-old it's past the post. And other things as well.

"I made an awful lot of money two Flat seasons ago when Dandy Nicholls came on the sprinting scene. It's common knowledge now but back then I was backing horses at 16-1 that go off at 7-2 now. There was also the time when Tony McCoy was claiming 5lb against professional jockeys when he was 7lb better than them anyway. You had a stone advantage."

The bulk of it, though, is the mundane - hours in the formbook and analysis of speed figures. "I've never been a short-priced player," he says. "I basically price up every race myself and have a serious look at anything that's over 15 per cent higher than I've got it. My strike-rate isn't that high, but I think you've got to make a judgement about whether you either want to back winners or win in the long run. The profile of a professional gambler seems to be of someone who will wait and wait for a single horse to have his £500 on, but, emotionally, I don't think that works. I don't know a single person that operates that way at my level.

"When you play for value rather than winners you can quite often end up backing more than one horse in a race. And one of the biggest problems in gambling is being able to handle your losing runs. We all have them and they're hard to handle but, because I cover more options, mine are by definition shorter. If I don't back a winner when I go racing it's an unusual day. There are an awful lot of people who go racing every day, but they've been successful in another life and the pressure is not on them to win. They're not doing it to put their kids through school.

"In the time I've been doing it I've seen many, many people come and go. They've been people similar to me who have suddenly come into some money and decided to have a go. It's the mental strain, the emotional up and down of it that gets them."

If Nevison does have a single piece of advice for those who choose to put their money in jeopardy, and various nuggets are soon to appear on an Internet site, it is to stick to a single branch of racing and, with patience, master it.

"There are the old chestnuts such as backing only in Group races, but while they may be very true they don't give you much of an advantage," he says. "Anyone can back Lammtarra for the Arc, but you don't win much money. In Group Ones, certainly towards the end of the year, it's easy to find winners, but difficult to make a profit.

"The races I like are handicaps up to a mile. In three-year-old handicaps over 10 furlongs plus and any handicap over a mile and a half plus you've got to be really sure there's going to be a pace. You don't get that problem in sprints with big fields. And if you can be reasonably sure about how a race is going to be run you can be reasonably sure about what is going to win it."

Only Nevison himself knows where he stands with the old enemy when, at day's end, he leans back on the front door. But as the door is entrance to a significant property and there are further trappings in place the signs are good. "Most of all I enjoy the constant battle and the banter with Barry Dennis and the boys at Lingfield's all-weather," he says. "It is one of my favourite hunting grounds and thanks to them the kids now have a nice, new car for the school run."

Dennis himself says he is prepared to continue the contest. Dave Nevison has therefore found the happy Christmas Day no-man's land between punter and bookmaker. For that, as in many things, he is one of the turf's more unusual figures.

The Concept of Value Betting

It is one of the oldest arguments in betting: are you better off looking for value or looking for winners?

To me, it is a no-brainer. Value is king. I am amazed anyone considers it a matter of debate, yet many do. Their thinking goes like this: what is the point of backing something because you think it is a big price if it has little or no chance of winning?

They will hold up as an example a football team that is playing away to opposition that is generally accepted to be superior. Fulham against Manchester United at Old Trafford, for example. Fulham may be 12-1 but if you dare suggest that is too big a price, you are liable to be shot down in flames by those who believe that because the Cottagers are such big outsiders there is no point even contemplating whether or not they actually represent a value wager.

There is no point backing a string of big-value losers, they will reason. Refrain from getting embroiled in a debate with people who think this way. They are irrational and cannot possibly be winning punters in the long run. In betting, and in football, in particular, the value lies more often than not in the bigger-priced contenders. This is largely because of the average punter's fixation with the very shortest prices on the weekend football coupon.

Bookmakers can usually tell whether they will have a winning weekend simply by looking at the results of the top teams in the English Premiership and Scottish Premier League.

In the autumn of 2003, Arsenal, Chelsea, Manchester United, Celtic and Rangers all won on the same weekend eight times out of 11.

This caused a drop in bookmakers' profits as punters landed some significant accumulators. By the start of December, a blind £10 weekly five-timer on the quintet was showing a profit of £310. With their profits being dented, the layers reacted by strangling the match odds of the five teams that were hurting them.

Predictably, it did not prevent punters steaming into the so-called Big Five, even when they stopped winning so regularly. And with the hotpots shortening, their opponents were offered at even longer odds, leading to some decent paydays for those punters who took the rational view that the value lay with the long-shots.

The bottom line is that everything becomes good value if the price is right. You may head out of the house one day armed with £20,000 with the intention of buying a Mercedes. On the way to the showroom, you pass the Toyota dealership where the comparable car in their range is on offer at £14,000.

Your heart was set on the Merc but here is a car every bit as good for £6,000 less. You don't know why it is being offered so cheaply, but it is. You buy it and, whether you bank the six grand or use it to take the family to the Caribbean, you have made a value investment. So it is with betting. You intended to back Manchester United, but when you saw the prices and realised Fulham were so big, you backed them.

Many punters would, quite rightly, not dream of having a bet without searching for the best possible value, yet there are plenty who have no grasp of the concept of price-sensitivity and just back their fancies with the same bookmaker, be it on the phone, the net, or, more commonly, in the shop (internet punters tend to be more sophisticated and more aware of the basic premise that if you take the trouble to root out the best possible price you have a far greater chance of being successful over a long period).

6:35 Windsor Racing Tips (4th July) SKY BET BRITISH STALLION STUDS EBF MAIDEN STAKES (CLASS 5) (2yo)

A Maiden Stakes over 6f on good going. A big field of two-year-olds with sixteen making the line-up. 

A few of these have some aspect of interest. However, I will make try to make this short and sweet as I'm having something of a bad hair day and really need to start making Sunday a day of rest, which it isn't. 

The horse of interest. 

I'm not going to say how I know but Majeste has a level of ability. This son of Acclamation has been withdrawn at least once before, no doubt trying to keep away from soft ground, and luckily this bay colt has a nice draw in stall two. Richard Hannon has been a touch quiet this season with Mark Johnston stealing the limelight but he does pop up with talents and this horse looks a good buy at £50,000 when purchased by Peter & Ross Doyle at the yearling sales. Now racing in the familiar black and yellow silks of Mohammed Saeed Al Shahi I am pretty confident this January foal will be ready for action. 

The main dangers include Clive Cox's Kodiline who was backed without fear of loss when runner-up to a decent horse in Big Time Baby. This son of Kodiac did little wrong losing by half a length and shouldn't be bothered by this extra furlong. 

Saeed bin Suroor has done exceptionally well with his two-year-olds this season and he can prime them for debut. Best Solution is a son of Kodiac and 90,000G yearling purchase. Definitely a juvenile to respect although a wide draw may not be ideal in the sizable field. 

100,000G yearling buy Redgrave is worthy of respect for Highclere Thoroughbred Racing and Charlie Hills, who has a liking for Windsor. If priced 13/2 & less SP has fair each-way claims. 

Stuart Williams isn't a name associated with two-year-olds but Ruby Woo shaped with promise on debut at Yarmouth when making her debut a couple of weeks back. A wide draw tempers enthusiasm. 

One horse which may be worth noting on its second start is William Muir's Secret Agent. This bay colt is a son of Equiano and looks to be a home bred for Mrs Michael Morgan who has done very well with stablemate Code Red. Muir often introduces better two-year-olds here, and they usually show their worth second start.

Conclusion: A big field may need a few of these drawn wide will be at a disadvantage. Kodiline will go well but not much value at the odds. Majeste is held in some regard by connections and this debutante has been entered for a lot of races which suggests to me they are feel a big run on his racecourse bow. I'd be surprised if this son of Acclamation doesn't win this season and must have each-way claims here. 

Saturday's Tips From High Class Equine

A few two-year-old races and a couple who may have a fighting chance. 

1:50 Beverley - 

Looking at one horse here who showed next to no ability on debut at Pontefract. Sir Viktor is a big, strong two-year-old who may well spark into life after a substantially lay off and step up in distance. At 10/1+ this son of Sir Prancealot is worth a speculative punt. 

2:25 Beverley -

David Barron is a canny trainer and Liquid was fancied to go well on debut, and so did a narrowly beaten favourite at Musselburgh. The form of that race has been franked and the short price favourite, in what looks a weakish race, means this son of Zoffany can be backed each-way at 4/1. Should hit the frame with a fighting chance of the win.

3:00 Beverley - 

James Tate is a trainer I take seriously as he is very good at placing his two-year-olds on their second start and I know for a fact this son of Kyllachy is held in some regard by connections. He ran in a stiff race at Yarmouth on debut and was priced as if needing the run. This bay colt got his act together late on and caught the eye. Kyllang Rock has decent each-way claims at 4/1. 

6:35 Carlisle - 

Interesting race. A few two-year-olds with ability. Cuppacoffee has to carry a penalty, hence the apprentice jockey, but a tough sort for Duffield. Vaux hasn't had much luck but a winner in waiting. He has a tendency to rear as the stalls open and that is a worry. Haslam's charge cannot afford to do this, especially so dropping back to the minimum trip. At best, I quite fancy this colt to go well but the price doesn't reflect the fear of a tardy start which puts me off betting. Little Miss Lola ran well last time out at Carlisle, behind a fair juvenile for Bryan Smart. A solid horse who will run a race and sound each-way claims. Zebedee Cat has finished sixth on each of his three starts. Iain Jardine's colt looks pretty average but this return to the minimum trip is more suiting. I wouldn't think this son of Zebedee will be quite good enough to win but could belie his odds of 20/1. The betting is the best guide to Sir Mark Prescott's Impassioned. Most of this handlers debutantes need the run but I am always watchful of those owned by Cheveley park Stud. If priced 13/2 & less SP I would take this horse seriously. If weak in the betting, best watched. Roy's Dream is another who showed much more last start at Redcar, a fair amount of pace. Stubbs' filly may appreciate this step down in distance but may have to settle for place claims at best. 

Should make a decent EW Multibet and each-way singles


7:10 Kempton Racing Tips (29th June) BRITISH STALLION STUDS EBF NOVICE FILLIES´ STAKES (Plus 10 Race) (CLASS 5) (2yo)

An EBF Novice Fillies' Stakes (Plus 10) over 7f on standard going. James Tate has been quiet this season with his two-year-old runners. One juvenile that caught the eye is Urban Fox., This bay filly is a daughter of Australian stallion Foxwedge out of a winning mare who was trained by Amanda Perrett. This January foal runs in the familiar silks of Saeed Manana and exceptional yearling purchase at just 10,000G. She is held in high regard at home by connetions and backed on debut and powered home to win in tidy fashion. The form of that race has been franked with Rosebelle winning next start at Chester and Michael Bell's Preobrajenska who was pipped at the post at the course. This step up to 7f should suit Urban Fox. Clearly connections have been keen to make the right decision on this second start because she bypassed a Listed raced and Nursery on Friday. She carries a 7lb penalty which makes life more difficult but I can imagine Tate sees this as a test with a view to pattern class which I would consider is on the cards next start. With two other winners in the line-up this is a fair challenge. 

Fancy Day looks the main danger for Mark Johnston after a ready win at Pontefract. 

David Simcock has been in flying form with his two-year-olds and while respecting Miss Sugars this looks a much hotter race and she will need to make a marked step forward. This daughter of Harbour Watch is another juvenile who will enjoy this extra furlong. However, although limiting a winner is often a foolish exercise, I would take a watching brief with this winning favourite owned by The Tick Tock partnership. 

John Gosden is represented by two juveniles making their debut. It will take a smart horse to win against these talented opponents at the first time of asking. Both are owned and bred by Newsells Park Stud. Elas Ruby looks to be second string and best watched although she did go through the sale's ring for 160,000G. 

Double Spin is fancied in the betting and the stable have a respectable strike rate with their debutantes priced 13/2 & less SP. This American-bred daughter of Hard Spun is an early [January] foal and not sold for 50,000E. The mare won on debut, achieving a Listed success in her native France before competing in the U.S for her final three starts.      

Pacofilha is trained by Paul Cole and once-raced when placed fourth on debut at Wolverhampton over two months back. best watched unless substantially backed. 

Conclusion: A tough little stakes race and a good test for those with ambitions of racing at pattern class. Urban Fox showed a touch of class winning at Yarmouth on debut, the form has been franked and this step up to 7f will suit. Disappointing that we are dealing with just two places for each-way backers but I think this filly will go well. 

St George to finally complete Melbourne Order

Like so many British and Irish based trainers, Aidan O'Brien has to date found the Melbourne Cup an elusive prize.
'The race that stops a nation' at Flemington on the first Tuesday in November is one of the world's iconic Flat contests.
A two-mile handicap, usually run on the quick ground, it is devilishly tough to win but the recent Ascot Gold Cup suggested that O'Brien's Ballydoyle juggernaut might finally be ready to crack the Melbourne puzzle.
Order Of St George produced a stirring effort to triumph in the Ascot stayers' event, run over two and a half miles.
The grit, determination and, eventually, the inevitability with which Order Of St George won his race at Ascot bodes well for Australia, a destination O'Brien has already declared is part of his plan for last year's Irish St Leger winner.
In the wake of the Gold Cup success, Order Of St George finds himself right near the top of the market in the racing betting for the Flemington showpiece and he looks like being arguably O'Brien's best hope yet of tasting victory Down Under.
In securing victory at Ascot, Order Of St George extended to five his winning sequence.
That winning run began at 1m2f last summer before Irish St Leger success arrived over the 1m6f trip. His ability to win by wide margins was showcased again on his seasonal reappearance in Ireland but it was his Ascot win that best framed his Melbourne credentials.
Stepped up beyond 1m6f for the first time in his career, there were some lingering stamina doubts in certain quarters ahead of the Gold Cup.
The race proved to be a tetchy affair, with Ryan Moore and Order Of St George meeting trouble in running amid what was a rough race by any standards.
Afterwards, the winning trainer and jockey talked about a 'nightmare' passage through the race. Shuffled back through the pack as the home turn loomed, Order Of St George appeared to have a real task on his hands to reel back the long-time leader, Mille Et Mille.
Despite the stamina doubts and the trouble in running, what cannot be argued when reviewing the Gold Cup now is that the longer the race went on, the more it became crystal clear there would be only one winner.
Moving to the wide outside to lay down his effort, Moore brought Order Of St George smoothly up to challenge courtesy of an impressive gear change that his rivals simply could not match.
That ability to overcome in-race adversity, coupled with the pace to make up any lost ground, are traits that will surely serve this four-year-old well should he make it Flemington in November.
Part-owner Lloyd Williams has tasted Melbourne Cup success on four previous occasions and his association with the son of Galileo makes Australia a logical destination.

Dermot Weld's Media Puzzle was the last UK or Irish trained winner of 'the race that stops a nation' 14 years ago. O'Brien will be keeping his fingers crossed that the impressive Order Of St George might just prove to be the missing piece in his own Melbourne jigsaw in a few month time.

Your Guide to Royal Ascot 2016

I will be detailing tips for each of the two-year-old races at Royal Ascot. Make sure you come and take a look from Tuesday 14th - Saturday 18th June.  Whether you love the pomp, fashion or tradition. Her Majesty The Queen waving to the crowd or top-class racing action with 30 outstanding races to saviour. There is something for everyone at this year's jewel in the racing crown. For each of the days, I will detail just one hot tip for each of the two-year-old contests. It's never easy to find a winner or two here but we will be giving it a good try. If you love a bet, or even better still going to the course then see what we can offer you in the way of selective tips. We have a tip for one horse sired by Frankel. It will take all the beating.       

Tuesday - 3:05 Royal Ascot - Coventry Stakes (Group 2)

A big field with 19 runners on good to soft ground. There may well be a few non-runners and if the ground becomes very testing it could be a difficult race to assess. It goes without saying this will be a tough race but I'm making one selection for each two-year-old race so here goes. I'm pretty keen on Mehmas trained by Richard Hannon and ridden by Frankie Dettori. His debut effort was decent. I was impressed the way this son of Acclamation defeated Global Applause at Newbury showed a class horse. The form was reversed at Sandown when dropping to the minimum trip but it speaks well to think Global Applause could win at Listed class. This step back up to 6f will see a much better race by Mehmas. Dettori is likely to give this grey a waiting ride and at odds of 8/1 looks a fair each-way bet.           

Bet: Mehmas @ 8/1 EW William Hill 2nd

Tuesday - 5:35 Royal Ascot - Windsor Castle Stakes (Listed)

With 24 entrants this Listed race looks very tricky affair. Plenty of winners and trying to assess both potential and limitation is no easy task. I would be betting small stakes and hoping to steal a place and get lucky for the win. Battaash won with ease on debut at Bath at odds of 14/1. I can only imagine  this son of Dark Angel came as something of a surprise but boy did he win well. The only horse for Hamdan Al Maktoum and Hanagan in the saddle gives hope of a big performance. 

Bet: Battaash @ 14/1 EW Ladbrokes Unp

Wednesday -  3:05 Royal Ascot - Queen Mary Stakes (Group 2)

Seventeen runners and a tricky race to have strong views, especially when Wesley Ward's Lady Aurelia will be favouirte. She won well in the U.S so very difficult to assess how the form relates to the UK contenders. However, it would be no surprise to see Lady Aurelia take the beating at 11/4 could well prove a very good price. Ward has stated this filly is in a different class to the others and I would suspect this is the two-year-old connections are pinning their hopes of glory. She will take the beating. 

Bet: Lady Aurelia @ 11/4 W Paddy Power 1st

Thursday - 2:30 Royal Ascot -  Norfolk Stakes (Group 2)

A small field no doubts a consequence of soft ground. Just 11 runners with 6 major hopes with others who need to spring a surprise. Can't say I'm confident about this race but Legendary Lunch should go well and I think this drop back to the minimum trip will be positive. This son of Dragon Pulse didn't seem inconvenienced at Epsom and it might just be a plus. This good-looking colt has pace and enough stamina to last to the line and at 8/1 has each-way claims.       

Bet: Legendary Lunch @ 10/1 EW 10Bet 6th

Friday - 2:30 Royal Ascot - Albany Stakes (Group 3) 

This Group 3 race for fillies. Sixteen two-year-olds take part and a decent renewal. Taking a bit of a punt here with a big priced tip. Bletchley is trained by Ralph Beckett and certainly needs to improve on her debut win at Nottingham. I don't think connections expected her to win that day and for most of the race I don't think anyone else did. However, she fairly flew home in the closing stages at 25/1. I liked the way she powered home but what I liked, even more, was the physical stature of this daughter of Makfi. She is a good-looking juvenile and for a filly big and strong. It may have been the case those in opposition were just inferior types on looks but Beckett's charge could well put many of these in the shade. With improvement to come, she is worth a speculative each-way bet.  

Bet: Bletchley @ 25/1 EW Ladbrokes 2nd

Saturday - 2:30 Royal Ascot - Chesham Stakes (Listed) 

The final two-year-old race of Royal Ascot. The Chesham Stakes Listed race over 7f on soft going. Fifteen juveniles take part all race bar one debutante who will need to be smart to win this on his racecourse bow. I mentioned that I had a tip for one of Frankel's offspring and two turns up here. I'm sticking with John Gosden's Cunco to seal a great early-season for the wonder horse/stallion. Cunco did a lot wrong on debut and the preliminaries just about scared every backer off and the layers circled like vultures thinking this chestnut simply couldn't win after being coltish and hot under the collar. However, in the race itself, he was a true professional and made great headway in the final furlong to beat another of today's runner, Isomer, who is held in high regard by Kingsclere. This step up in distance should help and Gosden doesn't send his juveniles to class races they cannot go well. Have each-way claims. 

Bet: Cunco @ 9/2 ew Boylesport 3rd

You Won't Win

I know it's not horse racing but this article on blackjack, written by Arnold Snyder, is fascinating simply for his frankness in explaining his thoughts about the chances of winning in a game he has dedicated his life. If you are interested in blackjack, card counting or strategies, it makes sobering reading. Not sure if it has relevance to horse racing betting or trading but it makes a point or two that we may all relate.

[Written from the depths of a once-in-a-lifetime magnitude losing streak...]

I am now in the process of editing a new book which, by the time you read this article in Casino Player, will already be published. Blackjack Wisdom is a compilation of some seventy-five magazine articles I have written over the past fifteen years or so, many of which initially appeared in Casino Player.

As I wrap up this project, I must confess that an entire chapter has been excised from this book—and the single longest chapter at that. “Bucks in Flux” was, for many months, the working title of Chapter One. This chapter was composed of more than a dozen articles I had written over the years for various periodicals, all with a common theme—negative fluctuations.

Among these articles were such gems as:

“Is It all Just Luck?” from Card Player,

“Speaking of Streaking,” from Casino Player,

“Those *!%]#* Fluctuations,” from Poker World,

“Good Guys Lose and Bad Guys Win,” from Blackjack Forum, and many other fine essays which, I must admit, bore some of my favorite titles. Perhaps I will include this chapter, or portions of it, in Blackjack Wisdom II. Perhaps I will simply let these writings die, uncollected in any anthology. But I have trashed the entire chapter at this late hour, with a decision instead to end the book with this article you are reading right now. So, you—my Casino Player faithful—do not have to buy the book, since you already know how it ends!

Essentially, each and every one of the “Bucks in Flux” articles delivers the same depressing message, a message I have espoused in every one of my books, a message which can be edited down to three words:

You won’t win.

Do I really need fifteen articles to say those three words? I don’t think so. Though it occurs to me that all blackjack books should have at least one chapter titled: “You Won’t Win.”

The message delivered by most blackjack books and systems has always been the same baloney. Stanley Roberts’ Winning Blackjack was once advertised with the slogan: “Make every casino in the world your personal bank account!” Ken Uston’s Million Dollar Blackjack was promoted with: “Make $500 per day any time you want!” And these aren’t phony systems; these books contain legitimate card counting strategies.

You can’t always tell the real systems from the phonies by looking at the advertising. Promotion is a promotion. Authors of blackjack books, like authors of all “self-help” books—from weight-loss systems to multi-level marketing programs—are reluctant to deliver the message:

You won’t win.

Nobody wants to hear it.

When I self-published my first book, The Blackjack Formula, in 1980, and advertised it in Gambling Times magazine with the catchy, upbeat slogan: “Card Counters Beware,” stating in the ad that most of the blackjack games available in the casinos of the world were unbeatable with any card counting system, the publisher of Gambling Times, Stan Sludikoff, told me bluntly that I would never make any great amount of money trying to sell books with that type of pessimistic advertising.

Stan was write. Seventeen years later, I’m still just scraping by, still delivering that vastly unpopular message:

You won’t win.

Of course, there are a few players who do win. Professional card counters exist; they’re not entirely mythical. It’s just that I know that these professional players are so exceptional, so obsessed, so dedicated, such gluttons for punishment, so terror-stricken by the concept of working a nine-to-five job, so few and far between in every sense of few and far between, that, honestly, you are highly unlikely to be one of these human anomalies. And the most honest thing I can say to you, if you tell me that you really want to become a professional blackjack player, is:

You won’t win.

And the reason is fluctuations.

If you are anything like the masses of humanity, if you like to be rewarded for your efforts within some reasonable time frame, you won’t be able to take the fluctuations. Those negative downswings will be bigger, and harder, and longer lasting, and more upsetting, and more unbelievable, than your level of toleration. Your losses will tear at your heart, and fill you with emptiness, and leave you in a state of quiet desperation. I hear this from players over and over again. I hear this from players who claim to have studied diligently and practiced for hours on end, for weeks and months with a singular dream—to beat the casinos.

And they don’t win.

And they ask me why.

And I say, “Oh, it’s just a normal standard deviation. A negative fluctuation. It could happen to anyone.”

But it happened to you.

Your money.

Your hours.

Your months of dreaming.

And you didn’t win.

So, over and over again, in my books, and my columns, and my magazine articles, I feel compelled to deliver the message I have been delivering since my very first book in 1980:

You won’t win.

Some card counters will win, but not you. Some card counters will actually experience inordinate positive fluctuations! Wow!

But not you.

You won’t win.

Other card counters will be having champagne parties in their hotel rooms, celebrating that marvelous life of freedom and money and adventure that just seems to come naturally with the lifestyle of a professional gambler. But not for you. You will be among the unfortunate few who, statistically speaking, will be located in the far left tail of the Gaussian curve. Someone has to be there. It will be you.

I have been in that tail; it is a cold and lonely place. I suspect many of those who write about this game have been there, and they know what a cold and lonely place it is. Every professional card counter I know has been there. And if they have played blackjack professionally for many years, they have been there many times. These players have hearts stronger than mine, and I suspect, stronger than yours.

This much I know: it is easier to make a living writing about this game than it is playing it.

In any case, instead of filling an entire chapter of this book with some fifteen articles, written over a period of seventeen years, every one of which simply says, you won’t win, I’ve tossed the whole chapter out in favor of leaving you with just those three words of blackjack wisdom:


By Arnold Snyder
(From Casino Player, November 1997)
© Arnold Snyder 1997

Sporty the tale of a professional gambler

In memory of Sporty Jim. I found this article, which is a number of years old, but enjoyed the sentiment what this reader says about 'behind every username there is someone with a story to tell'. Well, this is his story. For me, this is what makes blogging so interesting: our ability to see through another's eyes. I hope you enjoy.  

On the buses

Regulars on the Betfair football forum may recognise my name. It can be very lonely sitting on the computer all day, especially midweek, and I really enjoy the forum and the good banter you get there. I have also made some very good friends through the forum. One of the interesting things about the forum for me is the fact that behind every username there is someone with a story to tell, but for the vast majority, the story remains untold. I am pleased to take this opportunity to share my story with anyone who is interested – I hope that you enjoy it.

I am 56 years of age, married for 27 years with 2 daughters. One a lawyer the other an accountant - they take their brains from their mother. My interest in betting began at school where I started betting on the horses. Like most punters I lost more than I won, mostly because I took no interest in studying form, my technique for picking winners was betting on short priced favourites and following newspaper tipsters. Sad eh?

I left school at 16 and started as a civil servant in 1965 in Glasgow. In those days, you had to finish high up in the exam or else you were off to London. Fortunately, I got to stay in Scotland so maybe the girls did take their brains from me after all! After three years in the civil service, I met a friend of mine who was earning twice as much as me as a bus conductor. To my mother's dismay, I promptly left the Civil Service and became a bus conductor.

Part of the reason for my career change was I believed that if I could get hold of enough cash I could make a living from gambling. Being a bus conductor gave me the chance to earn decent money quickly. Six months later I had £800 in the kitty and the newly christened ‘Sporty' left for a new life as a professional gambler. Surprise, surprise eight weeks later I was back on the buses having blown the lot. Looking back I was very na├»ve, the poor value offered by the bookies combined with the 40% (yes 40%!) tax on football winnings left me no chance. Add to this the fact that the only football singles you could bet were on cup ties, and you will realise how exchange bettors today have never had it so good.

Sporty Bookmakers part 1

Undeterred, a year later in 1970 I had saved up an even bigger bank and I was ready to try again. This time, there was to be no return to the buses and I have never since worked for anyone else. I soon found out that a massive black economy existed in the bookmaking industry, and that it was possible to place football singles and more importantly tax-free bets if you struck up relationships with the right bookmaker. Also at this time, a good friend of mine suggested I get a bookmakers permit and become a bookie at the local greyhound flapping tracks. This was the start of Sporty Bookmakers – a trading name that was to last until I sold my betting shop in East Kilbride in 1986. My first stint at this flapping track lasted just a week, I had come out on top, but wasn't convinced it was for me.

However, six months later Falkirk dog track opened and I was there as a bookie from the start, combining this with my football punting. Was I successful as a bookmaker? To be truthful in the early days at the track I was happy on far too many occasions to lay the outsiders and keep the favourites to myself. I was a gambling bookmaker. I survived, but it really was a roller coaster experience. One week I would have £5,000 the next week I would have nothing.

Mount Vernon Flapping Track

It was around this time that an interesting opportunity arose. I was offered the chance to take on the lease of a local flapping track at Mount Vernon. It was very run down but the rent was cheap and the costs were low especially with my family helping out. A flapping track offers the lowest grade of greyhound racing. Most races were handicaps, with fancied dogs giving a head start to the others. A typical race would see traps 1 and 2 going off scratch with the other dogs getting between a 1-yard head start in trap 3 and an 8-yard head start in trap 6. The responsibility of handicapping fell on the shoulders of my staff and I and we had to contend with all sorts of scams from dodgy owners. It was common practise to enter the dogs at different tracks under different names. Other tricks included feeding the dogs before the race and giving them pills to stop them running well, either so the owners could bet on other dogs, or to get them a better handicap in a subsequent race, enabling them to pull off a coup.

We knew the owners who were most likely to try it on and did our best to counter them. We always made sure that untried dogs were not placed off a good mark. As handicappers, it was our role to make the races as competitive as possible and to do our best to prevent the owners from taking the bookies for a ride. After all, if the bookies were losing their money they might have chucked it in and without bookies we had no business.

We made some decent money from Mount Vernon, but at the end of two years worried by its increasingly dilapidated state, we walked away from it, leaving the landlords to run it, as nobody else wanted to.

Sporty Bookmakers part 2

Half way through the Mount Vernon adventure I bought my first betting shop in Glasgow. I gave this my best shot, but there were problems, notably its high rent and rates but also the fact that it needed a lot of work doing to bring it up to scratch. However, investing this money was out of the question as the shop was in a part of Glasgow which was the subject of ongoing talks for it to be demolished to make way for a new shopping centre and car park. I was between the devil and the deep blue sea. When the opportunity arose I was pleased to sell the shop to Mecca. I was, however, happy to hold on to a number of works pitches which had come with the shop. This worked on the basis that a bookie would have a number of agents collecting bets for him in each factory in exchange for a commission. Despite being perfectly legal, these pitches were in many ways a throwback to the old days of illegal bookmaking with every customer having an alias. Lisbon Lion, Lucky Jim, The Scout, Joe 67 and Paradise are some of the names that stick in my mind to this day.

It did become more difficult though when I sold the betting shop as I had no way of finding out the results without ringing up some bookie friends and asking them, but I couldn't do that too often without making a nuisance of myself. Eventually, Ceefax came along and solved the problem. The other issue was recording the bets, which came through by telephone – as many as 600 a day. When the first answerphone was invented it was a godsend, but you couldn't just buy one you had to hire it at a cost of £600 a year and take out a two-year contract! Despite all this the works pitches were very lucrative, particularly due to the number of doubles and trebles I used to take.

Sporty Bookmakers part 3

However, this side of the business went into decline as the factories in which they operated started to close down. The outlook was starting to look bleak, when I got a lucky break, a phone call out of the blue asking me if I would like to run a betting shop in East Kilbride. This was to be for a three month period due to the owners' illness but it eventually stretched out to four years. Unlike my previous betting shop, this one had prospects. It was struggling because the owner had alienated most of his customers due to his abrasive attitude and his open hostility to anyone who dared win. I set about trying to win these customers back and attracting new ones. I particularly targeted the Chinese community who were well known as big gamblers. It was possible to make great money from these guys but you also had to take big risks, as they had a habit of placing their large bets at the last minute giving you no chance to lay off your liabilities. One time one of my Chinese customers won the impressive sum of £2,500 when one of his accumulators came good at a competitor's shop. My staff thought I would be delighted to have escaped this loss. On the contrary, I was gutted that he had gone to the competition at all!

Having been happy to take a back seat, the owner of the shop took a keen interest again when Ladbrokes appeared on the scene offering big money for the shop. I had done very well out of it but I had concerns about the future of the business. I struggled to see where the future punters would come from, the next generation didn't seem to be coming through and I couldn't imagine who would be in the shop in ten years time. I and the shop owner came to an arrangement, Ladbrokes took over in January 1986 and I moved on. This was the end of the brief history of Sporty Bookmakers.

Sporty Race Nights

Fortunately, while I had been running the betting shop another string to my bow developed. My brother was organising a race night to raise funds for a charity he was involved in and he asked me to organise the betting side for him. The evening was a great success and I immediately saw a business opportunity. I made enquiries with the English company behind the event and in 1981 they made me their agent for Scotland, resulting in the launch of Sporty Race Nights.

The way a race night works is that you hire a set of films, normally eight horse races, each with eight runners. You bet on runners based on their number – there is no skill, it's just a bit of fun. It works on the basis of a tote, with half the money going to the organisers to pay their expenses and normally make a profit for charity. The rest of the money gets shared out between those people with a ticket for the winning horse. In addition, people could become a horse owner by buying a horse and a sponsor would put up a prize for the winner.

These events were excellent fund raisers and substantial sums could be made. As a business, it was slow to start, in 1982 we had 23 orders, but this gradually increased until by 1985 we were over the 400 mark despite the fact that I was only working on the project part-time. This was around the time that Ladbrokes bought the shop, so I decided to go full time.

To maximise the opportunity I needed my own films. I knew Jim McGrath the race commentator and was lucky enough to have his help with this surprisingly tricky task. I started by getting some races from Australia, then a few British races and then the New York Tracks sold us 80 races. We were flying. In 1989 we bought the English Company that I had been an agent for and the business went from strength to strength. In our best year throughout England and Scotland, we did over 5,000 events.

When I came out of the betting shop I started to go football matches again. As a young man, I had followed Celtic all over Scotland but this time, I started to go to lower division games as well. I would have a few quid on and then go to the match. This led me into a period of time where I became very hot indeed at Scottish football.

That wraps up the first part of my story – I hope you have enjoyed reading it. If you ever fancy a chat you can always find me on Betfair's soccer forum.

Hail hail!


Next month. Sporty tells of the year that Forfar won the Scottish 3rd Division and he won £300,000.

Click to read Part 2

In memory of Jim who passes away in 2015. Thanks to Chris Miller a good friend of Jim's. Condolences to family and friends. 

The gist of part 3

Sadly, there never was a part 3 - at least not in print. 

The phone call took place as usual but Mike, who used to ghost-write the articles, started a new job down in London, I was finishing my degree at university, and the web server for the p2pbetting site changed hands leaving the site down for a while, so the newsletter didn't happen for the next six months and never really returned in the same depth afterwards.

However, I'm told part 3 was basically about Sporty making easy money on Betfair for a good few years until he eventually got stung by the Tottenham 3-4 Man City game in the FA Cup. Spurs were 3-0 up at half-time and the market obviously reflected that, but Sporty reacted quicker than anyone else to Joey Barton being sent off as the teams walked off at half time, which most people seemed unaware of until they came out of the second half.

By that time, Sporty had basically emptied his bank, both laying City and backing Tottenham, and the market soon enough reflected the fact he was sitting on cracking value, albeit backing at 1.01 or laying three-figure prices! As we know, City came back to win 4-3 and I have a hazy recollection of Sporty ringing me straight after the game.

I was pissed up in the pub and obviously over the moon, so I don't think I did much to help his state of mind at the time! I had no idea how much he had lost, it was only a few weeks later I realised it wasn't your average once-a-year kick in the bollocks - it was pretty severe!

Anyway, last I heard, he was working for Tony Bloom, passing on info about the Scottish footy and being paid a decent retainer that meant he could settle down, relax and take things easy a bit more. I remember him laughing and saying "I'm too old for all this now" when telling me about it, I'm not sure how soon afterwards it was but I think the Spurs-City thing certainly  had a big impact and made him take stock.

I know he spent a lot of time in Tenerife after that as well, so I really hope he had some good times out there, sat back and enjoyed whatever he had built up over the years. He was a real gent, an absolute pleasure to have known, even though I only really knew him for about 4-5 years during the Betfair days.