He had many different ways of beating the bookmaker, but probably his most famous was his success on betting on the result of photo finishes. Unlike today photo finishes would take about 5 minutes to develop so there was always an active betting market on the outcome. Bird very early on noticed that when horses crossed the line together an optical illusion meant that the horse on the far side invariably looked like he had won.
He also discovered a simple technique which meant the illusion didn't occur. He stood at an elevated vantage point as near to the winning post as possible, he would keep very still, close his left eye and create an imaginary line across the track at the finishing line. He used this simple system for the next 20 years to make himself a fortune. With a reported 500 consecutive successful bets.
Another favoured method he used to make money was to use his influence in the ring to create a false favourite. He often placed huge bets often as much as £50K at a time however he couldn't get these sort of bets laid in the betting ring so he would employ an army of helpers around the country placing bets in off-course bookmakers. If Bird fancied a horse but felt the odds were to short he would place a bet of up to £10K on another horse in the race. He would then ensure that it was "leaked" that he had placed the bet. Prices would then dramatically alter as the "mug" money poured onto his horse. This meant that the price of the horse that he wanted to back heavily and clandestinely off the course would drift out in the market. His army of helpers would then back the horse off course all over the country.
Alex Bird like Phil Bull was also a keen student of race times unlike the majority of the betting public. It was this interest which alerted him to the ability of Mill Reef. As Bird explains Mill Reef broke the clock on firm ground and won the Gimcrack Stakes in the mud. That's the mark of a great horse. This prompted Bird to have his biggest ever bet of £60k on Mill Reef in the Gimcrack at 4/6. He won easily by 4 lengths and the following season became the seventh Derby winner in eight years backed by Bird. During Mill Reefs career Bird won over £100K on the horse.
In 1990, the year before he died, Bird summoned up one last coup. His friend, owned a runner in the Ayr Gold Cup. He backed it from 40s to 10/1. The result were never in doubt. The name of the horse Final Shot!
These are Alex Birds Golden Betting Rules:
1. Never bet when there is a change in the going. There is nothing to upset form quite as much as a change in the going.
2. Be aware of the overrounds being offered by bookmakers and don't bet when they are unfair. At some smaller meetings bookmakers will sometimes create a book 40% or 50% in their favour.
3. Be an Each-Way thief. Do this by finding races with 8-10 runners which are not handicaps, and where there are only a few form horses in the race. Then oppose the favourite and combine the second and third favourites in each-way combination bets.
4. Look for up and coming apprentices. A good apprentice with a 7lb claim can be worth his weight in gold!
5. Never bet on the first show, you will find that the majority of runners increase in price. Taking second show prices will increase your winnings by 10% over a season.
6. Never bet in handicaps.
7. Never bet in 3year old maidens, particularly those only for fillies.