Call it a character flaw, a personality defect, even. Whatever, but I am drawn to multi-race tote bets like a parched throat to a shimmering desert mirage. And, quite frankly, the longer the better.
Placepots are for wimps. Give me the HDA15 - pick the correct football result in a fifteen match sequence - or a Pick 4 or Pick 6 on the horses. Yum.
Imagine my joy then when, on Saturday evening, I discovered a new French bet called, appropriately enough, le Géant: the Giant. Yum yum yum!
The Giant is a placepot on steroids, a nine-legger which, in this instance, ran through the entire Sunday Longchamp card.
From the juvenile Group 1's, past the Arc and Abbaye, into and out of the Arabian World Cup, and terminating in an impenetrable eighteen-runner handicap some five hours later. Now that's a bet!
As bold and reckless a player of verticals as I am, I'd not normally dive headlong into an unknown nonet of Parisian puzzles but, of course, the strong Anglo-Irish presence meant I was two-thirds of the way through the form anyway.
Opening my account was the trickiest part: I did eventually manage to register, the complexity added by a wavering wifi signal rather than any holes in the leturf.fr process. That formality complete, it was eyes down, look in, for the fullest of full maisons.
Normally, I'd be firing up my ABCX scattergun and engaging in part-perm warfare but, time pressed and only limping in on this maiden voyage aboard the good ship Géant, I would settle for a 'caveman' single ticket perm.
My opening gambit was thus:
R1: 1, 5
R2: 6, 10
R3: 4, 7
R4: 9, 13
R5: 2, 8, 9, 15
R6: 5, 15, 18, 20
R7: 3, 9
R8: 6, 7
R9: 3, 4, 8, 13
Regular placepotters will know that when selecting multiple runners in each leg, the cost can quickly mount up. For instance, taking two in each of the placepot's six legs will round out at 64 lines/bets. Such a Noah's Ark (two by two) approach on the Giant reckons to eight times more than that, or 512 lines for cash.
And this brute was blessed not only with a magnitude of legs, but also of runners. 129 horses went to post at an average of 14.33 per race. Oui, this monster was going to take some getting.
Back to the first draft perm. It was actually 'only' 4,096 lines which, though sounding a lot, isn't horrific for a nine-darter. At ten centimes (yes, they still call fractions of a euro 'centimes', bless them) a line, that amounted to €409.60, or about £280. That would be towards the upper limit of my budget for a big meeting placepot but, given my naiveté and the scale of the mission, I wanted to rein things back a tad.
The sensible thing in such matters, where all is largely equal, is to take your chances early. It's just less painful to crash out in leg first than leg last. A couple of minutes later and I had three potential races in which to cut back: legs 1, 2, and 4. I decided to keep both picks in leg 1 - after all, it may be more painful going out in the last, but it's deeply anti-climactic to crash and burn on the first, too.
Legs two and four it was, then. I settled for Her Majesty (Treve) in the Arc and Johannes Vermeer in the Jean-Luc Lagardere as my bankers. My caveman ticket looked thus:
€102.40 was a reasonable fee and I knew if I could get past the Arc I'd have a right good chance. Then it would be a matter of how much the dividend might be, and how many double - or maybe even treble - lines I could accumulate.
Such thoughts are the province of the deluded usually and, as it turned out, this day would be no exception.
It all started swimmingly. This is a French bet played almost exclusively by French bettors, so the unplaced run of Antonoe, odds-on with the domestic market, was an immediate boon. Ballydoyle, for Ryan Moore and Aidan O'Brien won the race and kept me rolling into banker territory.
Leg 2 was the Lagardere or, more aptly as it turned out, the laggard ere. Ryan and Aidan were my hopes again but, alas, they could manage no better than fourth, a single position - and a neck - outside the qualifying places.
That was that, then. Frustratingly, my discarded alternative, Ultra, won the race. Woulda coulda shoulda.
Leg three, the Opéra, was a 1-3 on my now defunct ticket, via Covert Love and We Are.
Leg four was the big race, and Treve. In what was a tactical master class from Signor Dettori, Golden Horn owned his field, the late-running hat-trick-seeking Treve just failing to snatch bronze.
Oh well, two strikes for the bet and we need not worry too much about the rest. Note, however, that New Bay, the other discarded entry, hung tough for third. [Erupt, tipped at 33/1 on the blog, fifth].
The rest of the card was academic, I thought, but for the record here's what happened:
Leg 5 - Abbaye - Goldream (tipped at 25/1 on the blog last week) won with Muthmir (also flagged in the same post at 8's) 3rd
Leg 6 - Arabian World Cup - four blind arrows, including the winner, Al Mourtajez
Leg 7 - Forêt - a 2-3 as Limato ran behind Make Believe but in front of Toormore
Leg 8 - Cadran - Bathyrhon, my bet of the weekend, fifth [sigh], allowed first run to four others including Fun Mac, 3rd
Leg 9 - big field handicap - the easy winner, and also the third, appeared on my ticket.
Not bad, I concluded, over a demi pression at a bar next to Suresnes-Longchamp tram stop. [Suresnes, incidentally, is twinned with Hackney - small world]
It was only when I boarded the rattler back to Smokey that I checked in with the results.
Turns out the fourth placed horse in the Arc - Treve - counted for the purposes of this bet, as did the same position in the Arabian race, which I also had on my ticket.
Although still incidental because of my sinking at the foot of the leg two Johannes 'berg, it meant an otherwise complete set, and 32 ten centime lines. Or €3.20 of the dividend.
The dividend, for a €1 stake, paid...
3.2 x €16,835.03 = €53,872.10
FIFTY-FOUR THOUSAND EUROS...
FIFTY. FOUR. GRAND.
Even in Euros that's the equivalent of about fifty quid! 😉
Actually, it's - gulp - £39,827.14 according to xe.com's currency converter.
I managed to short stack my way out of forty grand. Where do you go from there?
Line them up again barman was where I went from there.
It's a weird feeling, and one that multi-leg punters the world over will recognise. Should I feel unlucky? Frustrated? Pleased to have gone so close?
The answer, as multi-leg punters the world over will recognise, is all of those things, and a bunch of others besides.
Although I'm deeply passionate about racing and I adore a bet - especially one such as this - it will never make me rich or poor. And coming so close to slaying the Giant at the first attempt is an exciting prospect. Unlike biblical David or beanstalk Jack, I - and indeed you - can have another crack at making a Giant killing in a bet which is accepted at the main meeting every Saturday and Sunday in France.
Of course, rare will be the days when us Angles and Celts have the depth of form book awareness needed to take down such a pool. But, with betting sophistication not stretching too deeply into the French consciousness, the ABCX route could pay rich dividends in the months to come. Like all such opportunities this one is likely to be transient. For now at least, it might be worth buddying up with some amis and getting involved.
If, unlike me, you can get past his ankles, you may find yourself standing on the shoulders of le Géant!