By Tony Stafford
I’ve never entertained the idea of trying to win the Scoop6. I can see the attraction of a big-money bet, based on, say, the first six races on a single card, as in the Tote Jackpot. But to suggest to some money-graspers up in Salford or Wigan or wherever they are, to find the hardest six puzzles on a Saturday from several tracks and ask the betting public to solve them is a bit of a liberty.
Tote, or rather Betfred execs, are smiling all the way to the bank as the last hope of a big win is extinguished by a late run, generally of a 40-1 shot, to turn dreams to dust.
Yesterday’s offering was relatively easy in numerical terms. Just 13, 10, 9, 10 and 13 runners in the first five legs, two winning favourites and one 9-2 shot among the first four. The mathematical “experts” who talk up the bet as the best value in betting were feeling pleased with themselves, but then along came a longshot in the Swinton Hurdle and it was all off for another week.
A full cover bet on the first five races, at £2 a shot, would have cost you somewhere in the order of half a million quid – ask a few mates to share the cost maybe - and you’d have beaten all the other lemmings that joined in the rush to take the two pools towards £7 million. Then all that remained would have been the 25-runner Victoria Cup, pretty routine stuff, you’ll agree.
I remember the early days of the National Lottery when the British public showed their inexperience – certainly in relation to Ireland and other European countries. The most popular single ticket featured the numbers 1-6 inclusive, quite a credibility stretch considering there were 43 others not covered. If 1-6 had won, the payout would have been on the order of a Japanese horse winning a race at Ascot with the accompanying distortion of the Tote payout.
Not that you need Japanese, or even the more usual influence of Pari Mutuel punters who regularly influence dividends here now that some English meetings are included on their daily roster.
I took it upon myself to bore a regular racegoer – he drives Mikael Barzalona during the season – sitting down in the Lingfield Brasserie recently.
There was a maiden race, and the true market had two leading fancies, but on the Tote boards, there was a big disparity in their prices. One had always been long odds on in Tote betting while the strong second favourite showed for a long time at more than 9.00, before dropping to 5.10, where it stubbornly remained.
I told my friend this was a fiction, yet all over the country, the public are left to believe it. That price was still showing as the horses left the stalls, and I willed the second favourite to win. He did, and paid £1.90 – quod erat demonstrandum!
Years ago, the only time I ever visited the Kentucky Derby – the horse I was there to cheer won it at 20-1. We waited in the paddock for almost an hour beforehand. The prices hardly changed in that time, unsurprising in a $20 million pool, as like exit polls of small samples of people after elections, the trends have been set. So I was quite amused the following year when the erudite James Willoughby predicted major alterations to come in the last 30 minutes of betting on the race. He knows better now.
Big gambles on horses in our market have far more abrupt effects. Big punters, especially those who have the temerity – well luck or accurate information – to win money, will tell you they simply cannot get on, while the racecourse market now offers no variety in price, or opinion by individual bookies. They are just piggybacking what’s happening either on Betfair or Betdaq, so the prices all change in a line like those on the computers of the New York Stock Exchange.
I see racing got its £50 million final payment from Fred for his acquisition of the Tote earlier than promised, and as a quid pro quo, or more appropriately a two quid pro quo, he also gets to run Great Leighs and turn it into Chelmsford City. Newmarket trainers will be happy, and if my daughter hadn’t moved from Braintree six years ago, so would she.
There’s been some lessons to be learned for some big names this past year. David Moyes came briefly, shone not at all, and is gone, but Manchester United fans will probably have his inept management to thank when they win the title back again next year.
With their resources, playing, financial and historical, they will go into the new season – unless Spurs move over today to avoid Europa Cup football next term – with around ten games fewer to play than Liverpool and Everton, the two teams who had that advantage over Manchester City, United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham this time round.
It’s hard to imagine Steven Gerrard lasting a campaign involving two games a week throughout January to April as the others had to. I couldn’t catch the song the Manchester City crowd were singing the other night as they eventually got past Aston Villa to set up a title coronation later today. If they’d asked me, it would have gone something like this:
Steve Gerrard, Gerrard
He fell on his arse, his arse
Man City are different class
Que sera, sera
What will be, Stevie.
He seemed to be taking it in good heart, and in all honesty it’s probably appropriate that in staying loyal to his roots when Man Utd and Chelsea, not to mention other clubs around the world, have come calling over the years, he unsullies his reputation by never winning the title.
You can’t go without the horse, Stevie. Ask Kieren Fallon, back on top thanks to that nice man Saeed bin Suroor, but how long will Silvestre de Sousa accept being jocked off the big Godolphin mounts as the season develops.
Ask Sebastian Vettel, who has the raving hump in being exposed as the once invincible driver who now lines up at the traffic lights in a Morris Marina trying to get off level with Lewis Hamilton’s Merc. I just love it when they have to accept that it’s the car or the horse, not the pilot that wins the day.
Let’s hope the horse from Highbury, North London wins at Wembley next week. Arsenal have had to beat three of the top six – Liverpool, Everton and Tottenham – to get to the FA Cup Final next weekend, so it’s not been that easy. Whatever the result they will be setting one record that will never be beaten. Travelling to all the matches this season, five at home and two at Wembley, they will have travelled a total of 43.2 miles for the two round trips around the North Circular Road, not that it’s always the clearest of routes. Set off nice and early Mr Coach Driver!