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Place your bets gentlemen (and ladies)

PUBLISHED: 10:58 22 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:23 20 February 2013

Place your bets gentlemen (and ladies)

Place your bets gentlemen (and ladies)

Never placed a bet before? Tony Garnett explains how and offers some lighthearted advice to first time racegoers

Never placed a bet before? Tony Garnett explains how and offers some lighthearted advice to first time racegoers

A day at the races can be tremendous fun. Its better still if you can come away with a profit. Picking winners, though, is far from simple. You can rely on beginners luck and use a pin or, to stand a better chance, do some homework before reaching the course.
Newspaper tipsters have all been studying form and listening to trainers but, if you check their ratio of success you will soon realise that following them blindly may leave you well out of pocket.
Only eight out of 52 in the Racing Post naps competition selected a winner on May 3, for example. Three of those started at such short odds that they were hardly worth an investment,
Prior to 1965 you might have come across Prince Monolulu on courses round the country. He was an imposing black fellow with colourful clothing and headgear made of ostrich feathers.
Hed be shouting I gotta horse and, for a modest sum, hed sell you a sealed envelope with the name of a horse inside.
I bought one of his tips at Yarmouth races more than 40 years ago. A friend of mine bought another for the same race and, needless to say, they were different. In that way, covering most of the field, he would have a percentage of contented punters.
These days the tipsters advertise their so-called special knowledge on phone lines, at a cost needless to say. It is far more satisfying to make your own selections.
Arrive at the course some 45 minutes before the first race and buy a race card on your way in. Then discover where the bookmakers are doing their business and where the Tote booths are to be found.
You will have time to make your selections for the Tote Placepot, your first bet of the day. The challenge is to find a horse to be placed in each of the first six races. After one or two fancied runners finish down the field the pay-out can become quite attractive.
Only in handicaps with 16 or more runners, the first four to finish win place bets. The Tote pays on the first three for races with eight or more runners. There are only two place pay-outs for races with five to seven runners. With fewer than that you need to pick the winner.
It is useful to see the horses in the parade ring so you can judge for yourself which ones make the most appeal. It is handy, too, to watch while the jockeys mount so you can see the colours of the silks at close quarters. It makes it far easier to follow the race. If you have binoculars, remember to take them with you.

Newspaper tipsters all study form but, if you check their ratio of success, you will soon realise that following them blindly may leave you well out of pocket

Ipswich Town Football Club had two Canadian internationals, Frank Yallop and Craig Forrest. I took them racing at Yarmouth one afternoon.
They were getting quite excited shouting home some horse that beat one I backed in a photo finish. I was (sort of) pleased for them until I discovered they had confused the colours. Their selection was way down the field.
If the trainer is present at the meeting together with leading owners, it is an indication that there are high hopes of success. If you spot Sheikh Mohammed, Hamdan Al Maktoum or Princess Hiya of Jordan in the parade ring, then at least you can expect a good run for your money. Suffice to say all their horses have immaculate breeding.
Failing that follow the top jockeys. Ryan Moore, Jamie Spencer and Richard Hills are all pretty good. Never dismiss the chances of Frankie Dettori in a Classic. The Italian seems to produce his best in the biggest races.
If you are attending a National Hunt meeting watch for top jockeys like Tony McCoy or Richard Johnson. Concentrate on three-mile chases where the form tends to be more reliable.
If you want to look like a seasoned race-goer, make a point of watching the runners go down to the start to see how they handle the ground. Be wary of horses which are sweating up or those who prove excitable and hard to control.
When placing a Tote bet remember the number of your horse, not the name, when you reach the booth. Be clear whether you want a win bet, a place bet or an each way bet which is double the stake.
Try placing a bet with a bookmaker. Be aware that some, not all, refuse wagers of less than 5.
Once you have selected a horse, dont take the first odds you see on the boards. Look around. You may find better
value elsewhere.
Not many years ago bookmakers would give you a numbered ticket with your bet recorded hand-written in a book. Nowadays, new technology means that you get a small piece of paper on which your potential winnings are printed. Dont lose it in the excitement of seeing your horse first past the post.
Way back in the Bobby Robson era at Portman Road, some of the footballers had good contacts in the leading Newmarket stables. They would have inside information, back a fancied winner, but would then plunge on horses they knew little about in subsequent races. Their winnings would evaporate. Avoid falling into a similar trap. It is also good advice not to chase losses if things are going wrong.
When I was a boy my grandfather took me to Newmarket for the first time. He pointed out the gypsy boys grave on the crossroads between Kentford and Newmarket. He said that the colour of the flowers on the grave would be the similar to those of the winner of the days main race. I have never made a study of the success rate of this theory, but I always take a glance at the flowers.
Just remember the song that Prince Monolulu used to chant. God made the bees and the bees made the honey. You have a bet and the bookies take your money. Just dont let them take too much.


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