Saturday 10 January 2009

Two Swallows

Following up on my post yesterday where I again reiterated my reasons for avoiding the horse-racing markets, I remembered earlier today a story (early 80s I believe) from my youth that may have something to do with it.

I was dating a girl in Banstead, Surrey, who had a friend whose husband worked for a stables in Epsom. One evening, he told me that he'd had word that a horse called Two Swallows was to be backed next time out. I scanned the racing listings over the next few days, and one day there it was. A 20 runner race and the probable SP was 15/1 and I excitedly told everyone at work about it, collecting a vast sum of money from my colleagues (about £20! - remember, this was around 1980) to add to my own tenner. I handed the cash to Mr Ladbroke and sat back to await my big win.

It didn't happen. The stupid thing finished somewhere in the middle of the pack, and I returned to the office with empty pockets.

Two weeks later, and I saw it was running again. I said to myself "I'm not wasting any more money on that stupid creature" and left it alone. That night, I went to pick up my girlfriend from her friend's house, and her husband was there. He greeted me with "Did you back that horse I told you about?"

"Yes, bloody thing cost me £20"

"No, I mean - did you back it today?"

"No - what happened?"

It had won at 33/1. He related that the stable had run it that first time and deliberately held it back to get the price out for next time. After that, it won something like six times in a row, but of course never again at 33/1. I think 6/1 was the best winning price I had on it, but it really was a stellar tip. As I recall, it ran in the Scottish Grand National (it was a grey horse, so it was easy to follow) and I did make some money from it, but I never forgot missing out on the 33/1 that day.

Anyway, the lesson I took from that little story was that racing is very easily fixed, and that unless you have an inside source, you are going to find it very difficult to make money.


Scott said...

Hi Cassini,
It really annoys me how people with very little involvement in racing can label the whole industry fixed, yet it's perfectly OK for Man U to play a cup game with their youth side, or a rugby coach to try players in a different position. In the week before a Grand Slam or a major golf tournament - are the players all trying their hardest?

It's up to the punter to put the time into research and understand why things happen, not just look at raw stats.

I love this famous maxim of legendary racing punter Pittsburgh Phil:

"There is enough natural inconsistency in horse racing without having it forced upon the public by unscrupulous men, yet there is not one-tenth of one per cent, as much crookedness on the turf as it is given credit for."

Cassini said...

I think the horse-racing industry is very much like the financial markets. There are regulations in place to protect the man in the street, but there will always be insiders with an edge. Luckily for me, I learned this at a young age and have been wary of horse-racing (and options trading) ever since.

Scott said...

That's a fairer comment :) It's just something we have to factor into assessing markets, along with all the other variables.

Any chance of a blog link?