Saturday was a bruising experience. Consider; I backed Lord Jay Jay on Thursday on the grounds that Venetia Williams does have a knack of winning these types of races at long odds – he came 2nd at 40/1, I had taken 50/1. I passed over her runners Friday, there being truly nothing formwise that made them attractive even for her, but again noted her horses on Saturday and backed Pretty Star as a result. That wasn’t strictly value but, again, the trainer influenced me. There was no success in either of the two races I bet in (though United was a good play (3rd at 40/1) and the ‘proper’ numbers bet in the 3-25, Oakfield Legend, came 3rd at 25/1, 40/1 early price, 20/1 value). I deliberately avoided the Grand National as I couldn’t see myself wading through the form for 40 horses, even when it’s supposedly more predictable in recent years. Big mistake….

The full horror of what transpired can only be appreciated by serious Students of the Turf….

I watched the race in the crowded bookies. Two false starts elicited comments from the sweaty throng followed by the ‘off’ and an immediate reminder of just how hazardous those fences are – horses and riders parting company in a hail of dust, mud and branches and still another long circuit to go until eventually an excitingly bunched group turned into the home straight.

So imagine my sense of unfolding dismay when the commentator draws attention to Mon Mome, trained by Guess Who as he travels smoothly outside the pack to win by several lengths. Words cannot convey the disbelief and awfulness of that spectacle. It was given an added punch when the odds were not just announced but captioned on the screen and murmured by the assembled punters….100/1!

I make no apologies if this smacks of hindsight – the evidence that I was ‘on her case’ is there in my previous bets. I made a decision not to ‘do’ the National, a decision based on laziness. Would I have backed the winner? Looking at the form afterwards, there are signs to be seen, what I would suggest is a classic V Williams pattern. Even on form alone Mon Mome would have scored well enough. Given the offered price, it would almost certainly have been a value bet.

I woke up this morning and that missed opportunity was my first thought or rather a dull ache. I don’t regret the couple of quid placed on Rambling Minster, a conscious decision which I stand by, a straightforward ‘fun’ bet (though likely my last such indulgence – it’s a bad habit for professional backers.) What hurts is not the £2 lost but the several hundreds I overlooked. It’s a bit like realising a tenner has fallen out of your pocket and you keep hoping it will turn up. In this case, it won’t – no more 100/1 winners from that stable for a while and certainly not on big occasions – this was opportunity of the year.

One moves on though – that’s the nature of serious betting. Nevertheless, this was possibly one of the biggest oversights I will ever make. I don’t generally do psycho-babble, not if that’s all there is, but a few ‘notes to myself’:

1. Big races are doable and particularly amenable to the Form Value approach. Don’t be put off by the size of the field or significance of the occasion.

2. Keep your eyes on the ball! This doesn’t just mean on any particular day but for the whole betting week and especially the duration of a big meeting such as Aintree or Cheltenham. Send your friends and family out of the house (if not your life) and be grumpy and unsociable if needs be, but keep concentrating. Plan each week ahead so as to know where to target resources, both financial and psychological.

3. Laziness costs money and is not an option. Get up in good time to avoid rushing. Clear your head and take a step back. Have you missed anything?

4. You take a lot of trouble to produce a sensible odds line. Go by that only – if it’s wrong you make your own mistake, not someone else’s. Mostly it will not be miles out and bets can be made on those numbers. It is, in any case, an ongoing process, always honing the skill. Basically though, you can ignore other people’s odds entirely.

5. I don’t think that race profiling works, the sort of 10-year trends approach. It’s reading a general pattern into something which is largely situational. It might be something to look at but only as one factor if there are close contenders which even the price can’t separate. Generally though, the signs will be in the form of each individual and only coincidentally will they fit any trends.

6. Avoid idle chat about racing – there is a lot of money to be made and one cannot afford to be distracted or undermined by nagging doubts.

7. Not a new lesson but worth repeating – the best analogy for serious betting is mining. You are like a gold prospector, a 49-er, seeking the best spots to set up camp and pan for gold. It’s not for everyone and there’s no space for those just along for the ride. You have to make your own solitary trail. At the end of the day, you don’t want it otherwise. After all, even solitary prospectors meet up in their camp in the wilderness and exchange tips and stories of success. Best get your banjo tuned, ready….

Later….I’m not going to go on about this but the Trifecta paid £64356.70….I shall be in a spikey mood for days now, be warned!

Later still….
I’ve added Venetia Williams to my list of women to make love to, along with Renee Zellweger and Lynne Truss (punctuation is important, after all….)

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