I wonder how much of my character has been created by fate. As a boy I had a lot of luck. My father took me to the races for the first time when I was nine – I was allowed one 25p bet on the big handicap of the day. I picked the horse I most liked out of the parade ring, and he won just as I had imagined he would at a big price. At about the same time I had my first go on a fruit machine – I put 10p in and won £5. I felt like I’d been extremely clever. The first time I put an accumulator on (a Canadian) I got four out of five, all at decent odds, and the first time I went to the racecourse as an adult (the day Sadlers Wells won the Eclipse) I got five winners out of six with the shortest odds 3-1 (a feat I’ve never repeated). It seemed very easy to make money.
There were bad days too. After university I spent a while stacking shelves at B&Q, and I had an hour for lunch and I had to clock in and out. One day I saw three horses running that I had been waiting for – I rushed out to the bookies in my lunch break and wrote out a £1 win trixie on the three. I got chatting to a friend – there was along queue at the till. I had to leave to get back to work and the bet didn’t get placed. Predictably all three horses won – 8-1, 10-1 and 12-1 making a 1286-1 treble. I was gutted beyond belief – I kept the slip for a long time to remind me of my folly. Years later, after a couple of sizeable wins, I gave up work to go gambling – if Party Politics hadn’t won the National it would all have been very different.
If, like the majority, I had lost all of my early gambles, I would no doubt have reached the conclusion that gambling is a mug’s game and moved on to other things. As it was I reached the rather shaky conclusion that gambling was an easy route to riches, and betting has been a part of my life since those early days. I’ve had my ups and downs, although now with Betfair I get to sit on the other side of the fence.
Surfers often talk about surfing the perfect wave – as a punter I used to daydream about the perfect day’s betting where everything would go right and I would end up making a fortune. I came close to a perfect day today, with six winners out of eight bets with some big prices, and all on a day when I was only intending a couple of small bets.
I backed Rio de la Plata at Goodwood early, and put the proceeds on to Queen Noverre win and place at Redcar. After a couple of losing bets I got the last three winners at Goodwood – Fong’s Gazelle, Fashion Rocks and Laa Rayb. I then emptied most of the day’s proceeds onto Oasis Wind at Leicester. It turned out to be the most profitable day’s betting of my life and a welcome change of luck from the last couple of weeks.