Wednesday, 26 December 2007

In Attendance: Stan James Christmas Festival @ Kempton - December 26th 2007

The great tradition of Horse Racing has been dragged through the mud in recent years. From allegations of race-fixing to Kieren Fallon's recent positive drug test, there are many who look upon the sport with great skepticism. There are even suggestions from some quarters that the past-time should not be conisdered a sport as the gambling aspect is more important than the sporting endevour of the competitors. There are of course animal cruelty complaints as well but those people annoy me too much to warrant any comment.

Regardless of all these factors, a day at the races is still a bloody good day out!

A couple of months back when I agreed to attend The Stan James Christmas Festival at Kempton, I anticipated a day of drinking and losing a lot of money I dont have. I'd been to Sandown eariler in the year and, to say the least, wasn't exacty flashing the cash. Both my racing and gambling knowledge are limited to whatever I saw when I didn't change the channel on Grandstand after Football Focus as a youngster. The numbers and jargon send me into a spiral of confusion. Combine this with some questionable financial nous and you have recipe for disaster. No question I fully expected to be selling my bodily organs on the black market by the end of the day.

In situations like this, you stay close to those who know what they are talking about and hope for the best. Unfortunately, if everyone you're with knows what they are talking about and are all saying different things then it is very easy to get confused. As I sat silently on the bus from Richmond station, all I could overhear from my frinds was: "He's not been so good on the flats" "It would be stupid not to back him. He's already won 3 hurdle races this season", "He let me down at Cheltenham. I had a score on him each way but he fell at the second and it was on soft ground too."


I was clearly in over my head. What was I to do? I haven't studied the form, I dont have that much money and I cant ask questions like "What's the Tote?" and get away with it in a place like this.

So I did what any reasonable human being would do. Lean over the shoulder of your mates as they fill in their slips. Pretend to study the racecard even though you have no idea who Robert Thompson is (He's a Jockey by the way) and away you go.

The first race was the Novices' Hurdle Race. A novice is apparently a horse which has never won a hurdle race before the current 'jump' season. 'Song of Songs' ridden by A. P. McCoy was the favorite and seemed to be the horse man were plumping for so at 6/4 I thought "why not?". The prize money wasn't fantastic thanks to my paltry stake but hey, a win is a win.

Song of Songs was owned by J. P. Mcmanus. AH-HA! A familiar name. One may remember Mr McManus from the tedious Man Utd takeover saga of 2005 which ultimately ushered in Malcolm Glazier and consequently the on-pitch revolution currently taking place at Old Trafford.

But I digress, the second race was the Nigel Clark Feltam Novice Steeple Chase. Nigel Clark was the former President of the course, a Steeple chase involves a lot of obstacles and a novice is, well, I just explained that. Having got slightly ahead of myself following my win, I opted to stick an each way bet on 8/11 favourite 'Silverburn' as well as going for 5/2 hot tip 'Joe Lively' to win. This caused sniggers from my mates who pointed out that an each way bet on odds so low would still result in me losing money even if 'Silverburn' placed. Luckily the favourite finished 3rd and spared me the humiliation of going back and collecting. Oh, Joe Lively came in first so I was now 2 for 2. There's a lot to be said for copying people when you have no idea what you ae doing yourself! Time for a drink.

As we mulled over the next race, I was made aware of the fact that 'Harchibald' was a clear favourite again at 8/11 and was hardly worth the punt. I happened to spot that 'Straw Bear' a horse I backed at Sandown (Cant remember if it won but familiarity is always a good thing...) was also running in the race at 6/1. Worth a go? Maybe... However, the advice of my friends deterred me at the last minute and I felt the money would be better spent on booze!

Straw Bear, incidently another McCoy/McManus horse, beat Harchibald by a nose. I felt sick as I stared into the black pit that was my drink. Never have resented a pint of Guiness so much. 6 to flipping 1!!! It would have been a stroke of genius. I couldn't believe it. I was gutted. That's the nature of gambling I guess...

Race four was the big one. The King George VI Steeplechase. It was the race everyne had come to see. Kauto Star was overwhelming favourite having won the same race 12 months earlier. He was ridden by Ruby Walsh (a name I was only familiar with thanks to many a morning watching Sky Sports news and hearing Alex Hammond giving us a guide to the runners and riders each day even though I had no clue what she was on about!) was set to make a few people a bit of money even though his 4/6 odds barely represented good value for inexperienced gamblers - such as myself - betting so low. One of my friend's decided to swim against the tide and back 'Exotic Dancer'. Like the proverbial sheep, I followed and invariably Kauto Star won at a canter. I had money on both but naturally lost out as my winnings didn't match my outlay. Still 3 from 4 wasn't bad but the blow from the previous race was hardly cushioned.

My luck, or sneaky copying, was to continue in the next race as 'Boomshakalaka' came in at 5/2. However, another silly each way bet on 'The Hairy Lemon' meant I did't come away with as much as I coud have.

The final race, the Handicap Hurdle, FINALLY saw my win on one of my each way bets as 'Nycteos' romped home. However, this meant my bet on Princlet for the outright win was null and void. What I learnt today? I know it sounds obvious but ONLY ever back one horse! Forecasts and each way bets should be left to those who have an idea what's going on!

So 5 out of 6 winners at the end and a nice little earner in my pocket as we left is certainly nothing to frown upon. Considering I hadn't got a clue about the sport and remain none the wiser afterwards. Whether the sweet taste of success has whetted my appetite and spawned an insatiable gambling addiction inside me remains to be seen but for now, I'd definately recommend a day at the races as a great social event. A boxing day well spent.

My one bit of advice after the 'Straw Bear' fiasco however is that you should ALWAYS follow your gut feeling. In gambling or otherwise.


1 comment:

Candide said...

Keep up the good work.