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1st January 2020

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One of the great sustaining daydreams of my punting career has been the idea of winning a staggering sum from a multiple bet such as a yankee, Lucky 15, five-time accumulator etc. I have had many profitable wins on such bets but never more than about a thousand quid, and usually about a third of that. To the uninstructed that may sound rather good, and it is. But I want to win a lot more than that.

When off-course horse gambling was legalised in the early Sixties one prominent bookmaker, possibly Cyril Stein of Ladbrokes, opined that the new betting shops were ‘a licence to print money’, and no truer word was spoken, particularly where multiples are concerned.

They are the bets that bookies really want you to have; the mark-up on them is terrific: so many fail. With multiples your luck must climb a tricky mountain with slippery paths. As in life there are so many ways to go wrong.

Your best bet, ie the bet the bookie does not want you to have, is of course the single bet: the one shot, no strings payout – if it wins.

A detailed analysis of my Betfair accounts from the past few years revealed that if I only had single bets and gave up the multiples I would have been in handsome profit for both Flat and Jumps seasons year after year (I have been in profit at the end of many seasons, but the multiples scythe down the profit ratios).

These thoughts occurred on the last Saturday in August as I turned my attention to the cards at Chester, Sandown and Beverley.

In addition to doing crazy accumulators with potentially vast payouts, I have a new betting toy: the place-only accumulator. Instead of trying to pick four or more winners, you are just trying to place four or more horses to come in the first two, three or four. I am a dunce at mathematics but you clearly have a much better chance of winning with this wager. A few weeks ago I picked up more than £500 from a place-only £10 acca. This made me cocky, and there is no better state of mind for the punter.

I therefore spent the morning studying the form in the Racing Post. A I picked for my place-only acca: Lake Volta in the Sportpesa Handicap (Class 2) at Chester, Vivid Diamond in the Sportpesa Chester Stakes (Listed Race), Mutaabeq in the Betway Heed Your Hunch Handicap at Sandown (Class 2) and Tarboosh in the William Hill Beverley Bullet Sprint Stakes (Class 1).

It is one of the aims of this column to educate British Intelligence readers in how to better understand the arcane doings on the Turf and make some moolah from it.

So: Lake Volta’s handicap mark was 2lb lower than when it won a Class 2 6f race at Goodwood in May. He was being ridden by Franny Norton, my favourite jockey and the best man to ride Chester. I was not overly confident but Lake Volta was second favourite and almost everything else in the race looked handicapped up to the hilt. Almost, I say. I am inveterately opposed to favourites and therefore talked myself out of backing Oh This Is Us, which won the same race the previous year on a mark 108, 3lb higher than he was today. He won the race again. Lake Volta came last. The form book must tell the sorry story:

Led, headed over 4f out, pushed along and weakened over 1f out opened 4/1.

That stuffed the four-timer. I then quickly re-bet the other three for a treble and did a few more place multiples with an air of desperation.

I fancied Vivid Diamond in the Chester Stakes a good deal more than Lake Volta. Why? Firstly she was a three-year-old filly whose form shaped as if she would get the 1m6f trip she was tackling for the first time. She had been running on in good races at Ascot and Chester at 1m4f and 1m3f; now she would have a couple of extra furlongs to play with.

To an extent I am what the Americans call a trip handicapper: one of my key study areas for finding winners is that I pay very close attention to what a horse has done over given distances and conditions. The formbook stated that Vivid Diamond ‘kept on’ when second in a 1m4f race at Ascot on July 27. Additionally, today she had Mr Norton, the Liverpudlian genius of Chester riding her. He was doing 8st 2lb and in my experience, if a jockey is going down to that weight, he usually wants to make it worth the effort.

Stung by Lake Volta’s failure I invested a modest tenner in Vivid Diamond at 9/1 on the Betfair exchange. I had an idea how the race might pan out and I was correct. Norton was always up with the pace. He waited until the other horses came off the bridle – and then he struck: Always close up on inside, going well when switched right and squeezed through just over 2f out, soon led, ridden clear over 1f out, stayed on well.

Indeed she did: Vivid Diamond won by five lengths. I felt smug, or as the dictionary has it: pleased with myself to a degree that others may find irritating.

Meanwhile the acca still had to climb the mountain. Alas! Tarboosh went backwards in the Beverley Bullet and came eighth. Mutabeq faded to seventh at Sandown. The place-only accumulator had come undone, as did my other rather carelessly put together multiples. That all took about a £50 chunk out of Vivid Diamond’s winnings.

Somewhat wearily I turned to the 3.55 at Chester, the ESL Group Handicap (Class 2), and found something rather exciting buried away in the form. Powerallied was a six-year-old gelding with five Chester wins to his credit, including two over today’s trip of 5.5f. Over the summer he had been running over 6f in better races and getting beaten out of sight – because, I reasoned, he had never won over six. In his 6f races I noticed that each time he was ‘ridden over 1f out’, in other words doing his best work at around 5f. That’s his trip, plus he was back at a track he likes. I imagined that all this would be discernible to the odds compilers and betting public and Powerallied would therefore be near the front of the betting. Not a bit of it. His heavy defeats over the wrong trip meant he was a staggering 25/1 with high street bookmakers and an even more staggering 37/1 on the Betfair exchange. I had one of the most pleasant feelings a punter can have: I was in possession of an edge.

I invested £20 at 36/1 to win and £20 to place in him in the first four at around 9/2. I won’t beat about the bush. Powerallied won, beating Bossipop by a nose: Tracked leaders, went 2nd over 2f out, challenged inside final furlong, stayed on, led close home.

There you have it. Win single bets are the best. Multiples are heartache if not ball-ache. But, I reflected as I walked down to the pub with an idea of having a glass of champagne, I’ll keep doing them. As Scott Fitzgerald says at the end of The Great Gatsby: Tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning——

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