Ah, My First Time…

This entry was posted on Friday, September 5th, 2008

I CAN’T remember my first bet, but it was probably a winner. Isn’t everybody’s?

My father was a small-time punter – he was only about 5ft 5in – and I suppose that’s how I first got interested in the horses. That was back in the 60s in Manchester when Man City had a decent team and no Arab backers.

I used to frequent a local betting shop in Cheetham Hill where the clientele was mixed to say the least. I always remember the smell of sweat and the floor covered in discarded betting slips in the tiny shop.

There was, of course, no commentary in those days and you just had to wait for the result to appear. Then came the infamous Extel commentaries where favourite always got a run for their money and punters even used to criticise the way their horse had been ridden even though they hadn’t seen it!

Betting shops – or turf accountants as they were often called to give them a thin veneer of respectability – never held much attraction for me. I would much rather go to the races and sample the unique atmosphere. Haydock Park, down the East Lancashire Road, Liverpool and Chester were fairly frequent points of call before I moved to London and eventually married.

But wherever I’ve been I’ve tried various – usually unsuccessful – ways to beat the bookies. At one time I used to keep a list of horses to back in a notebook. They went in the book, if in my opinion, they’d been unlucky in running, not been given a hard race or had been beaten through inexperience.

The problem with this method is two-fold. Firstly, it ties you down to backing these horses. I would back them a maximum of three times with the aim that they would win before their third run. If they didn’t they were discarded. Often, though, trainers would, in my view, run them over the wrong trip next time or out of their class. So you would be at the whim of your horses’ trainers. Secondly, some so-called unlucky horses are simply beasts who don’t want to win. They’ll find any excuse to fail, lugging in behind a rival or running up the backside of something else in the race. That way my list would almost always contain a number of ungenuine animals.

But some months I would make a profit and my biggest ever win came on one of these notebook horses – and like back in the bad old days, I didn’t see the race, not even a replay!

I’ll never forget the horse. It was ‘Nose The Business’, a sprinter trained by Jamie Osborne.

It ran at Ascot one Saturday after a very unlucky run on its previous outing where it was repeatedly hampered when trying to get through.

I’d just got back in the house when I switched on Teletext to see the Ascot results and there it was: 5.35 Nose The Business 25-1. I couldn’t believe it. I’d had a hundred on and made £2,500! And what’s more I’d placed the bet with a former work colleague who had taken redundancy and set up as an illegal bookmaker in the days when betting tax was at a whopping nine per cent!

Sadly, my luck didn’t hold, my notebook horses got slower and slower and unluckier and unluckier and I was soon owing my ex-mate a considerable sum, running into several thousands. Even more sadly, he suffered a massive heart attack soon afterwards and I rang his wife to commiserate and to offer her a method of settlement if we could agree on one. To my great surprise – and delight – she said that all her husband’s customers’ outstanding accounts would be honoured, while the debts would be wiped out.

I shed more than a silent tear for my bookie. But there were some tears of joy mixed in there as well.


In my next article I will tell you how I successfully bet on the horses now – thanks to the advent of the exchanges. Sterling Brookes.


We’d like to welcome Sterling Brookes who joins us here on the OggBlog, a well respected and known player to punters here in UK with many many years of experience and anecdotes to amuse and inform in plenty of future posts.

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