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Smelling the scent of victory, but the truth is I don't know my onions

Stever Palmer checks to see if he wants to buy Gabrial The Boss after the seller
1 of 1

First published on Friday, December 21, 2012 


Oh shucks, I was really looking forward to visiting Exeter. I was going to have a Devon cream tea before the racing started, gorging myself on scones, jam and all manner of other artery-clogging delights.

A waterlogged track, though, meant the Exeter mission was abandoned.

Heavy rain was hammering the country from top to toe and the poor horseys did not know whether they were coming or going. The only guarantee was the meeting at Lingfield would be going ahead because they have got a supposedly all-weather track.

I have to admit I'm rather sceptical about this all-weather business. I think it smacks of complacency. We have almost certainly not yet seen everything the weather gods have to throw at us, with the planet becoming increasingly volatile. I reckon our grandchildren's grandchildren will probably have to face things like lightning-snow in the future – snowballs loaded with electrical currents – so let's see how all-weather Lingfield is then.

In my opinion, there is no such thing as an all-weather badminton hall, let alone a racetrack. If a hurricane swept in and blew the sports centre down, it wouldn't be very much of an all-weather badminton hall.

Take nothing for granted. Only the hardiest of hardy racegoers were at Lingfield for this seven-race card. As I trotted to the track, I spotted one woman driving slowly into the venue in a Volvo estate with all the windows open, getting drenched. You had to be an optimist to be at Lingers yesterday and this crazy cat was clearly banking on an imminent arrival of sunshine.

I was reliably informed by colleague Rodney Masters that this was one of the quietest race meetings of all time. And the bookmakers were in understandably miserable mood. "Is it always as quiet as this?" I asked. "Only every day," came the curt reply.

There is a big sign near the grandstand, though, which encouraged those who have deigned to attend to have a few bets. It reads: having a bet with one of the bookmakers in the betting ring is easy and fun.

An intriguing part of the raceday experience is to be in the betting ring prior to a race as it provides you with a real sense of atmosphere and excitement as everyone is seeking out the best odds for their chosen horse. You can almost smell the anticipation as you get your ticket in your hand and wait for the start.

Hmmm, interesting. Commentating ace Simon Holt marked my card and suggested three horses to back – the first of which was Gabrial The Boss in the 1.00. Three rails bookies were braving the rain and all had 11-4 chalked up.

Who do I pick to punt with? You feel so bad for the two you ignore. I thought about spreading my stake across the three of them, but feared that would have looked like I was taking the piss. I had £50 with William Hill (nice to finally meet him), who gave me 3-1 as a gesture of goodwill.

Ooh, what is that smell? Is it anticipation? I don't think so. No, it's been a long week and I've run out of Lynx.

The scent of victory was wafting over me after Gabrial The Boss romped home in fine style. I was back in the game.

It was a selling stakes, which meant I had the option of buying the horsey in the winner's enclosure if I fancied. I went to see if the £150 I had won was enough to claim a new furry friend, but I was outbid by someone offering 7,200gns. I have no idea how much that is, but it is clearly more than £150. There was a lot of sweat coming off old Gabrial anyway, so I wasn't that bothered about failing to purchase him. I like my sellers like I like my women (lacking sweat).

The next Holt thunderbolt was Bowstar in the 1.30 race for 'maiden fillies'. From what I can gather, they are essentially female losers.

Damsels in distress. The Lingfield programme suggested reasons in their 'race description' as to why maidens may never have won – "they can often be too weak and immature to do themselves justice as juveniles". I often reason that I am too weak and immature to do myself justice in life in general, but never mind.

Bowstar, on which I had £150 at 2-1, came with a strong, late rattle, but managed only to finish runner-up.

Then, Cut Across in the 2.00, on which I had £100 at 5-2, flopped the other way (came too early, went limp when it really mattered).

One winner, two losers then, another £100 disappearing. Closing total for the week: minus £341.67.

What have I learned? Horseracing is ruddy bemusing. And you've really got to know your onions to be successful betting on it. I don't know my onions. I don't think I'll ever know my onions.


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I went to see if the £150 I had won was enough to claim a new furry friend but I was outbid by someone offering 7,200gns
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