After the Sun Alliance I took the staffers to dinner. A lively Greek restaurant where everyone, bar the owner was Irish.. So Ireland have bought Greece with our money. That’s fair. The large group near the bar connected to RSA victor, Presenting Percy – and they were singing like larks. It goes without mention that we could have floated home without a boat. Spirits were high, even if we were the only people in the place to have lost money on the race! It was a tremendous atmosphere and it reminded me how important Cheltenham is to connections, what a buzz it must have been to have one of next year’s Gold Cup prospects in your camp. It’s important to remind yourself of what Cheltenham means to ‘lesser’ owners. I’ll come to that point.
To a traditional bookmaker, Cheltenham still represents one of the punting weeks of the year. Not many track bookies turn up in yellow Rolls Royce’s these days. It’s a world of ‘match bettors’ and their laptops – crowing about backing an even money chance and laying it back at 1.98. Heroic stuff. Win or lose, its an annual pilgrimage for gamblers, even if ITV think betting should be swept under the carpet. Average crowd sizes of 60,000 are impressive, and a constant. Anyone that listens to Sky News for their weather reports is an idiot. They send the cameras in search of snow and ice to the Northern Hebrides as if such weather paralyses the whole country! Nothing quite like a scary weather story. It was pretty glorious at Cheltenham all week.
My office lost an impressive amount of money. I think its lost at the Festival the last five years in a row. It’s a hard heat to make cash in the online world, when supermarket betting uses the Festival as a market share battleground. Non-runner – no bet the stuff of dribbling fools in the marketing department. Money back offers – crazy stuff from any functioning business, why they’re all getting acquired – doh! Clearly we need to compete with such firms and their deals. We decided on 1/4 the odds in all races, and some extra place races every day, indeed six places in the Supreme Novices.
This brings you under the radar of so called ‘each way snipers‘
Here’s your first lesson in why online bookmakers, such as myself, sometimes have to close or restrict an account. It involves maths to understand, so I hope you’re good at sums 🙂
The each way sniper looks for races offering extra places. And any odds with a bookmaker that exceed the Betfair exchange. Even if the difference is small. Say I offer 6/1 a horse, which is 6.7 on Betfair, that offers the arbitrage player two vehicles for a risk free profit. They place £200 each way with a proper layer such as myself, lay the win bet back at 6.7 on Betfair, cop £1200 from me for the win bet, payout £1140 for the Betfair ‘lay’ (requiring a bank of money on Betfair of course) Make a guaranteed, risk free £60 if the horse wins. On the place I paid 1/4 odds all races. Snipers wait on races with extra places, that the bookie pays out on, but on which he collects for his contra ‘lay’ bet on an exchange. You see exchanges pay the recognised official number of places, so if I offer the extra places, or better place odds, the savvy sniper can collect both ways if the horse finishes 5th! This is why the best Racing Festivals are so popular with matched bettors, there’s so many enhanced offerings to scalp money from.
Additionally there are multiple opportunities for each way snipers if the Bookmaker pays 1/4 the odds against a place ‘lay’ on Betfair. On many occasions the bookmaker pays a lot more on the place book than is paid on the exchange. A little understood fact. It permits the snipers to ‘trade’ a guaranteed and significant profit, without any risk whatsoever. Such each way sniper websites offer calculators to assist these individuals to lock in a guaranteed profit. Simply enter the bookmaker odds and the current Betfair odds, and your profit for no risk is clearly displayed.
The sniper’s calculator tool above.
How should I view such ‘customers’ who utilise such tools to guarantee a profit. First I think it’s important to distinguish between the genuine punter who studies his form and places his wager, what I term a recreational user. Win or lose we almost never close these people down. But the arbitrage players? To me they are ‘business users.’ They’re not interested in the selection, the jockey, the form or even gut feel. They’re simply playing a numbers game for guaranteed gain. Unlicensed and untaxed layers. They are not genuine customers, and in actual fact their activities have an extremely damaging effect on the ‘recreational punters,’ by having their accounts unfairly factored. We for our part try to maintain a lay to lose far greater than any other firm of £1000 for the horses. (And many sports besides.) But we simply have to eradicate ourselves of these ‘business players.’ – if we are to stay in business ourselves.
‘Business’ punters can be identified in two further ways. They scream the place down if they are closed by bookmakers, as you have effectively closed a route to guaranteed income. And they unfairly describe ‘recreational’ punters as ‘mugs.’ They think they’re being clever.
Why mention the topic of arbitrage players online? Because I think education is important if we are all to understand each other. And to combat bitchy types like Matt Chapman, who felt it might be fun to use his platform online to criticise us publicly for the occasional closure of accounts. More than hypocrisy given his relation to the restriction Kings, Sunbets. . We offer exceptional guarantees, unrivalled in the online industry, and only close down what we see, with proper analysis, ‘business’ accounts.
Matt Chapman is, in my view, an entertaining pundit. He spent the year telling everyone to back ‘The Machine’ as I recall, for that matter, anything owned by Rich Ricci! I wouldn’t criticise such fortitude. Fine he’s a punter, and I respect opinions, but don’t pretend to understand the online betting world for a second Matt, whilst representing Sunbets. And when you’re ready to have someone more entertaining than Aussie Jim McGrath up against you on your various shows, and challenge your views, I stand ready to entertain, and inform. Up to now Matt Chapman prefers sycophantic pundits so he can shine. Let’s see how you do against someone that actually understands betting in front of the camera. I’m not shy and Racing telly certainly needs a kick up the backside..
The best performances at Cheltenham came from the girls. Making a compelling argument that if you give them the tools, they can get the job done off level weights. Surely the greatest fortitude came from the diminutive Harriet Tucker, given her chance by Paul Nicholls over the daunting track, winning here race despite a partial dislocated shoulder. Quite outstanding.
Worst performance, in similar vein, the Cheltenham stewards who sanctioned her for ‘use of the whip over the permitted level.’ Truly they are a stupid and inflexible bunch. It is certainly long overdue for some professional officials to sweep away all those amateur do – gooders.
There was a lot of good at the Festival, the track looked in good order, the new changes were impressive around the paddock. I still hate the plastic cup mentality, but it seems our regulator has no appetite to force tracks to consider the dolphins in the chase to sell booze. Races went off to time, near enough, no start dramas and the odd tragedy on the track tenderly handled. It’s a Festival that simply must survive and prosper. It remains the greatest Festival of all, because it is about the true Racing fan and the gutsiest of horses.
We await the telly figures for ITV, but it must be said their Opening Show as beyond dreadful. Positioned long after people have left for work, or the racetrack. A one hour ‘chatathon’ devoid of features, no interviews with trainers, no form guides of any note. No special guests like Ted Walsh, just the same crusty bores preaching how we need to bow down to Samcro, and anything else under 2/1. Whatever..
ITV simply refuse to acknowledge the presence of punters in their audiences. In a recent speech, the controller of ITV sport promised action on the Show, with its dire figures. He hasn’t however shown any appetite, to spend a penny to save the show, with ‘The Persuaders’ (1970) allotted the prime 8am slots during the celebrated Cheltenham Festival. Committed? No, Mark, you most certainly are not.
There are some very dark clouds though on this code. And do take strong heed of these words. It’s all very well celebrating the achievements of Messrs Mullins, Elliot and Henderson. It is, however, considerably bad news for Racing, other trainers, and the fans, that two of those three named actively pursue policies designed to cut up the National Hunt to their own ends. It’s a matter of fact, that were the stars distributed to lesser stables, we’d see them more in front of the public than for examply Might Bite, out since December.
We should have been able to market and promote the greatest potential battle of the Festival, Douvan vs Altior. Instead we were instead treated to a weekly diet of will he – won’t he. Even the ridiculous ‘Altior stubs toe’ nonsense two days before the race, was the stuff of a truly desperate Racing Press, and a trainer who seeks every opportunity to big up his business in front of the telly. If they stuck a camera in Henderson’s toilet, he can show us which paper he uses. It’s gone beyond ‘nothing else to report.’ Add Henderson to the annual Rich Ricci show and you end up with the season pantomime, both competing for the ass end of the donkey.
It’s long long overdue for the Regulator to enforce minimum conditions of entry to the Festival, to include actually Racing in front of the general public, rather than racecourse gallops. I mean who came up with that plan? Let’s have an end to this annual farce and a BHA who put the sport before such trainers
Mullins once again stuck a Champion Hurdler into the Grade 2 mares race. I’d hazard a guess at her true rating of circa 160, some 13 pounds clear of anything else in the field. All very well for Willie, but it’s overdue for this practice to stop. There HAVE to be events at the Festival for lesser owners, who pay exactly the same fees as Ricci, to enjoy and take cheer from. Manchester United cannot play in the EFL trophy for excellent reason, it’s competition aimed at lower leagues. If you fail to give lesser owners an opportunity at podiums, they’ll quit. It is for this reason I famously argued with Ruby Walsh over Quevega. It’s simply wrong to farm the opportunities of lesser owners.
Poor fields characterised several championship races. Notably the Triumph, Mares and Arkle. With Racing only fielding an average of 4 horses a race in novice chases there’s a clear and terrifying prospect that we cannot put together a decent Gold Cup. As an honest owner told me recently, it pays to race at Southwell as he gets cash down to 8th place. He can race 15 times a season no bother. It’s simply more economic, and he gets into the winning enclosure with his equine love. In the National Hunt, like as not he’d have little chance of victory in regular races against top stable product. A worse situation in Ireland I’d imagine. The small National Hunt owner is at a significant disadvantage against the major stables and owners paying half a million a horse.
We simply have to double the prize money available in the jumps code, at ordinary race meetings, and pay down to 8th place in every race. Reward the small owner for their enterprise, rather than Betting Supermarkets and their demands for more all weather racing. Money must be found to save National Hunt from expiration at the hands of the All Weather. Cue Card is gone for all money. Has anyone noticed he’s not the only performer in his last year? Douvan? Faugheen? Such horses are done for all money. Where on earth are we to source product in 2020? we need to act with great vigour right now, if we are to combat Ireland’s new Festivals and keep Cheltenham at the top of the Racing tree.