09/02/2009

The Green Green Grass of Doncaster

Carl Sampson 'The Dean'

Being as there is so much interest on the forum regarding sports betting, I thought that I would diversify this week and talk about something other than poker... so here goes.

I had known “Big Dave” for a good few years and he was as knowledgeable about horses as anyone who I knew (actually that’s not saying a great deal looking back). But back in 2002 we hatched one of the most fiendish plans ever devised to make money from horse racing.

What do you get when you marry expertise and betting exchanges... you guessed it... money and lots of it! Dave couldn’t drive and he was hopeless with anything technological so we hatched a plan to travel to meetings where Dave could watch the horses in the flesh and could suss out which favourites were weak and I would get him there and also get our bets on with the exchange.

This was brilliant... we could get in before the masses and simply ring our bets in and lay the favourites. This plan was brilliant, it was foolproof, it was unsinkable like the... well anyway it was going to work.

Travelling up the M18 to Doncaster one late summer morning, Dave was really impressing me with his encyclopaedic knowledge of horses. I mean…this guy was good. He went into the psychological nature of horses and delved into their evolutionary history and even amazed me by telling me how even the placement of a horses eyes impacted on how it ran!

“Yer see Carl, its like dis... horses are pack animals yer see and have been for thousands of years since sabre tooth tigers were hunting em”

On and on he went….fact after fact after amazing fact. Big Dave was the real deal and we were the dream team. I had already calculated what I would be earning, laying about two favourites a day for two hundred and fifty notes equals five hundred pound a day. Split two ways, less Betfair commission and travel costs and the odd winner and I should be getting about eight hundred a week... enough to keep the wolf from the door... we were pro’s.

But Big Dave was right... he was always right. In fact 2001 was his golden year, he predicted Liverpool’s cup treble, the winner of the Derby, the National... you name it. Big Dave was assuming god like status amongst our crew and we rated him higher than Nostrodamus who in our eyes was an amateur and couldn’t possibly have predicted the cup treble.

Sadly 2001 was the pinnacle of Nostradaves career and he has never hit those highs since. But I hadn’t been to a horse meeting in ages and travelling up the aptly named “St Ledger Way” built the excitement level even more... we really were pro’s.

By about 2.00pm, Big Dave had already spotted our first loser... or should I say winner. A big horse who in Dave’s words “aint lookin good”.

“Dat horse shunt be sweatin like dat” said Big Dave. A few minutes later Big Dave was watching it move down to the post with what was perhaps the only pair of brass binoculars in the entire ground. They were a family heirloom and still worked even though they looked about as old as the pyramids... we were pro’s!

A quick call to Betfair and we were on. The guy behind the public address system uttered those chilling words “and there away”... the life of a professional starts right here.

“How’s it running Dave?” I asked nervously.

“Just like I thought it wud” replied Dave.

With a few furlongs to go my attention was diverted from the two lovelies to our left who had been enthralled after asking me and then listening to my account of what my occupation was to the announcement that our horse was “moving into contention.

“How’s it looking Dave?”

“No sweat” grunted Dave...  “I expected dis”

I couldn’t see what was happening and all I could see was the mass of increasingly excited punters screaming and shouting around me. I knew from the tannoy guy that our horse had moved into the lead going into the final furlong.

But it wasn’t going to win... not after Big Dave’s prediction of Liverpool’s cup treble last year.

“What’s happening?” I asked

Big Dave’s replies were getting shorter and shorter and now he could barely grunt. I knew the race had finished and was trying to get the result out of Big Dave.

“Dave... Dave... Dave... what’s happened for pete’s sake?”

“Its won” grunted Big Dave.

Just then I got a gentle nudge from one of the lovelies who reminded me that I had said just a few minutes earlier that this horse couldn’t win... what the hell do women know about horse racing anyway... we were pro’s.

Walking back to the parade ring for the next race, Big Dave started becoming bullish... “dis is when da tuff get going” growled Dave. Two races later and Big Dave has spotted something in the parade ring.

“See dat Carl... its lame” said Dave

“Looks all right to me Dave” I replied.

“Don’t be fooled, it takes a keen eye to spot a lame horse, it don’t mean its limping ya know, yer can tell by its gait”

Ten minutes later and our lame duck had been backed down from 7/4 to 11/8.

“The markets interested in this horse Dave” I said.

“Da market don’t know what we know do dey” replied Dave who by this time was following it down to the post through his brass binoculars.

“Its sweatin up, it shunt be doing dat” said Dave.

I really wished he hadn’t have said that and now it was a toss up who was sweating most, me or the horse. This time I had managed to spot the two lovelies before they spotted me and gave them a wide berth.

“Lets watch the race from over here Dave instead”

Ten minutes later after our horse had romped in by several lengths I resisted the temptation to say “shud it be doin dat Dave” but chose the wiser option of going to the bar instead. Another odds on winner that shouldn’t have won later and this convinced me that our unsinkable plan was about to hit an iceberg and abandoning ship was now seriously on the cards.

Coming back up the M18 was just as I had predicted... muted.

“I still fink dare is mileage in it” said Big Dave.

“Although all dis travellin wud do my nut in”

“Do ya wanna hear my plan for da stock market?” I remained quiet.

“This looks like our turn off” I replied.

For the record, Big Dave was last seen backing every team to beat Greece in Euro 2004 and borrowed tons of money to do so and now unfortunately resides in a shed in Tibet.

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