Thursday 6 June 2024

Harry Findlay: Betting Too Bravely

If you asked ten punter to name a professional gambler I think a fair proportion would say Harry Findlay. As a follower of online bookmakers free bets this book is right up my street. From what I would call modern professional gamblers in the United Kingdom, Findlay has definitely had his time in the limelight and plenty of column inches in tabloids and sports editions. A larger than life character he is the equivalent of a bull in a china shop with attitude and words. A man who has been liked and disliked in equal measure, especially by many of the elite in horse racing from media to authority. Harry Findlay has always been outspoken which came as a refreshing change to some while a pain in the arse to others. That was most definitely the tone from the establishment who he was convinced were out to get him at ever stage.

His success with Denman ‘The Tank’ meant there were many interested in his opinions of both horse and anything journalists cared to ask him.

I must admit hearing about Harry Findlay back in the day, I thought he was a big mouth who simply bet on odds-on shots. As any gambler knows, there can be value in many a bet, even odds on, and the proof of the pudding is in the eating. I can imagine the man himself tucking into the largest bowl of apple pie with custard. Although, saying that, he was more of a cultured man than many would imagine and he likes the finer things in life.

At heart, he was a normal man on the street, but with a wizard like brain and instinct for a good bet. Unlike most punters he wasn’t afraid to bet big. He was fearless when it came to money. I was surprised reading his excellent book: Gambling For Life, published by Trinity Mirror Sport Media (2017) how much he loves his sport. There is betting and betting, and he wasn’t one to hide away in the shadows or fear going broke in the pursuit of wealth. If he was going to be a millionaire (which he was) it was going to be pitting his wits against the layers.

That pursuit saw him live a life on the edge, betting like a man possessed. If there was one problem with his approach to gambling it may have been he was too brave. Considering he has always bet in such a fashion, why would he stop or behave differently?

He couldn’t. He didn’t have an off switch.

It was full stream ahead. Like a big, old stream train screeching towards the buffers which saw sparks flying and shouts and screams until everything went black.

Literally all black. With his devastating bet on New Zealand to win Rugby Football World Cup. A bet that was to be his retirement fund.

Their loss to Argentina was a kick in the teeth.

Perhaps Harry Findlay was a little too brave.

But what can you say of a man who always bet full throttle?

That’s Harry Findlay. Good luck, mate.

Saturday 1 June 2024

Ebor Handicap

Taking its name from 'Eboracum', the Roman name for York, the Ebor Handicap is worth £1 million in prize money, of which £600,000 goes to the winner, making it the most valuable race of its kind in Britain. Many punters look for online bookmakers free bets to coincidence with this unmissable event. Inaugurated, as the Great Ebor Handicap, in 1843, the race is run over one mile and six furlongs at York Racecourse, where it forms the centrepiece of the four-day Ebor Festival, staged annually in late August. Since 2019, when prize money was increased to its current level, the Ebor Handicap has been open to horses aged four years and upwards. 

Flint Jack, who recorded back-to-back victories in the Ebor Handicap in 1922 and 1923, remains the only horse to win the race more than once. The legendary Lester Piggott remains the leading jockey in the history of the Ebor Handicap, with five winners between 1958 and 1983. His quintet included Gladness, who also won the Gold Cup at Ascot and the Goodwood Cup in 1958, and Jupiter Island, who subsequently became the first British-trained winner of the Japan Cup, in 1983. Other notable winners of the Ebor Handicap include Sea Pigeon (1979), who went on the win the Champion Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival twice, in 1980 and 1981, and Sergeant (2005), who completed a notable treble by winning the Northumberland Plate, Ebor Handicap and Cesarewitch Handicap in the same season.

Wednesday 15 May 2024

Two-Year-old Horse Racing: Brocklesby Stakes Winners

The 23rd March 2024 the Flat turf season began and the second race on the card at Doncaster (1:50) saw the Brocklesby Stakes take place. This two-year-old horse race had a bumper win price of £20,616. As detailed in a recent post: Why I Love The Brocklesby Stakes [] this race has been won by a number of talented horses, a few going on to be sires.

The winner of the Brocklesby Stakes 2024 Zminiature, trained by Dylan Cuhna, ridden by Rhys Clutterbuck, raced in the familiar silks of the Sarkar family. This diminutive son of Territories ran on well to win in stylish fashion at odds of 16/1, beating Bob The Bandit trained by Brocklesby legend Bill Turner, who has won this race 6 times, dating back to Indian Spark in 1996 when ridden by Tim Sprake. Turner last won this race in 2013 with Mick’s Yer Man. Interesting the horse was later sold to race in Hong Kong where his name was changed to Always Win. This son of Bahamian Bounty went on to win 7 races and total price earning of £328,456.

The Brocklesby Stakes has seen winners including Mind Games (1994), Hearts Of Fire (2009) and more recently Persian Force (2022) trained by Richard Hannon in the ownership of Amo Racing Limited.

In fact the likes of Mind Games, The Last Lion and Persian Force all went on to be stallions.

Looking at the list of Brocklesby Stakes winners on the Wikipedia page, they go back to 1988 when Denham Green won for trainer Steve Muldoon, ridden by J H Brown.

From 1988 to 2024 (a period of 37-years) there have been 37 races although 2020 didn’t take place due to the COVID pandemic and in 2017 the race was split into two divisions.

It’s interesting to consider the winning odds of the 2024 winner Zminiature who returned at 16/1 as the race history has proven to favour those more fancied in the betting with 31/37 (83%) being won by horses priced 10/1 and less starting price (SP).

Interest to note that two of the shortest priced winners were better horses.

For instance:

2016 – The Last Lion, trained by Mark Johnston was priced 4/5f. He went on to win the Middle Park Stakes (Group 1) at odds of 25/1. He went to stud after his two-year-old career. However, he wasn’t successful at stud and came out of retirement to race some five-years later. He raced just four times, pulling up on his final start at Kempton.

2022 – Persian Force won ‘impressively’ for Richard Hannon in the ownership of Amo Racing Limited. A very talented sprinter, he raced 8 times achieving 3 wins including the July Stakes (Group 2) at Newmarket and narrow loser when runner-up in the Prix Morny (Group 1) at Deauville, France. He concluded his two-year-old racing season and career when finishing fourth at Keeneland in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Race in the United States. He now stands as a sire at Tally Ho Stud, Ireland for 8,000 (Euros].

For those who love their two-year-old racing the Brocklesby Stakes will always be the starting point of hope and ambition. For some it will be their only win. While others such as Bill O’Gorman’s Provideo 1984 victor set a 20th century record winning 16 of his 24 races at two, including a couple of Listed races. He was crowned British Horse of the Year (1984).

A truly exceptional horse.

Such a record will never be beaten.

Zminiature has proven his ability to win the Brocklesby Stakes. By all accounts the stable had high hopes detailed by the Racing Post: ‘That was expected. We really fancied Zminiature. He's small but he's done a lot of work and he's tough. We took him to Chelmsford on Monday and did all we had to. He's tiny but he's a lovely horse - Dylan Cunha, trainer.’

Only time will tell if this colt will achieve the lofty heights of past winners.

His name sits proudly in the record book of the Brocklesby Stakes.

Thursday 4 April 2024

Kieran Fallon

Born on the 22nd February, 1965, Kieran Fallon is a retired Irish flat racing jockey, who clocked up an impressive 2,253 career wins in his time in the saddle. Now in his fifties, Fallon hails from County Clare and boasts five 2,000 Guineas Stakes wins, four 1,000 Guineas Stakes wins, three Epsom Derbies, three Epsom Oaks and a victory in the Arlington Million.

In addition to these impressive wins, Kieran Fallon would also become British Champion Jockey a remarkable six times and the early part of his success could be attributed to his association with leading trainer, Henry Cecil. Whilst in the Cecil’s stable, Fallon would enjoy a successful time, but the pairing would come to an abrupt end in 1999, when he was dismissed for undisclosed reasons. The jockey is known to be a fiery character, which could have easily led to a disagreement or two and a subsequent parting of ways.

Rocky Period

After the turn of the century, things became a little ‘chequered’, with a mixture of winners, injury and controversy. Now in the Michael Stoute stable, he won the 2,000 Guineas shortly before sustaining an serious arm injury at Ascot which would ultimately lead to Fallon losing the jockey’s championship that year.

Controversy then struck in 2004 when Kieran Fallon was accused of race fixing in a 2 year long trial, but was subsequently exonerated for lack of evidence. After having been banned from racing in the UK for the period of the inquest, Fallon returned to racing immediately after being acquitted.

Continued Controversy

It seemed that trouble was never far away for Fallon, as the jockey was banned from racing again for six months for failing a drugs test in 2006, then failing another in 2007. In total, he missed almost two years of racing through suspension before returning to the saddle in 2009 as a freelance rider.

With his most successful years behind him, Fallon retired from racing in 2016, citing depression as the primary reason. Four or five years of relative underachievement by his own high standards saw the jockey lose his appetite for the challenge.

During his career, Kieran Fallon was always a colourful character and it was ironically the characteristics that made his successful that ultimately led to his fall from grace. However, race fans will always have a soft spot for the mercurial talents of the jockey.

Friday 15 March 2024

Vertem Futurity Trophy

Inaugurated, as the Timeform Gold Cup, in 1961, the Vertem Futurity Trophy has been known as the Observer Gold Cup, Futurity Stakes and the Racing Post Trophy at various points in its history. However, following the introduction of the European Pattern in 1971, the race was awarded Group 1 status and has maintained that status ever since.

Run over a mile on Town Moor, Doncaster, the Vertem Futurity Trophy is open to two-year-old colts and fillies and its scheduling, in late October, makes it the final Group 1 event in the British Flat racing calendar. In 2019, with Doncaster abandoned due to waterlogging, the Vertem Futurity Trophy was run at Newcastle, thereby becoming the first Group 1 race in Britain to be run on a synthetic surface.

Lester Piggott and Pat Eddery remain the leading jockeys in the history of the Vertem Futurity Trophy with five wins apiece, while Sir Henry Cecil remains far and away the leading trainer with ten wins between 1969 and 1993. The race is considered a trial for the Derby the following season and five winners, namely Reference Point (1986), High Chaparral (2001), Motivator (2004), Authorized (2006) and Camelot (2011) have gone on to win the Epsom Classic. Aside from the subsequent Derby winners, other notable winners of the Vertem Futurity Trophy include Saxon Warrior (2017), Magna Grecia (2018) and Kameko (2019), who all won the 2,000 Guineas the following season.

Thursday 1 February 2024

Triumph Hurdle

The Triumph Hurdle is Grade 1 juvenile novices' hurdle run over 2 miles and 179 yards on the New Course at Cheltenham in March. Restricted, exclusively, to horses aged four years – who, of course, start the season aged three years – the race is currently scheduled as the opening contest on the fourth and final day of the Cheltenham Festival.

The Triumph Hurdle was inaugurated, at the now-defunct Hurst Park, in West Molesey, Surrey, in 1939 and, following the Second World War, was run, uninterrupted, until 1962. Hurst Park closed permanently that year and, in 1965, the Triumph Hurdle was resurrected at Cheltenham, becoming part of the Festival programme in 1968. The race was initially sponsored by the Daily Express, followed, briefly, by the Elite Racing Club and, since 2002, by JCB.

Four winners of what is, effectively, the seasonal championship for juvenile hurdlers in Britain – namely Clair Soleil (1953), Persian War (1967), Kribensis (1990) and Katchit (2007) – have gone on to win the Champion Hurdle later in their careers. Interestingly, the jockey of the 1954 winner, Prince Charlemagne, was none other than 18-year-old Lester Piggott, who would win his first Derby on Never Say Die later the same year.

Veteran Seven Barrows trainer Nicky Henderson has saddled seven winners of the Triumph Hurdle – First Bout (1985), Alone Success (1987), Katarino (1999), Zaynar (2009), Soldatino (2010), Peace And Co (2015) and Pentland Hills (2019) – making him the most successful handler in the history of the race. Anyone looking ahead to the 2023 renewal, scheduled for 1:30pm on Friday, March 18, might also like to bear in mind that seven of the last ten winners were trained in Ireland; at this still early stage, the once-raced French filly Lossiemouth heads the ante-post betting market.

Thursday 4 January 2024

One For Arthur

Owned by Belinda McClung and Deborah Thomson, a.k.a. 'Two Golf Widows', and trained by Lucinda Russell near Kinross, in eastern Scotland, One For Arthur is best known as the winner of the 2015 Grand National. Indeed, he had the distinction of being just the second horse trained north of Hadrian's Wall – the other being Rubstic, trained by John Leadbetter in Denholm, near Hawick, in 1979 – to win the premier steeplechase.

One For Arthur had demonstrated his Grand National credentials when staying on well to finish fifth, beaten just 3 lengths, in the valuable Becher Chase, over 3 miles 2 furlongs, on his first attempt over National fences the previous December. He subsequently won the Classic Chase, over 3 miles 5 furlongs, at Warwick in January in taking style and headed to Aintree at the top of his game.

Despite being 11lb higher in the weights than at Warwick, One For Arthur was sent off 14/1 fourth favourite for the National, behind Blaklion, Definitly Red and Vieux Lion Rouge. Under a confident ride from jockey Derek Fox, who was making his debut in the race, he was held up in rear, as he had been at Warwick, but made steady headway throughout the second circuit.

Favourite Blaklion took a clear lead as the field crossed the Melling Road for the final time, but One For Arthur, who had travelled and jumped well throughout, moved upsides at the second-last fence and soon quickened into the lead. On run-in, recent Cheltenham Festival winner Cause Of Causes appeared as his main challenger, but he was not to be denied and stayed on strongly to win by 4½ lengths.