The Punter’s Blog – Looking Every Each Way

22nd January 2020:  Looking Every Each Way

I said on the last PLOG that ‘It’s Time To Put In The Hours’. If only life was that easy.

From early to mid-November, things were okay. There was a bit of indecision, mainly about whether to go racing or not, and where to go. Wetherby’s Charlie Hall-meeting lacks the competitive, good-class handicaps that I look for on a Saturday, so I stayed home and watched Diego Du Charmil try to get out of landing me a bet at Ascot.

However, on the Friday, the decision was taken to go to Huntingdon on the Sunday, the day after the Charlie Hall. I do very few Sunday racedays – it’s normally our ‘us’ time. The Class 3 novices’ chase immediately jumped off the page as betting plan A. This type of race normally has only a few runners, but this one had ten declared, and there were many with realistic chances too, so it looked sure to be a strong betting heat.

Going by my spreadsheet I landed on Cotswold Way and Deyrann De Carjac, the latter in particular overpriced at 18/1. The latter had them cooked approaching the last, so it proved a good decision to go to what is one of our nearest racecourses – Mrs rwsteeplechasing was home in time for the Strictly-results (I looked up the Spoiler-page every week – and every week it was right), and I had a full wallet.

The race proved strong form too. Runner-up Pym stepped up to three miles and won his next two, and could go well in the Scottish Grand National, and one who was down the field, Erick Le Rouge, has won since.

The advantage of changing my working hours to start at 6:00am and finish at 1:00pm is I’m home in time to catch a few races – the other way round to when I worked the Graveyard-shift, when I was in bed by 9:00 and up at 12:15 or thereabouts if I fancied something in the opening novices’ hurdle. So it was inevitable that I’d start looking at races in the midweek, and I’ve previewed a few on the website.

Initially, I did my proverbials when betting midweek. On the Thursday before the start of the November meeting at Cheltenham, there was an amateur riders’ handicap hurdle at Ludlow at 4:00 which I’d done a spreadsheet for. The trains were screwed, and I was later home than I wanted to be, thinking I’d miss prices.

Two of the field turned red when I tapped the prices in, so I backed them. With ten minutes till off time a late, steep drift on Bhutan, out to 16/1, meant that he came into my back-zone. He stayed on well from the last to win at an SP of 12/1 – I’d have backed him at that price if I’d missed the 16s – and that was it, proof that I could still do it on the regular weekday fodder, nonsense or whatever derogatory phrase you use to describe weekday racing.

The flip side was, with nights drawing in, there weren’t going to be many 4:00-races that weren’t run under floodlights in December. When I thought about this I decided only to get involved in jump races I’d definitely be home in plenty of time for. I won’t always get out of the office at 1:00 on the dot, so around 3:30pm is my cut-off. With last races often bumpers, I have to be patient.

It was on that delayed train journey on the day of the Ludlow race that I found out about the abandonment of Cheltenham on the Friday due to waterlogging. We decided to go to Wetherby on Saturday 16th, and I decided not to get involved betting-wise in the Betvictor Gold Cup, but not before I said on Twitter that I thought Happy Diva had a chance.

Again there were no good-class handicaps on the Wetherby card, but mid- to low-grade stuff was back in after Bhutan’s Ludlow-win, so I had no qualms about taking on the Class 3-handicaps. However, unlike with the Huntingdon card which had a clear plan A, no race jumped off the page as potential to get deeply involved, so we were going a long way for three plan Cs.

The first handicap hurdle, won by Sakhee’s City thanks to a brilliant hold-up cajoling ride by Adam Nicol that I make the ride of the season so far, came and went – the winner and others I fancied never got big enough to enter my back zone. In the two-mile four-furlong handicap chase however, Mr Antolini was around 15/8 favourite, and this made a better market for me. There was drift, and I looked for 7/1 about Storm Control and/or Ardera Cross, with both hovering at 13/2.

One bookmaker went 7/1 about Storm Control. There was a man standing looking at the board – was he waiting to do a bet or not? The bookie made eye contact with me. I waited a couple of seconds, and the portly Yorkshireman just continued to stand there gawping at nothing in particular – so I approached the bookie.

“It’s alright, I’m not really standing here waiting, don’t mind me, I’m not really here…”

It seems this great fat lardarse wanted a bet after all. His eyes were only half open – I’m guessing a pint or three had been necked. I stood to the side, the lardarse poked the sleeve of my coat as he went past, he put his tenner on, and then I finally took the 7/1 about Storm Control.

If he’s reading this, look – if you want to have a bet, have a bet. Don’t just stand there holding up the folk behind you. And lay off the drink, chap – you looked a state.

If something like that happens I’m never the same mentally for the rest of the day, but I stuck to my plan and price requirements. Storm Control was collared at the last by The Dubai Way, and Ardera Cross – about whom I also got 7s – was hopeless with four to jump. So nothing doing, and I stayed out of the two-mile handicap hurdle (apart from the faller Master Of Irony, who I backed the night before), which didn’t have anything particularly strong in the market.

You’ll know how the winner of that two-mile handicap hurdle has been getting on  since – it was Cornerstone Lad.

Between races, we saw the Betvictor Gold Cup on the big screen next to the pre-parade ring. More deflation for the soul, after the incident with the lardarse. Happy Diva’s owner also owns Storm Control, so it wasn’t a long way off being a notable double for owner Will Roseff and trainer Kerry Lee.

As for me, the win on Bhutan ensured that it was an up-week, but I had to hide my misery and frustration on the long journey home.

Then the next week, home wasn’t where the heart was.

I’ve read many good books on betting by many respected punters, but none of them ever talked about the one thing I really want to know about so-called professional punters – how they fit the housework in to their busy schedules.

I do my share. I push the Dyson – the Hoover, for folk of a certain age – around the carpets. I dust the TV screens. I change the bed. I’ve got no time for form study, but it’s shoehorned in somehow.

The weekend of the Betfair Chase at Haydock, I also had to help move a washing machine out of the house. Tempers were frayed. I’d already decided I was ‘out’ on the Saturday – making a total mess of Ascot on Friday didn’t help, and no way should I have thought about betting on that, the mood I ended up in. With things having gotten worse and my anxiety levels through the roof, I went AWOL, found a quiet spot next to a pond, and cried.

Newbury and Newcastle the following Saturday were only watched, with no betting. The first Saturday in December I re-started wagering – the annual flop on the Becher Chase at Aintree.

Things weren’t working, and I needed to make them work again. The percentage of races I was winning dipped below 20%, when it should be around or over that.

What about regular each-way betting? The very thing that keeps me afloat at the Cheltenham Festival and Aintree, but I seldom do the rest of the year?

The next time I was ‘in’ was the International Hurdle -card at Cheltenham. The first horse I backed each way was Clondaw Castle in the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup. He was tailed off. The second was that day’s Throwaway Quid-selection, Ballyandy, in the International itself. His fast-finishing second at 25/1 to Call Me Lord meant that I made a profit on the day, without backing a winner.

For me, the objective behind each way is to contain, to flat-line, losses as much as possible. With nothing winning for me in December, that objective at least was achieved. I got place-money back on Turnpike Trip (some firms paid four places even after non-runners on the big handicap hurdle at Ascot), Truckers Lodge and Quarenta, and – in a continuing period during which I didn’t turn up – I didn’t lose that much, whereas if I’d backed the same horses win-only, it would have been a crash.

A period during which I ‘don’t turn up’ is one where I don’t feel me, for whatever reason. A row, an angry or arrogant train passenger, a bad day at work, the Wetherby lardarse – they are examples of things which make me anxious, and if I think about them they might impair my ability to concentrate when I’m in The Engine Room. 

When studying form, there simply isn’t time to do every good handicap – so when the 10/1 winners win races I haven’t worked on it’s like ‘could have been on that’, and when the favourite or second favourite beat mine out of sight in a race in which I’ve gone in mob-handed, well, you can guess the feeling.

Continuing to find every which way of not getting involved in racing at Cheltenham, we went into London for the New Year’s Day Parade. It was on the car-part of the journey that the next mental setback occurred. I drove, and I messed up on a roundabout.

I’ve got limited memory of it, but I’m told that if there’d been more traffic around, I’d have wiped us out. I decided I’d see my doctor as soon as I could after that happened.

I had to wait till January to have one of my horses pass the post in front. It’s unfortunate that neither Mill Green nor Thomas Darby were given as Throwaway Quid-tips, but when you’re tipping horses, that’s the nature of the beast.

Financially, I’m still flat-lining. A disastrous weekday-punt on a Catterick-meeting saw nothing that I backed get even a place, but I’m looking at the bigger picture. From since I started regular each-waying, on the Saturday of the International meeting, to January 22nd when this PLOG was published, I lost only just under 12% of the amount I wagered.

My gut feeling is to continue betting this way. if I continue to contain those losses, then if the winners dry up, I’ll remain afloat – and if I continue to study the way I do, I’ll land on winners soon. 

It’s sometimes not possible to feel any confidence when it goes badly, and the thing is to try and disconnect what you think and feel at any given time when you study, and as much as you can let the horses guide you when you watch their past runs. If a horse runs like it won’t win next time, it shouldn’t be because that’s your gut feeling – it should be because that’s what the horse itself has shown you when you saw it run. Then you factor that in when you price a race up with that horse in it.

Don’t forget, the objective with each way-betting is not to lose as much as you would if you backed everything win only. Memory of the 2016 Cheltenham Festival, when I tried win-only for two days and double-crashed, still lingers. 

Additionally, don’t hold out for a quarter the odds – bookies’ place terms are worsening, so look for the best win odds, not one fifth the first four or whatever.

Christmas has been and gone and the odd jobs have diminished. I’m not free from distractions, but there are fewer of them, and now that it’s mid-January we’ve got jump races at 4:00 or later.

 I’m not so much coming back for more, I just sat at the back every now and again in November and December – not the same as going away. Now I’m strapping myself in at the front.

Although I’m ending this PLOG on an optimistic note, I think I’m noticing something going on with the Saturday betting markets.

Fewer horses than this time last year are turning red on my spreadsheets when I tap the prices in – that means fewer horses are available at 160% of my price, the personal benchmark I set.

I’ll have to monitor that, but one way of looking at it is that it self-regulates the money I’m shelling out on bets. All the same, it suggests that bookies are tightening the markets and pricing things up more in their favour.

It might be that more late bets will end up being made. Two of the winning wagers described above, Bhutan and Mill Green, weren’t part of the plan until between five and ten minutes before the off of their races, at which time they’d drifted to the odds I wanted. These late calls have been the exception up to now, but maybe that’s going to change.

I’ll take the learning from that Ascot Friday-meeting in November when I got reckless, and re-commit to my golden rule. If it isn’t available at 160% of the odds that I’ve set, then it’s no bet.

All that is of no use if I’m not in sufficiently good health, mentally or physically, to take on the challenge.

The doctor sent me for a blood test, and the outcome of that is that I have a Vitamin D-deficiency. A few prescribed pills are the order of the day – actually some days, as I’m not required to take what I apparently need every day.  There’s a follow-up appointment to come.

There have been no more brain-to-body disconnects since that New Year’s Day-drive, so physically I’m most systems go. Mentally I’m good, so even though life will temporarily get the better of me at some point, there’s no reason to pack it in.