GBS had it right when he opined that gambling “is an activity whereby you get nothing for something”. Most gamblers will agree, if they are honest, that in the long term they lose. Of all forms of gambling, roulette is the most foolish and random, but horse racing comes pretty close. Predicting the antics of a horse on any given day is fraught with risk, not to mind divining the intentions of trainers, jockeys, and owners. Throw in the slings and arrows of the average race and the most careful scrutiny of the form book is no recipe for even fleeting success. I know all this and more and yet I still like to have a bet, at least once a week – usually on Saturday when there’s more choice and the races are televised. I’ve been doing it since I was 15 years old and even managed to sustain the habit while living in Germany and the Middle East – through online accounts. You go through winning streaks and prolonged losing runs but it only takes the occasional day like last Saturday to keep you at it.
I like to bet in the bigger races as the horses are more likely to run on their merits rather than save themselves for better handicap ratings. And last Saturday the Hennessy Gold Cup, one of the top steeplechases of the year, caught my eye. I never back favourites and always look for value for money – a horse on offer at a higher price than you expected. David Pipe’s horses have been out of sorts so far this season but early on Saturday he had a couple of winners at lowly Towcester – an indicator that the stable may be coming back into form. He had a horse in the Hennessy called Madison du Berlais who had run creditably in the race last year – always a good indicator – and seemed very overpriced at 66-1. Also, his trainer had expressed satisfaction at some work he’d done earlier in the week. He could easily sneak a place I thought so I stuck €50 on him (€25 each way). He was in the first two or three for most of the race, sticking to the inside and jumping neatly. A couple of fences out he was joined by a couple of the fancied horses but he out jumped them over the last two fences and stayed on gamely to win by a couple of lengths.