Clive has fun...at the races
PUBLISHED: 10:04 21 March 2012 | UPDATED: 19:41 20 February 2013
In what we hope is not a worrying trend, Clive Agran has turned to gambling again, this time at the races. Find out how he got on at Goodwood
THERE is, I believe, money to be made out of horse racing. You can, for example, generate huge sums by purchasing a yearling (the unimaginative name for a one-year-old horse), having it trained to run so fast that it wins, say, the Derby and then selling it for upwards of 10m to a stud farm somewhere in Ireland. The only slight snags are that a decent yearling costs upwards of 100,000, the training fees will set you back several hundred pounds a week and the chances are your horse will never make it to the track let alone win a classic.
Its often said that the only consistent winners are the bookies. But to be a bookmaker you have to be prepared to stand around in all weathers, wave your arms around like an octopus falling out of a tree and literally shout the odds in an unselfconscious and incoherent way. Although I could possibly manage all that, the arithmetic of how much to pay a punter who had 2.50 each way on an 11/4 winner is about one-and-a-half furlongs beyond me.
How about riding for a living? Jockeys pick up over 100 a time plus a percentage of the prize money. Top jocks are millionaires, fly around the world in private jets and have an enviable lifestyle. However, even if I learned to ride there remains the tricky and sensitive weight issue. At a tad over 13 stone, I would have to shed roughly five stone, spend hours every day in a sauna and live on fresh air and water. Jump jockeys weigh more but end up in hospital, which appeals even less than crash dieting.
The only remaining moneymaking option for an impoverished, innumerate and overweight individual like me, therefore, is to become a successful punter. And thats why Ive come to Goodwood for an afternoons horseracing.
Just the short stroll from the car park to the grandstand is sufficient to convince me that the glorious tag that is frequently attached to Goodwood is thoroughly merited as the views are simply er, glorious.
I havent picked the best of days as its drizzly but lets hope I can pick a few winners.
Because I know less about horses than I do the whereabouts of Lord Lucan I meet Nick, an old journalist friend who used to write for a rather esoteric publication called Thoroughbred Owner and Breeder and is consequently hugely knowledgeable about matters equestrian. Leaning against the paddock rail as the seven runners in the Irish Stallion Farms EBF Maiden Fillies Stakes walk round, he asks me if I know about confirmation. Its nothing to do with religion, apparently, but is all about a horses build. Having scrutinised the fillies carefully, Nick declares that he fancies Glee. Do you like her confirmation? I ask. Not especially. Shes trained by Richard Hannon and I think I saw her horsebox as I came in, which is usually a good sign. So much for expertise!
Evidently, a lot of punters must have seen the horsebox as Glee is the red-hot favourite at nine to four on, which means you have to bet 9 to make a 4 profit. Ignoring Nicks cautionary advice that Godolfin isnt known for his sprinters, (what is he known for?) I lump 5 on the second favourite, Falls of Lora, at nine to two. Despite being trained by Godolfin, Falls of Lora takes the lead as they enter the final furlong and, just as Im struggling to work out what four-and-a-half times five is, Glee sneaks through on the rails and pips mine at the post. Never mind, its an encouraging start.
The second is what is called a handicap race, which means the better horses have to carry more weight. Although I have egalitarian leanings, this nevertheless strikes me as a disincentive to improve. But Im here to make money not further a political agenda. The legendary Frankie Dettori rode Falls of Lora and in this race hes on Club Oceanic. Although I dont blame him for our defeat in the first, I wonder if hes just having an off day and so put my fiver on the top-weighted Askaud. If you really want to know why, its because I went to a school called Haberdashers Askes. The school wasnt especially famous for its runners and Askaud would have fitted in very well as he trails in some way behind the winner, Club Oceanic. So Frankie Dettori, who rode his first ever winner in Britain here in 1987, isnt having an off day after all, but perhaps I am.
Studying the runners in the paddock for the third race, Nick explains something I had always wanted to know but didnt know who to ask. Although I have always understood that a sheepskin noseband encourages a horse to keep its head down so that it can see, whats the point in those fluffy bits of material known as cheek pieces that are attached either side of a horses head? Are they more than merely a fashion statement? By reducing peripheral vision, they lessen the likelihood of a horse being distracted by other horses running alongside it, Nick explains. My selection, Poplin, isnt distracted by the three horses that thunder past but continues at her own un-electrifying pace to finish fourth. Her owners, the Fittocks Stud, whoever they are, pick up 1431 in prize money whereas I collect nothing again!
Despite being favourite, Dazinski fails to dazzle in the fourth but I draw some consolation from the fact that I backed him at five to two whereas he started at two to one. Nick is singularly unimpressed by this achievement and leaves to go and pick up his children from school.
Will my luck change now that Im on my own? The short answer is no as Badeel can only manage fifth in the 4.20, which is even worse that it sounds as there are only five runners. The sixth race, however, presents what I believe is my very best opportunity so far. Born on the twelfth day of the twelfth month, I have always had faith in the mystical power of the number 12. Because the fields so far have been rather small, Ive not yet had the opportunity to put money on a 12 but I have now. Owned by Sheikh Mohammed Obaid Al Maktoum, Mundana has never run before. Although that doesnt really bother me, it does perhaps go some way to explaining why she seems unprepared for the start and tumbles out of the stalls some way behind the other 14 runners. As the race is a seven furlong sprint, jockey Kieren Fallon cant afford to wait too long to make up ground and quickly sets about catching the others. By the time they reach the furlong poll, she is closing rapidly on the leader. I yell, she lunges and we are beaten by a neck.
Normally, there are only six races and ordinarily I would be obliged to go home now nursing a 30 hole in my wallet. Miraculously, theres a seventh race and Ive one last chance to salvage the situation and convince the Editor to engage my services as this magazines racing tipster.
Theres a pretty lady jockey called Leona Mayor on board Six Wives in the last that I decide to back but, just as Im about to walk away from the paddock, a bay filly called Black Baccara winks at me. Since Leona doesnt wink at me, I decide to switch my final bet to Black Baccara, which rears up at the start and never gets closer than about 50 yards to the easy winner, Six Wives.
Next time Ill try and remember to bring my lucky jacket and tie.