For almost forty years I was an avid fan of British Horse Racing. I loved the analytical challenge of studying form and I built up an extensive knowledge of stables and race patterns. I had a local bookmaker and for over twenty years I patronised his shop. My method was quite simple I only ever bet one horse to win. I refused to countenance multiple bets because it was always difficult to find one winner never mind any more.
My theory was that if I backed three horses a day I should be able to get at least one winner and the method worked for almost twenty years. It certainly kept me in beer vouchers and limited my losses.
In the last ten years, certainly since the introduction of the all weather tracks, form has become very unpredictable. Some of the results were astonishing and the riding tactics of many of the riders became bizarre. Don't get me wrong I do not mind trainers disguising the ability of their horse, because part of the fun was uncovering the true ability of a handicapped horse, but these people were blatantly cheating.
They have had enquiries and exposures and temporary bans but still the same suspects are allowed to practice their black arts. I once saw top jockey Keiron Fallon lead a race by 15 lengths turning into the home straight before he looked behind him. When he saw the favourite so far behind he stopped riding and allowed the favourite to pip him on the post. It was dreadful and was later investigated but he is still riding today. I am not passing judgement but it looked really suspicious.
In my opinion my bookie cheated me out of £7.50 and that was the catalyst for me to walk away from the sport. It was not just the paltry sum but I had become disillusioned with riding tactics, trainers withdrawing horses at short notice, the manipulation of starting prices and nonsensical form.
Since I had my last bet we have had the Frankie Dettori suspension for failing a drug test and now the scandal involving Mohammed al Zarooni trainer for Sheik Mohammed ruler of Dubai. It would appear that the trainer was routinely doping the Sheik's horses and got caught. Somebody knew something but it wasn't the boss!
Of course it is all down to the trainer. Nobody else in Godolphin (the name of Sheik Mohammed's racing organisation) knew anything! The Sheik is mortified. He would not do such a thing. Well OK he does have a lot of money which he ploughs into British racing but did I not read that in 2009 HE himself was banned for 6 months after a horse that he was riding in an endurance event failed a dope test! It kind of shakes your faith in the great and the good doesn't it?