“I think betting has changed massively” says the one time legend of the racecourse betting ring that is Harry Findlay. He’s right there, writes Vernon Grant.
Harry has long been a high rolling punter. That’s not for me. I am an advocate of betting within your means. Harry has always had a bigger pot to bet with than I ever will. Thankfully. I have never envied his big bets. I did envy him owning one of my favourite racehorses of all time, Denman. A true great.
His book, written in conjunction with the experienced sports journalist Neil Harman, is a rollicking good read. Be sure to buy it for yourself or a loved one. It’s an ideal birthday or Christmas gift.
Adapting to a changing betting market is something all us punters have to do. I am constantly telling subscribers to my VG Tips selections service that bookies have grown meaner in recent years. Bookies call it being “more cautious.”
Accordingly, all punters have to adjust the way they bet accordingly. Harry Findlay was always a keen odds on backer. He never believed the old maxim that it is the fastest way to the poor house. He thought quite the opposite. But then he would bet odds on with huge sums of money.
As he says in the fascinating on camera interview you can watch below, any attraction the odds on betting market may have offered when it comes to horse racing went with the mighty Frankel. He still bets on horse racing, but less often than he used to. He is more selective with his betting than in those heady days when he became famous for landing big bets.
He lost millions betting on the All Blacks to win the Rugby World Cup in 2007. He wagered £2.5 million on New Zealand. Although they were leading 13-3 at half time, Findlay was worried that opponents France would fight back. Before the second half began he went for a fag. He told Donald McRae of The Guardian: “That gave me time to think I had better cover myself.”
So Harry placed another bet. This time he backed France to such an extent that had New Zealand won, it would have cost him £18.000. Doing that reduced his losses on the eventual New Zealand defeat from £2.5 million to £1.9 million.
“It’s just how it was. It was a big fuck up – but these things happen.”
Only a man who could afford to lose that much money gambling could have such a phlegmatic response. But could he afford to? His next big loss came when there was no match or race taking place. He lost £1.7 million pounds trying to establish Coventry Stadium as the centre of greyhound racing, a sport he has loved since he was a nipper. “The sport was run so badly” he told Donald McRae. “I thought it was my destiny to save it. I’d lost the family everything and put £1.7m down the drain. I didn’t have the train fare to see my mum and had a bit of a breakdown.”
Total financial ruin for him and his family was only avoided thanks to a big winning bet on Australia National Rugby League. In 2014 he backed South Sydney Rabbitohs to win the NRL. Plucky considering that the Rabbitohs had not won the league since 1971. Findlay placed everything he owned on them becoming champions. They did.
His own stakes have shrunk considerably but, thanks to his partnership with Glenn Gill – who Harry labels “the best horse judge I’ve ever met” – he won over £250.000 using what Harry calls small stakes. His idea of small stakes is different from mine.
He says: “I’ve wagered £30.000 on Melbourne Storm winning the NRL this year. That would make me £43.500 which, apart from backing Mayweather against McGregor, is three times bigger than any bet I’ve had the last year.”
Mellbourne Storm play the Sydney Roosters in the grand final on Sunday September 30th at 7.20pm in Australia.
Harry and I are worlds apart when it comes to how much money we bet with. But we agree that betting has changed massively in the past ten years. Especially so when it comes to horse racing.