It’s March! That can only mean one thing. Cheltenham. The finest festival of jumps horse racing to be staged anywhere in the world.
Not long now until the roar goes up. The one that greets the first race of the festival and vibrates around the rolling hills of the Wiltshire countryside that is home to Prestbury Park, arguably the greatest racecourse of them all.
The pressure is enormous. On trainers, jockeys and us punters. Finer wordsmiths than I have written about the perils and pleasures of punting at Cheltenham. Among them Alastair Down and the late Clement Freud. You’ll soon be able to see what Down has to say about the festival on the homepage of the website www.vgtips.co.uk Be sure to pay a visit to the site on a regular basis. I am constantly adding new articles.
And it’s more important than ever for you to follow me on Twitter (@betonsportstips). Throughout the festival I will be updating information, prices, non-runners and results. It’s always worth you checking what I have to say, live, during the festival.
Those who were following me on Twitter when I got to hear about a major gamble on a horse called Brain Power were in the money. Odds for the horse in the final race at Newcastle on Feb 21st had shrunk from 12/1 to 3/1. That’s when I tweeted the information. I took the 3/1 and Brain Power duly obliged connections, who had clearly backed the horse to win themselves, big style. I don’t often ‘follow the money’ but I had reason to believe that gamble was one worth following.
Don’t be doing that each time you see a price shrink at Cheltenham. Sometimes punters lose their marbles (and much more) at the festival. People back too many horses and often stake greater sums than usual. They get carried away in the hullabaloo. I don’t. I try to employ the same mode of operation as at any other time of the year. Has the horse a good chance of returning us profit? Does the price offer potential value?
I’m hoping for a good festival. None of us can know how we’ll do. It’s tough to find winners. Some punters think they’ve done badly if they haven’t had a winner each day of the four. You haven’t. You’ve likely done as well as most punters. We have to choose between the best of the best thoroughbred horses and the horses have one advantage over us punters. They know if they have woken up in the mood to win.
My usual policy is to mix up the bets. Some short priced selections to win coupled with some big priced each way selections. I most certainly do not bet in every race – and nor should you. Betting too often is a bad idea because, even when you win, you might end up losing overall. And overall is what counts if you want to be a profitable punter, year on year.
Some races at Cheltenham are simply too tough to call. Some races are for watching, not betting in.
In recent history, 2012 was my best year. The winners that year were: – Quevega 4/7, Big Buck’s 5/6, Sprinter Sacre at Evens, Simonsig 3/1, Riverside Theatre 5/1 Brindisi Breeze 12/1 and Une Artiste 40/1.
As the song goes… it was a very good year! 7 winners and I was understandably delighted with the outcome. Especially as there was something at prices to suit all of my followers. Members of VG TIPS vary in their punting tastes. Some like to bet win only, others each way. I’ve always tried to deliver both.
I don’t expect 2012 like profit each year, and nor should you. Racing doesn’t come more competitive than at the Cheltenham festival.
I am currently locked away studying form. Of course, many a horse will be declared a non-runner between now and the off. And the weather forecast suggest drying conditions. Those horses that do best with soft turf underfoot may not be happy, while those who like going on the Good side of soft will benefit should there be little or no rainfall next week.
But you cannot leave Cheltenham Festival form study until the night before racing. There is simply too much to contemplate.
My actual selections will be offered to members, as usual, the day before racing. That’s because I want to know what the going is.
Right now my head is full of facts, figures and quotes. But, so far at least, I am not dreaming about the festival. Sleep is crucial for clear thinking.
I offer members of VG TIPS only one promise. I shall do my best to make it a profitable week for us.
The last three months were just that. From December to the end of February, the profit was £458.38.
Not bad considering January was a horrible month. The last week of that month was a nightmare. One of those weeks when I should have simply said to members: ‘Forget it, the racing is rubbish.’
Instead I felt duty bound to offer paying members tips, and I tipped rubbish. And yet we still managed to make a small profit in January. Things improved considerably in February with overall profit of just under £200.
I know that some people want to make that sum every day of the week. Not every month. But my service is not designed for high rollers, the people you see going up to a bookie at the racecourse and putting thousands of pounds on a horse. Those people can look after themselves (or not as the case may be!)
My selection service is aimed at those who like a flutter, but are not trying to make a million overnight in the hope that they can tell the boss to stuff his job. It’s for people who have realistic targets. They know not to bet sums they can afford to lose, appreciate that racehorses are animals and not machines and all they want to do is make an additional income over the year (regardless of how much or little they bet with) and have fun doing so.
For months I have been slightly misquoting my one time television colleague Clement Freud. A very keen punter indeed, Clement lost plenty of money on the horses. But he did once write the most apposite summary of life as a punter. I now quote him accurately and in full. He said:
“The criterion for whether or not one should embark on a gambler’s life is, simply: do you mind losing more than you enjoy winning? If the answer is in the affirmative, find another hobby.”
Remember that quote.
Enjoy punting. Take defeat on the chin. Run around the room celebrating when you win.
I’m not here to encourage people to bet with sums they can’t afford to lose, or to harm their personal lives through betting. Indeed, I aim to do the opposite.
I began betting on racing and football using very small stakes. My mission was to see if I was as good at it when the money was down as when I played simply for fun. If you are starting out as a punter today, you should do the same. Be a patient punter.
Punting can drive you bonkers. Studying race form for hour upon hour will one day lead to the men in white coats coming to fetch me. Hopefully not before next week!
When you back a loser or have a bad run – as all punters and tipsters do (whatever some may tell you), then you have to pick yourself up off the floor, dust yourself off and start all over again. No bad run lasts forever even if, at the time, it feels like it will. If it all gets too much for you mentally, walk away from punting for a while, clear your head and come back to it fresh, days or weeks later.
Some members of VG TIPS make more money each year than others. How do they do that?
Well it’s not just because they bet with bigger stakes. It is because they don’t bet on every selection I offer. They pick and choose. They read what I have to say about each racing or football selection, try to gauge my confidence, perhaps do some of their own research or check what other tipsters have to say about the same event. Often, when a few voices are in agreement, that’s the time to be on. You should take on board the opinions of others. The punters who have been there and done it over a period of time. Not those who charge an absolute fortune for tips or who, like Debbie Harry, leave you hanging on a telephone! Some of the best punters on Twitter are those who tweet their fancies free of charge.
I offer members a more in depth service. And one that offers much more than tips. The £10 a month service charge imposed by me is a reflection of the work I put in. I don’t happen to believe anyone should work as hard as I do for nothing. You wouldn’t, and nor should you.
I try to guide people on the path to profitable punting each and every year. Teach them vital do’s and don’ts, whether that is in writing or via instructional videos. VG TIPS is a sharing experience. It’s about teamwork. We all want to deprive the bookie of some funds, so let’s do it together. The token sum of £10 is a membership fee. Like any other service as detailed as mine, you should expect to pay for it. Believe me when I tell you that you can readily pay a whole lot more for much less. But please, I beg you, do not!
Over many years now what I have enjoyed most is when members take note of the analysis, make their own decisions and then get back to me to tell me what they did and how they won.
I don’t like change. I wish the racing on offer all week long was as good as I recall it being between 5 and 10 years ago. I wish betting on football was as predictable as it was a few years ago. Today it seems that any team can beat any other.
But change comes and it is the job of tipsters and punters to notice the changes and react to them. To move with the times, even if we don’t like the changes we see. The big bookmakers pull the strings of the British Horseracing Authority and we have too much racing and too much of it is low grade. But as those bookies now based in Gibraltar run the sport, that’s not going to change. Those who campaign for less racing, but better racing, are blowing in the wind. It won’t happen.
I have looked back over recent years. I have seen that Tuesday is the new Monday when it comes to the worst day of racing on offer. All our gems are now laid out to race on a Saturday. The dross sent out in the first half of the week. I’ve even seen poor racing on a Friday.
My service is as much about telling members when not to bet as it is about suggesting when they do. There have been days, too many, in the past couple of years when I should have bitten the bullet and said to members: ‘Sorry, but there is simply nothing worth betting on.’ Instead I have tried to find something worth backing when, frankly, there was nothing worth backing.
Yes, members pay a monthly fee to receive racing and football tips. But what if there is a day of racing when I decide there is nothing worth backing? Those days when there are races full of horses that will never win a race, or only win the once. Races which, if you staged the same race again a week later, the outcome would be totally different.
What’s the point of getting involved in a race that bad, that unpredictable? I would maintain there is no point, other than funding the bookies. And we don’t want to be doing that.
All year round I will now be offering selections on a minimum of four days of the week. During the jumps season (in winter) that will be between Wednesday and Saturday (inclusive) each week. Of course, when there is a special event that starts on a Tuesday (such as Cheltenham), I will be offering selections on those days. And also when there is a quality Sunday meeting, especially in Ireland.
If racing on a Wednesday is rubbish, but there are good meetings on a Sunday, then I will swap a Sunday for a Wednesday. In short, I will offer members of VG TIPS racing selections on days when I judge there to be something worth backing. And not selections for the sake of it at race meetings that exist only for the bookmakers.
During the flat season there will always be selections between Thursday and Saturday (inclusive). I will keep an open mind as to the fourth day. Monday nights at Windsor in summer can be profitable (at least until jockey Richard Hughes retires). But I will judge the other day(s) of selections during the fla season based on the quality of the racing on offer.
4 days will be the minimum. On some busy weeks of top quality racing, I’ll be back to offering selections on 5 or 6 days of the week. But never 7. I need at least one day off to remain sane!
Speaking of which, in another development that will shock the world, I will – for the first time since the end of 2003 – be taking some holiday this year. I need it. I’m no good to you if I’m burnt out. We all need a break from our work and it is nothing short of crazy that I have gone 12 years without a holiday.
But, as ever, I will put members of VG TIPS first. They will be informed well in advance when I am taking time off and the expiry date of their membership will be extended to ensure they do not lose out.
That’s what I do. I have spent years working hard, learning how to beat the bookie each year. Not for a day, or a month. But each year since 1998. All I try to do is help others achieve precisely that.
If you wish to become a member of VG TIPS please sign up here
Putting the boot in
Certain football teams have done well for members of late.
Trying to spot when the bookies have marked up a football team or a horse at a price that is bigger than it should be is something I am well practised at. True, bookies are more cautious these days and horses that were once priced at 3/1 to win a race might today be 2/1 or less to win the same race. That is chiefly due to the proliferation of small field races.
When it comes to the football, bookies can still get prices wrong. In February I told members to back Bradford City to win again for us in the FA Cup. They took another Premier League scalp when they beat out of form Sunderland at odds of 29/10.
And what were the bookies thinking of when they priced up the game between Leyton Orient and Notts County? At that time Orient were in freefall and could not buy a win. Notts County were no great shakes themselves, but the price differential between the pair was too vast. Orient were odds on while County were priced at 4/1 to win. I made that my flyer bet of the week and members were duly paid out when Notts County won.
When certain strikers are scoring goals regularly, that’s the time to back them. Tottenham’s Harry Kane has been good news for punters of late. And bookies were slow to wake up to West Brom signing Brown Ideye. They likely hadn’t heard of him so didn’t know that he could take the step up to the Premier League in his stride. I suggested to members they back him to score anytime in two of his early matches for the Baggies. He duly obliged at good odds.
I’m still waiting for a big pay out via a 2015 accumulator. The one that got away most recently, at odds of 35/1, went down because one team failed to score one goal. That was hard to take. But I’m hopeful that we’ll have another winning acca before the season is out.
Don’t forget that members and non members alike can read articles on the homepage of the website and can also watch my on camera interviews with jockeys, trainers, bookies, ex footballers, the authors of sports books and other fascinating folk, via the On Camera section of the website, or via my channels at You Tube and Vimeo. There are social media links on the website.
You can register FREE at the website as a ‘Have Your Say’ member and that allows you to leave comments about my posts or interviews, such as this recent one with independent bookie Geoff Banks
I was fascinated to find out what it costs for a bookie to set up on a racecourse and how much they pay to the government for the privilege of so doing.
You can turn up to race meetings these days and see no independent bookies. Only the big boys. Another ingredient of the sport of Kings is under threat. I hope I don’t live to see the end of the on course bookie, or the day when the only way you can place a bet is via a mobile telephone or a computer.
Racing needs independent bookies and it needs us, the often overlooked and ignored punters. We have a voice. Those who are charged with protecting the future of the sport forget that at their peril.
Don’t forget to sign up as a member of VG TIPS if you want to receive the analysis and selections for the Cheltenham Festival, and for the football tips as the season comes to a boil. The VG TIPS selection service is available to all for just £10 a month, or £100 for 12 months.
As when deciding where to place your bets, the choice is yours!
Be lucky everyone!