MARK CO­TON

Mark won­ders why the book­ies even bother with their token de­mand to stop when the fun stops

Racing Ahead - - CONTENTS -

More ma­ture mus­ings on the bet­ting game from our colum­nist

12 SEPTEM­BER

It is un­clear if the gam­bling in­dus­try ever pos­sessed a moral com­pass but, if it did, it has long since been dis­carded.

Fully aware at all times of the po­tency of the nar­cotic it has been al­lowed to un­leash on an un­sus­pect­ing pub­lic, it has yet man­aged to fleece a large sec­tion of the po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment into be­liev­ing it clutches val­ues of bal­ance and re­spon­si­bil­ity close to its com­pas­sion­ate heart, a claim so pal­pa­bly, so lu­di­crously, false that it de­fies credulity that any­body of even the most ba­sic in­tel­li­gence and so­cial aware­ness could pos­si­bly have been taken in.

“When the fun stops STOP.”

A fine-sound­ing sen­ti­ment, at least within the con­fines of the PR de­part­ment from which it is­sued, yet in truth one as du­plic­i­tous as it is triv­ial, as any­body with hard-earned ex­pe­ri­ence in the field could tes­tify.

Al­most all re­search ever car­ried out into gam­bling ad­dic­tion re­veals that once the ini­tial buzz, or fun, has worn off, a cer­tain num­ber of peo­ple are un­able to stop, as if an en­emy has per­ma­nently in­stalled it­self in­side them.

Even those for­tu­nate enough to evade ad­dic­tion will be aware of the de­gree to which the urge re­sides “in the blood”, some­times with the force of a wild and run­away horse.

The book­mak­ers and their rep­re­sen­ta­tives are aware of this, yet con­tinue to per­sist with “re­spon­si­ble gam­bling” ini­tia­tives, as if that wild and run­away horse can not only be led qui­etly to wa­ter, but in­duced to drink its fill there.

13 SEPTEM­BER

When in doubt, pun­dits might re­veal that their mind is lean­ing them one way and their heart the other.

Yet how many of us are apt to de­cide from out­side these ju­ris­dic­tions? Away from gut feel­ing? Or idle fan­cies? Af­ter all, when it comes to re­view­ing the day’s busi­ness, how many times have we

asked our­selves “where did that come from?”

20 SEPTEM­BER

When a head­line on the BBC sport web­site in­formed us that a book­maker had quoted a dead foot­baller among con­tenders for the Birm­ing­ham City man­ager's job, there was no start­ing price re­turned that the cul­prit would be Paddy Power.

Ugo Ehiogu suf­fered car­diac ar­rest and died trag­i­cally in April this year.

He was 66-1 in the Paddy Power list, a few places above Ozzy Os­bourne.

The firm have apol­o­gised for mak­ing a “gen­uine mis­take”, leav­ing us to re­flect on whether this lat­est em­bar­rass­ment might lead to a re­think of the firm’s puerile pub­lic­ity strat­egy.

A day later Lad­brokes pub­lished a tweet taunt­ing Burn­ley fans af­ter their Carabao Cup de­feat to Leeds.

It so hap­pens that Lad­brokes are one of Burn­ley’s com­mer­cial spon­sors, leav­ing the firm in need an ur­gent apol­ogy.

This can stand as an ad­vanced epi­taph for an era, hope­fully soon to close: “It was only in­tended to be a bit of fun but failed in that re­gard.”

26 SEPTEM­BER

The first meet­ing of the sea­son at War­wick.

It’s jumps-only here now, leav­ing a few of us mildly nos­tal­gic for the ea­gerly con­tested sell­ing hand­i­cap over a mile on Easter Mon­day, where the plots would have the book­ies swat­ting away chalk­marked prices faster than a flurry of hor­nets, and for the War­wick Oaks, which Henry and the Ma­jor might be tar­get­ing with one which hadn’t quite made the grade at the big­ger tracks.

War­wick can more than hold its own over jumps, where the five fences down the back straight pro­vide a fine spec­ta­cle and a good test on the win­ter ground, though the weather to­day leaves more than a trace of sum­mer in the air, and a re­minder that there are few more pleas­ant places than a race­track to spend a quiet af­ter­noon in the sun­shine. Or not so quiet, as the case may be. A reg­u­lar has one lined up for the first at Ling­field, and prob­a­bly at Bev­er­ley, too, al­lied to in­ten­tions to wade into the odds- on shot of Skelton’s in the first here, which surely can’t be beaten, un­less the sec­ond favourite is a lot bet­ter than it looks on pa­per.

Of­fer to stroll to the pre-pad­dock to take a look at this po­ten­tial dan­ger, though whether the eye will be in af­ter all these years is a moot point.

Make a few notes, as if I know what I’m talk­ing about, and look­ing at, be­fore re­turn­ing to in­form the as­sem­bled com­pany I think the favourite will win, which it does, solidly enough, to the re­lief of those who played and missed in that first race at Ling­field, and needed to strike one clean to the bound­ary to set­tle the nerves.

Still go­ing on, all of it, af­ter all these years, though I’m more of an um­pire my­self these days, anx­iously check­ing the coun­ters in the pocket on the stroll to square leg, won­der­ing if that ap­peal to back a 7-1 shot in the 2m3f mares’ hand­i­cap hur­dle (4.05) was un­duly spec­u­la­tive and ought not to have been an­swered in the af­fir­ma­tive.

It leads two out, hits the last hard and can’t quite get up again on the run-in.

The win­ner, Rebel Yeats, was the first un­der rules for jockey Ed­ward Austin, who can de­rive con­sid­er­able sat­is­fac­tion from the man­ner in which he or­gan­ised his mount to beat the al­ready-lauded con­di­tional James Bowen in the tight fin­ish.

Some­body al­ways com­ing through, lay­ing down mark­ers in the ex­ter­nal world, where it tots up for real, and ac­crues con­se­quence.

Or karma, as the In­di­ans would ob­serve, prob­a­bly with a be­mused if not crit­i­cal eye on that in­ter­est in the 7-1 shot. On the ab­sence of the each-way. You keep go­ing. What al­ter­na­tive is there?

1 OC­TO­BER

A de­serted book­ies, late af­ter­noon.

Ap­par­ently there were a few in for the Arc ear­lier and to bet on the foot­ball, then it dried up.

Even one of the ma­chines has given up the ghost in a cor­ner.

A life spent in or close to the bet­ting game can stand as ev­i­dence that, of the many out­comes it can yield, a set­tled sense of hap­pi­ness isn’t one of them.

Of course there is the “buzz”, a dif­fer­ent mode of arousal and ag­i­ta­tion al­to­gether, of which I have never been greatly fond, and al­ways wary, though, as Jef­frey Bernard once ob­served, af­ter you have gam­bled more than you can sen­si­bly af­ford to lose on an event of un­cer­tain out­come it is very dif­fi­cult to get ex­cited about any­thing else.

And still some­times that sense of shame on meet­ing an ac­quain­tance shortly af­ter leav­ing a bet­ting shop.

You may not be­lieve you are be­ing taken for a mug, or wil­ing away your pre­cious ex­is­tence in an idle and ir­re­spon­si­ble man­ner, but oth­ers might since, af­ter all, as Bernard also ob­served, the first ques­tion to sur­face in the mind of the com­mit­ted punter, is “might I be able to win enough here to avoid ac­tual work?”

8 OC­TO­BER

Worth pay­ing note to the 2m novices hur­dle at Ut­tox­eter to­day (2.25).

The race was won in tidy style by the ex­pen­sive pur­chase Palmers Hill, who looks the type to hold his own in bet­ter com­pany in due course, but the eye was also drawn to the ef­fi­cient jump­ing of the sec­ond home Enola Gay, who will surely be winning soon.

From a fine sta­ble typ­i­cally yet to find its stride, Enola Gay is a lightly-raced French im­port who couldn’t do him­self jus­tice on his Bri­tish de­but at New­bury last De­cem­ber.

He shaped as if he might get a lit­tle fur­ther here, though there wouldn't be any press­ing need to switch from two miles at his stage.

One to fol­low.

Jef­frey Bernard

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