Cleaned myself: 0
Monkey see, monkey do: 0
Believe in God? Y
I need to say this. It’s boring and it’s self-indulgent, but I want to get it out; flush it out of my system like my own personal McAtharthistic which hunt – oh Jesus, all this diary keeping has turned me into a punning chic-lit monster. I’ve got hundreds of similar stories and I’m putting up one as a totem to see if I can rid myself of its torment by writing it down. Not so much a trouble shared, more the hopelessness of despair that makes you say things out loud just in case you’ll find an empathetic echo out there, who’ll say, ‘I know what that’s like,’ or better still, ‘I’m really smart and I know exactly why you did that – you are shrewd, and yes, you were right, that shouldn’t have happened.’ That sort of thing.
It’s over a week before the Derby and in a decimated season only one real Derby trial has been run, and the winner of it is now clear favourite. Kameko, the 2000 Guineas winner, who won’t stay, is second fav, and a slew of Aiden O’Brien’s, who normally runs four or five in the race, and wins it often, occupy the next best in the market. Of his, these few higher in the betting have already run this season and their credentials are not obvious. So, I decide to trawl through all the other horses @250/1 and above, who have either won something of a race that might resemble a Derby trial, together with all those of Aiden O’Brien’s, who have run once or twice, and who have a pedigree that can win the Derby. At the end of the exercise I’ve backed about sixteen horses, generally to no more than £5, at odds from 250/1 to 1000/1. Most won’t run in the Derby but one or two might and that’s all I need.
The next day it’s the Irish Derby, and some of mine are running in that. A week between races makes it unlikely that any of them will run again, but one, Dawn Patrol, is held up in last, and with no effort at all, is suddenly in the race three furlongs out. He runs into the back of a wall of horses, and has nowhere to go. Too late, his jockey pulls him out, and without any hard riding, he flies and finishes a fast finishing third to stablemates in first and second. Suddenly, all my hopes are on Dawn Patrol, who I’ve backed at 850/1; he hasn’t had a hard race and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t turn out again next week. He’d be a short price if he did. I keep my eyes peeled on the market and the press, looking for clues that he might run. And by the time Monday comes, the day on which the entries will be made, not only is he down to about 16/1, but Aiden has said that there is nothing in principle to prevent any of his horses from running again at Epsom next weekend. I will have an 850/1 chance, going off at about 10/1 on Saturday, plus four or five others that Aiden rates much higher than their public form to date, and who might, in other years, have won the various Derby trials that have been cancelled this spring. I need to canny – I’ve been here before. Last year I backed King of Change at 1000/1 to win the Guineas a month before the race. He came second, but he never looked like winning at any stage and I got precisely nothing out of the bet.
Monday afternoon comes and Dawn Patrol isn’t running. What is worse is that my five or six other potential participants are whittled down to no more than two: Amhran Na Bhfiann, of Aiden O’Brien’s, and Khalifa Sat, of elsewhere. The first is still a maiden and remains at 66/1+ in the betting, and the second has won a lesser Derby trial but drifts from 33/1 when the entries are known. At least I have them backed them at 650/1 and 275/1. The worst news though was that Aiden has entered a previously unconsidered horse, Serpentine, who now trades at 33/1. He was 1000/1 a few days earlier when I was doing my research. He ran in a maiden on Irish Derby day and won by nine lengths, before that, he had no form, and I ruled him out on that, and the unlikelihood of his running. He fitted the criteria on which I’d backed sixteen other horses at massive odds. But him, no, for some reason he was overlooked.
You know where this is going, even if you don’t know the result already. Come Saturday, I still couldn’t find a good reason to bet any of the horses at the head of the market, and so I merely added Serpentine at 30/1 for small stakes, begrudgingly albeit having missed the 1000s, to my other two selections. Serpentine set off in front and was never headed, Khalifa Sat and Amhran Na Bhfiann kept closest to him throughout the race and finished second and third.
With two furlongs to go I experienced that warm feeling that only gamblers know, when I knew that I couldn’t lose and it only remained to be settled exactly how much I would win. Even after the race, though I’d have rather had the second or third overhaul the winner, I was tolerably satisfied with the outcome. But, and this is a feeling I associate with gambling too – though perhaps this one’s a little more personal – confined to that sub group of recidivist gamblers like me – before the feeling of tolerable satisfaction has settled into a permanent mood, the moment stops, and I start to think how the outcome could have been better. Yes, I should have won £5,000 not a few hundred, what have I got to celebrate? Then I recall: before the race I’d thought to myself that I should put the horses in a small stakes tricast – I mean, why not? I often did these bets. I remember specifically thinking that I if I did, I should put the fav in with them, and perhaps the second fav in case he stayed – I didn’t think they’d win, but could I honestly say that they wouldn’t get in the frame? I remember working out how many perms that would mean: 5 horses in a tricast = 60 bets; 6 horses = 120; 3 horses = 6. I didn’t do it. Then I came back to the idea a little while later, just before the off, when I was checking Serpentine’s odds. I thought no more of it until five minutes after the race. Then they announced the dividend on TV. The tricast paid 56,000/1. A stake of £6 would have yielded a return of £56,000.00.
Had I treated Serpentine like all the other sixteen horses I backed, I’d have a nice little buffer of £5k, instead of the few hundred I did make; had I done the tricast, I’d have taken myself into the realms of new internments, with rent paid on a nice apartment nearby. I’d have re-entered life. Joy, turns to tolerable satisfaction, turns to despair as realisation of habitual idiocy dawns.
I am not saying that there is a relationship between the Almighty and me that is played out through the medium of gambling. Well not until tomorrow I’m not, when I’ll tell you about VAR and betting on football – and by the way, when I do, that’s it! No more talk of such low things, as I say, a totem by which I might judge its efficacy as an aid to mental wellness. Not until the next time anyway.
It’s the thing that nobody gets about God, She’s a prick teaser.