SIMON NOTT: They Can’t Help Themselves

Published On November 30, 2017 | Simon Nott

About 10 years ago I was quite excited to get asked to be involved in a ‘coup’. I think most people dream of being on the ‘inside’, being privy to some privileged info and being a ‘sticker on’, I know I was.

This coup was going to be organised like a military operation, all those involved were to be available to receive a text with the horse’s name at a designated time, the beast was to remain a secret until then so no leaks. Once known we were to get a fairly modest (up to) £400 on their personal telephone accounts as they could. The horse we were going to back was expected to be just into double-figures, it was considered a very good thing but given the price we were going to be on each-way, belt and braces in case we ran into one etc.

The designated time of 10.30 was a bit of a pain, I was going to have to stop off on the A303 on the way to Kempton and my mate Andrew, also asked to be involved, was going to have to make excuses during his personal training session. That travel inconvenience and the sacrifice to personal health was going to be worth it though. The guy that contacted us was well-connected and this could be the start of something big in bookie-bashing.

I remember the buzz as I sat there with my phone waiting for the text. I had pre-tested a parking place at the last garage on the A303 before the M3, it had a great signal. Bang on the designated time my phone bleeped, the horse’s name appeared, and I got dialling but was horrified to be told its price was 7/2.

Now what? Did we still have it on? Frantic phone calls ensued, it was advised that we just back it to win. In the end it was all academic, the horse, the name I forget, proved useless, we wouldn’t have copped if we’d been on at 33/1 and the firm paid 10 places.

A year or so later I was having a drink with the well-connected guy that put me in to the coup, that day came up in conversation. When musing about what happened to the expected price he took a swig of his beer and with a bemused look on his face then offered, ‘it was weird, it was 12/1 everywhere when I phoned to have my personal bet at 10am.’

They can’t help themselves, ever, at least the majority of them can’t, gamblers that is.

Imagine another scenario, at a yard anywhere in the country. A group of owners and hangers on are on the gallops or if they are lucky having breakfast. The weather forecast comes on the TV and a deluge is predicted, the trainer just thinking out loud says ‘oh if that’s right So and So won’t be running at the weekend.’ Lightbulbs flash on in the heads of the sharper eavesdroppers, ‘So and So’ is the jolly for the big race on Saturday. If it doesn’t run the second-in is going to be value to back right now.

Before you know it those who can’t help themselves are backing the second-in on their already restricted bookmaker’s account and laying So and So on the exchanges. That done, they then of course tell their mates, because they can’t help themselves and the urge to look like someone in the know or, in other words, Billy Big Bollox to even virtual strangers is irresistible.

The snowball rolls and ultimately and quite rightly questions are asked of the trainer, ‘is there something wrong with So and So?’ The answer is no, and it’s the truthful one, but the Met Office played a blinder, the deluge appears on cue, the trainer withdraws So and So on the eve of the race. The result being punters all over the country are convinced that ‘the game’s bent’, the trainer has a Timeform squiggle, racing’s integrity gets another battering and all because ‘they’ can’t help themselves.

Several years ago there was an interview with a renowned gambling trainer, he was asked what would happen if he found out a member of his staff had talked about one of his horses. His answer was simple, when they next got to the yard they’d find their bags packed and waiting for them outside the door.

It’s not the staff though is it?

It would be an interesting test for a trainer or owner, gather a roomful of ‘trusties’ then offer some (false) sensitive information that must not be repeated. Put the kettle on, then time when the first one nips to the toilet clutching their phone. Go on, I dare you.

Simon Nott




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