LOOK SHARPE

AUTHOR: Lewis Williams

LOOK SHARPE: Greatest Derby Loser & Greatest Punters’ Friend

Sports betting PR legend GRAHAM SHARPE brings you his latest ‘LOOK SHARPE’ column…

Shortly after The Derby was run and the City Of Troy fan-club members were lording it over we mugs who’d been foolish enough to believe that that horse’s abysmal 2000 Guineas run had been an indication of his true ability, I noticed an online query asking people on X/Twitter to vote for the best horse ever to run in the Derby without winning it.

I needed no second asking and instantly entered my nomination.

The most popular choices appeared to be the likes of: Hawk Wing, Dancing Brave, El Gran Senor; Rheingold; Lyphard; Ballymoss, etc. All very worthy nominations, of course.

However, there was sparse support – I only saw one other person even give him a passing mention – for my own selection – the wonderful, characterful, unparalleled, superb Sea Pigeon. Okay, he finished a lowly-ish 7th in the 1973 Derby, but during a lengthy racing career which lasted from 1972 until 1981 he competed in eighty-five races, and won thirty-seven times – twice winning the Champion Hurdle, twice the Scottish version of same, along with an Ebor and a Chester Cup.

I won’t be changing my vote for him as The Greatest – which was, of course, also the self-awarded nickname of undoubtedly the finest boxer of all time – Muhammad Ali. It was one of the greatest moments of my life (and, ultimately sadly, some of the worst in his) to witness what was happening live over in Zaire in October, 1974, from the warmth of a London cinema in the early hours of an English morning as Ali deliberately took an inhuman amount of punishment in order to allow his opponent, George Foreman, definitely one of the hardest punchers of all, to punch himself out after eight rounds, allowing ‘The Greatest’ sensationally coming off the ropes to demolish his rival, in the process landing my string of 4/1 bets.

The greatest footballer? Another easy one, as I am restricting my selection to those I have seen playing in the flesh – which did make Ross Barkley, who was superb during the season just ended, for the team, I support, a serious contender, but who, I’m afraid, still finished only second, narrowly beaten by the sublime Frenchman, Jean Louis Valois……..google him!

Perhaps the greatest friend of British punters was a little remembered gentleman, named Mr Alexander Graham, from Amersham in Buckinghamshire, who, almost exactly a century ago, in 1925, lodged an appeal against the assessment of a £300 payment in respect of betting transactions, which was being claimed from him by the Inland Revenue – under Schedule D of the 1918 Income Tax Act.

Mr Graham was happy to admit that he made money as a result of betting on horses at starting prices, from his home. This, he declared, was his only livelihood – and had been for several years. His only other income was interest from his savings, on deposit with his bank.

The Crown, though, contended that Mr Graham should be assessed ‘under Schedule D (1) of the Act, in respect of (a) the annual profits or gains arising or accruing…(2)…from any trade, profession, employment or vocation, and (b)…..other annual profits or gains not charged under Schedule A, B, C or E, and not specially exempted from tax.’

In fact, Mr Graham’s vocation was that of professional gambler, contended the Revenue, which pressed for a financial settlement.

Mr Graham’s counsel declared that backing horses ‘could not be a trade or vocation’. The betting had been carried out at starting prices, and therefore ‘no business or system could be constructed out of such betting.’

Counsel explained that such a form of betting differed entirely from the form of business carried out by a professional bookmaker.

Mr Graham won the decision on the basis that as a private individual he could not be legally said to be carrying on a profession as a gambler. Had his premises been registered as any form of gambling enterprise, this would have become a more difficult case to prove.

Mr Justice Rowlett, in giving judgement, asked, ‘What is a bet?’ A bet is merely an irrational agreement that one person should pay another person something on the happening of an event’ – quite a neat turn of phrase, I think. And he added:

‘There is no tax on habit’, and declared that he was not prepared to give judgement for the Inland Revenue.


Views of authors do not necessarily represent views of Star Sports Bookmakers.


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