SIMON NOTT: The End Of The Fastest Finger?

Betting in running. It used to be a great game on course. The Hughes Brothers at point to points and Harry Metcalfe at the local tracks to me used to love to bet in running. When I say bet in running, they basically used to give scores away if an outsider looked like winning. If a 33/1 chance was 10 lengths clear approaching the last if you were close enough you could bet a carpet or even a bottle-on. Harry would call ‘Take 2/1 or 3/1’ you call in your bet, it jumped the last and Harry happily paid out to winning punters. At least that’s how I remember it, they never fell the odd times I managed to back them.

The Hughes Brothers would do the same but at the points you had to bet longer odds on, but if you had the balls to bet five tenners on you could get yourself a few quid, so much so that the floormen used to hover near them. It was nearly always the quickest to call the bet got it, one time only, the ‘quickest’ being the sized bet that suited them most. It was such a ruse that veteran floorman Badger once scaled a tree to get the best view of the potential winner and call down to a cohort in front of the Hughes’ joint. The trouble was, dear old Badger was a bit indecisive and only managed a few Yes, No’s before he fell out of the tree.

Trees aside, it’s the quickest that gets the money in modern in-running betting on the Internet. It’s been many a year since a bookmaker called a bet before they jumped the last ‘as a bit of insurance’ at a racecourse. The difference these days is it’s the fastest pictures that are most coveted. Back in the early days of in-running betting, those that rumbled the picture delay literally won millions. It was better, or rather worse than finding it on the floor, it was more like watching the bloke drop his wallet then pocketing it. People with the live pictures could bet on races seconds after they had finished, let’s put it this way, dear old Fagin would have been proud of those boys taking the naive at home to the cleaners.

Once the loophole that they exploited, I’m told starting and stopping the in-running market from on-course rather than the delayed TV pictures, was closed, people looked for other angles. Some realised that they had the best of it turned their back on the game and enjoyed the fruits of their ‘ingenuity’. Others were on the look out for new angles. Those either came in the form of ‘Trading Rooms’ in cities where fibre optic Internet and one-click enabled interface computers gave them an edge.

Others would venture on-course and often be seen screaming ‘Yes’ down a mobile phone to a man at home with finger poised once the leader looked like winning. The ‘No No’s’ that sometimes followed were more panic stricken but unlike poor old Badger there was no fall other than financial.

For a while both forms of in-running betting were doing well for their operators. After a bit, the profits started to wane, people couldn’t work out why. They eventually found out, cleverest money had moved on-course watching live with fast Internet, the split second advantage was all they needed over their brethren in the Trading Rooms. Young men in designer jeans and daps pulling small flight cases into mid-week all weather meetings told that story and put most trading rooms out of business.

I’m told that the popularity of the boxes had already started to wane by the time 2020 dawned, most of the in-running money was seeded by fellow shrewdies also in boxes, very little easy pickings. Then, well we all know what happened in March 2020. After a brief hiatus racing was back, but behind closed doors. No box players, the playing field had been levelled. But not for long, lock-down dodging twitchers in the bushes were a brief phenomenon. Let’s hope they didn’t invest in new waterproofs, but if they did, without the hood up they might have heard a buzz from above.

The advent of the drones. Up they went, flown by people stood in fields ‘walking their dogs’ or from a layby a mile away. Super-fast pictures from above, those that got in first and mastered the angles no doubt got themselves a few quid, which is just as well as those expensive drones could soon all be on eBay.

Recently launched, the latest in ultimate in-running betting. Bet Angel in association with Total Performance Data (TPD) raised the bar, you don’t even have to see the races. What you get is all the information live, well in 200ms, direct from the horse. Stride frequency, speed, you name it they send it. It’s a game changer, displayed for the user’s information, for now at least it’s the ultimate. You can learn more about the new kit here and meet developer Peter Webb in his #BettingPeople interview: PETER WEBB –

However, you can bet your wages, at least you could if this wasn’t a responsible gambling blog, that out there somewhere already there’s a boffin writing a bot that will be able to make perfect sense of all that data and strike instantly when a horse literally ‘can’t win’ or certain to, well almost certain. How long before there are purely automated bots let loose on a market, cleaning up, presumably while its creator frolics in a warm tropical sea. There needs to be money to win though, will there be anyone left not fed up with getting their pockets picked at that point so very little for the bots to scrap over.

On the other hand, imagine the fun for the patient old school player waiting to pounce when there’s a glitch, will machines ever be able to trump a good judge in running, or be funnier than Badger falling out of a tree? Watch this space.


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

Simon Nott is author of: Skint Mob! Tales from the Betting Ring
available on Kindle