Wolverhampton

Time to wheel out the Scrabble System and dust it off. It’s been too long, old friend. When I started betting on the horses some 25 years ago I was naive enough to think there may be a system that would direct me along an easy street to big winnings. Naive, but not stupid enough to think that system would have anything to do with Scrabble. It just diverted me for a while, before I became properly acquainted with the form book.

So here it is. You should feel privileged that you are getting this inside information for free, without having to phone a premium rate number or deposit large sums of cash in my Nigerian uncle’s account. You will need a pen though:

Score the name of each horse according to the Scrabble values of the letters. Ignore any with odd totals. Of the even scores, you are ideally looking for a total of 16, 18, 20 or 22 points. But, and concentrate now because this really is key, the name must include at least one 4-scoring letter (the more the better really). It’s a long time ago now and I can’t remember exactly how I stumbled upon this beautiful scheme, or the foundations of it’s intracasies. It’s just something that has always been there, along with the horses.

Scanning through the card at Wolverhampton produces some wrinkles in the system. Some races have no qualifying horses and others have many. If you are a disciplined sort, don’t bet in the races with no qualifying names. If you have several to choose from, you could back them all, score the trainers and jockeys names, or alternatively (and this is the really inspired bit!) guess. As Jason astutely pointed out, almost every system will have it’s bias somewhere.

I get a taxi from the station to the course, but the driver drops me instead at a deserted Holiday Inn hotel. It is eeriely quiet. I literally cannot see another soul. The only clue there might be a racecourse hiding somewhere is the small sign to “Grandstand”. I follow this round to the side and spot an empty parade ring. Has it been called off at the last minute? A tiny hut ushers me in, and I begin to spot the first signs of life.

Almost immediately I see Tracksuit Dave (same tracksuit, clearly his racing colours) but he seems busy with friends and betting, and I feel slightly embarrassed about going up to him and saying “You’re the guy one the Racing Post guy told me about at Chelmsford yesterday!” so I hold fire until a better moment presents itself. It doesn’t, but he clearly gets around the tracks a bit so I’m sure I’ll see him again some time.

The system offers a clear verdict in the first. The Godolphin trained Leoncavallo. Purists might say that it would be very hard to fit this on a Scrabble board, and that it’s not an allowable word either, but they would be missing the point. For the avoidance of doubt, this is a ridiculous system that has hardly anything to do with the popular board game, is extremely unlikely to produce any long-term profits, and is one step away from throwing darts at a Racing Post. Glad we’ve got that out the way, and while we are at it, the author accepts no liability for any injury caused whilst using this system, and the value of your investments can go down as well as disappear altogether.

Caveat over, and on with the action. Leoncavallo is backed from 2nd favourite to favourite and wins nicely. Who said it was a ridiculous system that is extremely unlikely to end in profit? The second race produces no clear pick. The two closest matches are both outsiders, Twice Certain at 20/1 and Miss Minuty at 40/1. I go for the former on account of the trainer being a match, and choose wrong. Perhaps I should have heeded my earlier advice of just blindly guessing; you can overcomplicate things sometimes.

As they round the home turn it looks for all the world like Miss Minuty is going to get up, but the winner just holds on. There is a guy in a red jacket screaming just about as loud as I’ve heard anybody scream on a racecourse – that’s quite loud. He is urging the grey outsider on, but she just fails. I go for a drink in the premier bar where I find the owner of Miss Minuty talking to connections about the race. As they dissect the action I detect a slight deflation, a sense of what could have been. The 40/1 shot ran a great race in second, but crucially she wasn’t a winner, and that makes a big difference in this game.

For the third race there is again a confused output from the system, so again I allow the trainer’s name to point the way – favourite Ninepointsixthree. I wait in the small indoors betting ring, hoping that the price will increase. As I do the guy next to me asks if 11/8 is better that 5/4 and I strike up a conversation with him as we both go in at 11/8. Ken is a regular at the course. He owns a building business but, evidently, there are frequent gaps in the busy schedule for him to go racing. We get chatting about my eighty day challenge, and Ken cuts to the chase immediately,

“Have you had a winner at every one?” A true punters question that, and I have to admit not.

The conversation is paused by the denoument of the race. Ninepointsixthree has quite a lead but the second favourite is closing. Our horse just holds on. Perhaps he was just a bit lonely out on his own and needed some company? That’s a sentiment I’ve felt over the last couple of weeks. We go to collect our winnings, and the system is showing a tidy profit.

The Scrabble System lets me down in the fourth race at Wolverhampton

The Scrabble System lets me down in the fourth race at Wolverhampton

It’s the sixth race, however, that has the clearest choice of the afternoon. Dark Profit scores 20, as does his trainer. Time for a big one. I catch up with Ken before the race but he fancies the favourite Sugar Boy, as do most people. Ah, but they don’t have the Scrabble System at their disposal! Neither it seems does Dark Profit, who is unaware that he is a sure fire winner. It’s close, but the favourite just gets up to deny me a big payout and the system a triumphant return from retirement.