A Day At The Races

The London Paper  –  19 Mar 2007

There’s nothing a Cityboy likes more than a day at the races with clients gambling his ‘hard-earned’ cash. These trips tick all the boxes: copious amounts of free booze, massive consumption of over-priced food and, the cherry on the cake, the ability to competitively flash the cash with colleagues. Our love of trips to the races may also be because they involve a bunch of young men gambling lots of cash (sometimes on insider tips) and talking confidently about things they don’t really know about, which is pretty much home from home for your average stockbroker.

So there we were on Friday in the first class carriage of the 8.15am train from Paddington to Cheltenham. The champagne drinking began at approximately 8.22am and the inane banter was already full flow. I was with two clients (from large pension funds) and a colleague. Our duty was simply to ensure that the clients’ glasses were never empty in the hope that they’d put some business our way. As the drink kicked in we marvelled at the Fedora-wearing tweed-clad buffoons that surrounded us and relished their ruddy faces that must have taken centuries of inbreeding to produce.

By the time we arrived at Cheltenham we were already half cut which, seeing as it was only about 10am, meant that we had more in common with the Tenants Super drinking pissheads on the street than the average human being. What was even more daunting was that the first race began at 2pm so we had almost four more hours of champagne-quaffing nonsense to endure. It’s a dreadful job but somebody has to do it.

The main topic of conversation as we drank ourselves into oblivion in the enclosure was gambling strategy. There was lots of analysis of the horses’ form, the jockeys and the ‘running’. Apparently, the ground was ‘good to soft’ which pretty much described the state of my brain come midday. I personally had a slightly less complicated approach to selecting winners which was taught to me by my aunt when I was six. It’s quite simple really – you bet on the horse with the name which has some vague significance to you. I didn’t tell the others my strategy because I didn’t want to lose my competitive advantage. They also may have drawn some unfair (but completely correct) conclusions about why I chose ‘Exotic Dancer’ in the 3.15pm race.

Once the betting began in earnest our egos predictably ensured that we bet more and more on each race trying make sure everyone knew who the big swinger was. What began as a £20 flutter soon grew into £100 by the time of the last race. Any winnings were boasted about as if they were confirmation of the gambler’s analytical brilliance but all losses were laughed off to ensure people knew we were rich enough not to care.

Predictably, by the end of the day my companions, with all their clever analytical strategies, were all down between about £100 and £300 whilst yours truly with my ‘Auntie Beryl strategy’ was up over £200. It just confirmed what I’ve always believed that gambling, like stock picking, is basically all about luck unless you have some good inside information – though I wouldn’t know anything about that of course.

Thoughts ?

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