This blog entry is predominantly about horse racing so if it doesn't interest you, it's probably best to look away now. I suggest looking back through the archive for some of the "funny" posts about sausages instead!
Our school's motto is "Dare to be wise". I like this. I have changed one word though for the purpose of today's post, because I like to "Dare to be different".
What do I like to dare to be different about? Well all sorts of things really. When it comes to popular culture, the more popular something is, the less I like it. Mass market TV such as The X Factor is a big no-no for me. I've always nailed my mast to the cult and niche interests. In my teenage years and beyond it was indie music all the way. In fact if a song by an act I liked made it to No.1 in the charts, I'd go off them! Fortunately the likes of The Smiths, Depeche Mode and others never scaled such dizzy heights.
Being a Doctor Who fan was also tough going during the 90s when it had gone off the air and was considered uber-geek territory by many. But now look at it! NB: I've made an exception for Doctor Who, I still like it despite its huge popularity now.
Today is the first day of the best race meeting of the year - The Cheltenham Festival. To us fans of the jumping game the whole season leads up to this point. As many of you know, I do enjoy a bet and I'm sure you've all got tired of hearing of how my latest holiday has been paid for by some horse or other, but every year, there are fantastic opportunities to make money betting at Cheltenham.
For a start, there's tremendous value on offer. It's the equivalent of Tesco, Sainsbury and Asda fighting to the death in a bitter price war over the staples, practically giving away their eggs, milk and bread. I've talked about value many times with regards to supermarkets, but it's there with the horses too. Prices vary between the bookmakers and you can back a horse at a variety of prices, some value some not.
So if the value on offer is so good, why do you never see a poor bookie? Because the vast majority of punters aren't clued up enough to seek out the best value, and are also duped by pundits and other punters in the pub and betting shop into backing the same obvious selections and the bookmakers have long seen them coming.
This year's big race is the Champion Hurdle, and all the fuss and betting revolves around the first four horses in the market who are all priced around the 3/1 to 4/1 mark. As is always the case, no-one can see beyond these four horses. All of the media coverage is about them, nearly everyone you meet who wants to express an opinion will tell you one of them will win - and the fact of the matter is, one of them probably will. It is more likely than not. But it is not the certainty that everyone would have you believe, and I have always preferred to row against the crowd and find another horse that everyone else has written off as not being good enough and consequently priced at very attractive odds.
People are scared to back these horses because everyone else says they have no chance and they are frightened of the ridicule they'll get if they say they are going to back them, so instead they go along with the herd and back the same short priced runners. But if they were to look back at the ten year trends box in the Racing Post they would see the following winners of the Champion Hurdle.
2004 Hardy Eustace 33/1
2007 Sublimity 16/1
2008 Katchit 10/1
2009 Punjabi 22/1
2012 Rock On Ruby 11/1
So there's five double figure prices in the past ten years alone. All good horses but seemingly not considered quite good enough on the day to be picked by the punters, whereas many of the so called good things crashed and burned.
So what am I looking for today? There's a horse that fits the bill perfectly, plenty of winning form, nice price and exactly the sort of horse that in the long term pays dividends for patient punters who are willing to endure a few losers whilst waiting for a big payday. You see this horse is unlikely to win, but the whole point is, a long term strategy of backing this sort of horse in the big races will make you money in the long run - as long as you get on it at the right price which is the MOST important factor of all.
The horse I am looking at is called "Melodic Rendezvous". The odds on it vary from as low as 18/1 to as high as 33/1 with one bookmaker (Stan James) as I write.
I said it was extremely unlikely to win, but the whole point in backing at these sorts of odds is you don't have to be right that often. Those punters backing the 3/1 favourites have got to get it right at least one time in every four bets to make a long term profit. I only have to be right once every 33 times with this sort of horse, and I tend to do a lot better than that! NB: Backing random 33/1 shots is not a profitable way of betting by the way, but selectively identifying horses offered at such odds in big races like this one today is.
At the end of the day, it boils down to simple mathematics, pure and simple. The house always wins in roulette because they've got a zero on the wheel. I like to see this method of betting as betting on roulette with the zero taken away and a few other numbers as well.
I mentioned it was all about getting value and it is. There is no way the starting price for this horse will be anywhere near the 33/1 - it will be more like 20/1 I imagine. So this is how you get the value, get on to Stan James and nick that 33/1 while it is available. Failing that the next best price is 28/1 with Corals in town, which is still a backable price in my opinion.
Over the years I have had many such winners. Most memorable was a horse called Barna Boy in the very last race of the festival about 15 years ago. My long priced strategy was looking a bit suspect that year as I hadn't manage to bag any winners at all, but on that last day I had a sizeable bet on Barna Boy in the morning at the 33/1 odds available. He was supported all day down to a starting price of 14/1 ridden by the great Richard Dunwoody. So just one winner for me at the whole meeting but it was a profitable one.
What will I find this year? Who knows. I am not going to give out a list of tips because I don't want to raise expectations and anyway, isn't it just that bit more satisfying when you pick them out yourself? My advice is, ignore the pundits and pub bores with their cliched theories, pick out the longshot no-one else wants, find the best odds you can for it and enjoy the ride. Have a great Cheltenham and I'll see you in the Bahamas.
Jason's third book all about his adventures in the world of sausages, is now available. Click here for more details: http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Sausage-Man-Britains-Official-ebook/dp/B00IF4LB8S