The main reason that bookmakers are keen to promote multiple bets, such as doubles, trebles and accumulators, is that they are inherently more risky and therefore more profitable, for the layer, than single bets. Of course, such bets provide tasty bait for small-stakes punters – even without the added consolation of three, four or even five times the odds for a single winner in some cases – and bookmakers are quite happy to risk the occasional huge payout in return for regular profits.
By contrast, the single bet, specifically, the single win bet, is the least profitable of all horse racing bets for bookmakers. From the punter’s perspective, a single win bet is straightforward, involves no wastage of stakes and affords better bankroll management than any form of multiple bet. Furthermore, attempting to find a single selection to win a race focusses the mind on the strengths and weaknesses of the horse in question; the unit stake could be, say, 10, 50 or 100 times that placed on a typical multiple bet, so the selection process becomes a sharp, decisive – and, hopefully, profitable – exercise.
Desert Orchid was an immensely popular grey – in fact, towards the end of his career, almost white – horse, who won 34 of his 70 starts over hurdles and fences and remains the sixth highest-rated steeplechaser in the history of Timeform. He was trained, throughout his career, by David Elsworth, who first took out a training licence in his own right in 1978. At the peak of his powers, Elsworth had 143 horses in his yard at Whitsbury Manor Stables, near Fordingbridge, Hampshire.
Elsworth won the National Hunt Trainers’ Championship just once, in 1987/88, but nonetheless saddled Desert Orchid to win the King George VI Chase at Kempton Park on four times, in 1986, 1988, 1989 and 1990 and the Irish Grand National at Fairyhouse in 1990. However, the defining moment for horse and trainer came at Cheltenham on March 16, 1989.
Despite being better going right-handed – a stone better, according to jockey Simon Sherwood – and unsuited by the prevailing heavy going, Desert Orchid was still sent off 5/2 favourite for the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Adopting his usual bold, front-running style, he made most of the running until the second-last fence, but came under pressure and looked beaten when tackled by confirmed mudlark Yahoo on the run to the final fence. However, Desert Orchid rallied gamely, forged ahead on the run-in to win by 1½ lengths.
In horse racing, a tongue tie is a band, or strap, which can be made of elastic, leather or nylon stocking, that is wrapped around a horse’s tongue, close to its base, and tied around its lower jaw. The purpose of a tongue tie is to prevent a horse from getting its tongue over the bit and to prevent soft tissue at the back of the mouth, known as the ‘soft palate’, obstructing the airway during high intensity exercise, including racing.
If applied correctly, a tongue tie does not appear to cause a horse discomfort, distress or pain and may, indeed, prove beneficial, in terms of allowing it to breathe freely, without making a ‘gurgling’ noise, during exercise. Obviously, a horse that is not struggling to breathe can travel further, and faster, than one that is, so the main aim of fitting a racehorse with a tongue tie is to improve its performanceon the racecourse.
Nowadays, like other forms of headgear, such as blinkers and cheekpieces, which limit the field of vision, and hoods, which muffle sound, tongue ties must be publicly declared by racehorse trainers. On a standard racecard, a tongue tie is denoted by a small letter ‘t’ immediately to the right of the name of the relevant horse.
Handicap racing is based on the tried-and-tested premise that increasing or decreasing the weight that a horse carries will ultimately affect the speed at which it can gallop over a certain distance. Thus, by allotting each horse a weight proportional to its ability, it is possible to frame a race in which each participant has, at least in theory, an equal chance of winning. Handicap races, Flat and National Hunt, account for approximately 60% of all horse races run in Britain.
Handicap racing was ‘invented’ by Admiral Henry John Rous, who was, at the time, senior steward of the Jockey Club, in the mid-nineteenth century. Nowadays, handicapping is the responsibility of a team of professional handicappers employed by the British Horseracing Authority (BHA). To qualify for an official handicap rating, a horse must run in two or three non-handicap races, so that its ability can be assessed. Thereafter, each subsequent performance is monitored and the official rating may be increased, decreased or remain unchanged as a result. Handicap races are classified as ‘Class 2’, ‘Class 3’, etc, according to the official handicap ratings of the horses are eligible to compete; thus, an improving horse may need to step up in class as its official rating increases.