First of all, who are “we”? My name is John and along with my Brother, Mark, we owned and run a small glazing company in Stockport, Cheshire in the UK, before semi retiring to Brittany, France in 2012.
We have both not long since turned 60 (only 16 months between us) and have been interested in horse racing betting since our teens (Red Rum in the 1973 Grand National when I was 16 was my first bet and when that won I was hooked – 25p each way!)
From those days to the late 80's and early 90’s we were Saturday punters who would pick our horses out of the Sporting Life then sit down to watch the ITV 7 in the old days, and then Channel 4 Racing since 1984.
However, in Autumn 1991 we were forced by economic necessity, (both of us landed up on the dole but Mark got a good redundancy pay off from the then CEGB – Central Electricity Generating Board for younger readers!) to find an alternative to wage labour.
We decided to concentrate on what we knew about and we thought knew a fair bit about about horse racing.
We had read all those tipster ads in the Sporting Life, and more importantly had made a most unlikely friend in our local pub – a chap whose Brother was a Vet who worked for a number of horse racing trainers at the time.
He gave us some fantastic winners that I can still remember from all those years ago. Lochsong, (every time it won from the 1992 Ayr gold Cup at 10/1 onwards), Branston Abby at 10/1, Palacegate Jack 14/1 and the super Irish mare Kooyanga when she won the 1992 Coral Eclipse.
Great days! And not only were we profiting from these and many more winners, so were our subscribers as, by then, we had a number of subscribers paying the odds to a fiver to our Racing advisory Service, The Inner Circle. (Mary Reveley’s 1991 Cambridgeshire winner Mellottie which won at 10/1 just sprang to mind also, but enough! Sniff.)
Needless to say, our friend never bought a drink while we were in the pub, which was often and he seemed to speed up when we entered !
We were making a half decent living from backing the horses and running the service, but, all good things must come to an end and our friend’s brother moved abroad and out of horse racing all together.
We had to wind up the Inner Circle.
However, during our Inner Circle phase, a bloke called Eric rang and asked would we like to combine our inside info with his placing bets for us using a novel method whereby losers were turned into non runners (in certain circumstances). The guy was a maths professor and a staking genius but he couldn’t pick winners to save his life. We teamed up.
Eric was a shrewd gambler who had all sorts of stake saving strategies. For example, instead of a yankee, back 4 selections as 6 doubles but in a way that if any 2 win you not only get your double payed out at full odds but your 5 losing stakes returned as well!
As a mathematician his focus was on the bottom line and it didn't matter to him which game. He considered, very much against popular opinion, roulette to be the “straightest” game as there is only a 2.37% inbuilt advantage for the casino. whereas with horse racing you have to overcome an overound of 1 – 2 per cent per horse.
Also a 9% betting tax was in force then which Eric got around by backing in doubles so that there was no tax to pay on the second leg.
Incidentally, I still use his roulette system to this day and have come home with more money than I set off more often than not.
He was also a keen racegoer. Not long after meeting Eric, and backing using his staking method, (with some success it should be said), he came back from Haydock with what seemed an incredible tale. He had met a man there who we always referred to as “the London bloke” – even after we later learned his real name.
This guy was a multi millionaire property dealer who made a lot of money on the side out of horse racing as a hobby using a system for which he had paid £10,000 cash on the car park of the very same Haydock race track four and a half years earlier.
The upshot was: he wanted Eric to place his bets and in return Eric got the selections.
All of us, Eric included, were, to say the least, skeptical. We had nothing to lose though so we resolved to place the bets and keep a record for a month. We kept backing them for him (not a penny on for ourselves) and they kept winning.
It almost became boring, we were expecting to win each time. Lucky streak, fluke, they can't carry on like this forever, were some of the printable remarks we made. But by the end of the month he had backed 19 winners out of 21 selections! And one of the 2 losers was beaten just a head at 6/1 (Tutusixtysix, August 1993).
This was amazing, none of us had ever seen anything like it but the London bloke said 80% of the horses he had backed since he bought the system had won, and not at odds on either.
Having cleared it with our new friend, we decided not only to back them but to place a half page ad in the Sporting Life offering, effectively, through post dated cheque, a month's free trial.
Our new service was called Winners. We ended up holding around 50 post-dated £100 cheques. All we needed now was a repeat of last month and we would be 'earning' £5000 per month at least and our winnings to boot! Some hope! The strike rate fell to 'only' 55% and the cheques were returned.
My brother, Mark and I never got to meet the London bloke, everything went through Eric who was a little on the reserved side. I would have asked to have a look at his system to see if we could help identify a reason for the sudden collapse.
This was September 1993 and I think it coincided precisely with the 10lbs rise in handicap ratings for jumps horses that was introduced back then. It was the jumps horses that were letting the side down, falling from 80% to 45% compared to the flat which only dropped from 80% to around 70%.
It could have been a bad run. Even something with an 80% strike rate can have a bad month. But Eric wouldn't hear of me talking to 'the London Bloke' so that was the end of that phase.
But…………we had seen it done. It was possible to achieve such results.
It wasn't just a good run. Eric got to know this man well and he was adamant that those results were not at all unusual and we trusted Eric's judgement implicitly.We had the bug more than ever now.
The last we heard of the London bloke was that the poor guy had a stroke and was in bad health.
Eric, who was in his late sixties when we met him, then died age 73 in 1999.
Since those days we have been on a quest to discover the rules of this system. The only clues the London Bloke ever left us were that he bought two papers a day, the Racing Post and the Daily Mail, the selection was the best horse in the race and that when we discovered it we would kick ourselves because it was so simple.
In the mid – nineties, Mark and I set up in the glazing business ( that is Mark's trade ) so we had to research part time.
Now, I don't want to disappoint, so I have to inform you that to date we haven't discovered the system……but we have learnt an awful lot trying!
First of all, some acknowledgements: to the inspiration for all our research since those days, the London bloke, and then of course Eric from whom we learned so much about maths, especially probability.
Eric pointed us to a book by Tony Drapkin and Richard Forsyth called The Punter's Revenge (1987) which was ground breaking for its time in terms of using computers as a guide to gambling. Then of course, DFL software who again broke new ground with their Compunter and Combayes computer selection processes.
These were an inspiration, no doubt, to the next generation at Racing Systems Builder, RSB who came up with their seminal database and system builder which, in my opinion, is unsurpassed to this day – and they started in 1985 !
The Racing Post which is quite simply indispensible for the serious backer. If you don't believe me, try and get a serious bet on Betfair before racingpostonline puts up its betting forecasts!
Last but not least, since around 2010, when Racing System Builder closed down, we have been using a site called HorseRaceBase for its system builder, amongst many other things (there is a waiting list!). This has been a boon since the closure of RSB, closely followed by Adrian Massey packing it in.
All of these resources have helped us over the years. Not to discover the London Bloke's system (so far!) but to discover profitable betting strategies hopefully en route to discovery.
I was inclined to walk away at first, We had our chance of a lifetime but missed the boat. If only we had got to know the London bloke a few year earlier. However, Mark was spurred on to find out more, and, to his great credit , his perseverance paid off.
He analysed the list of selections in order to see just what the London Bloke had meant when he said it is “ the best horse in the race “. You have to remember that in those days – as we hadn't yet appreciated the full majesty of Racing Systems Builder – research meant thumbing through back issues of the Racing Post.
Anyway, he identified a few fundamental factors that would consistently produce the same selections as on the list but they were among several other horses a day. However, this achieved a strike rate of 48% at just short of break even at SP. We were onto something but more research was needed.
Bear in mind we were working full time in the Glazing business by now, so this process took place over a number of years. In between we would try and get an edge through vetting the selections on form, trainer stats etc and/or taking prices. The latter being revolutionised when betfair set up in June 2000.
So, we had the basic ingredients but there were obviously more filters we had missed.
We had always wondered why he should mention that he bought the Daily Mail every day. So, one day in 2002 Mark and I spent a full day in Manchester Central Library looking through back issues, on microfiche, of the Daily Mail.
Here we made a major breakthrough. We found a factor that increased the strike rate by 30%!
For obvious reasons I am not prepared to divulge this factor. It took the strike rate up for, 48% to 63% at an average SP of 11/10 . Not quite Eureka as we hadn't achieved the 80% strike rate of its heyday and there were still some discrepencies – but less!
This new system achived a 131% return on investment.
This opened up a new phase when we set up a new service called Percentage Betting to offer the selections from the system online to the general betting public over the Christmas holidays in 2003.
We were at the top of most search engines through the pay per click medium of Google Adwords at that time time. Plus, of course, backing them too. We were making a decent wage but not life changing amounts of money
Then we had a huge setback. In April 2004, the US government banned Google from facilitating the advertising of anything relating to internet gambling 9 I note the bookies ads are on there though!) so we had to change to full page ads in the Racing Post, Raceform Update, Racing & Football Outlook.
These are not cheap and seriously dented our profits. We had a loyal clientele behind us however, and they got us through 2004 but we hit a bad run in November 2004 and ended up winding up the site by christmas, a year after we started.
The system rarely performed up to the level it had previously achieved. There were some 8 winning months and 4 losing, to level stakes at SP . The annual analysis showed a strike rate of 55% at 2.08, an ROI of 114.4%. Not to be sneezed at but disappointing by comparison with the past.
We still use this system.
Having learned some lessons about blind copying of existing systems , the fact that even the best systems have a shelf life and the tendency for fluctuation – which means that both winners and losers can cluster in quite unanticipated ways – we have spent the ensuing years researching, backing and perfecting what we learned in our search for the 80% system of the London Bloke.
2004 was also the year we took a greater interest in Racing Systems Builder.
We had a free copy (they used to send a CD with 2 years of data as a trial) which we had never really taken the trouble to get to know. We finally saved up and bought the 2 discs, one for jumps the other for flat. These were an invaluable aid to testing all sorts of theories and a much quicker way to back-check systems (its amazing how you start using something more often once you have paid good money for it!)
Through applying the lessons learned from our search for the London bloke's system and the knowledge we had acquired in so doing, plus the ability to instantly back check any theories we might have – we have a flat disc that goes back to 1986–2009! – we have been able to develop our approach .
It can be summed up as this:
1) Back horses that are the product of systems that have a logical basis and have been back checked in sufficient numbers and over a sufficient time period to prove their worth.
2) Turn your money over–use leverage. That is how the bookies bet and who better to copy than the most consistently successful ?
All systems can be improved in terms of achieving a higher strike rate and/or ROI but this always means less selections. Which means a much reduced turnover. So, we have, at the average win rate of 40%, a preference for higher turnover.
Basically, money makes money. If you can make a 20% profit on your stakes it makes a big difference what your stakes are!
If you can afford to safely stake £300 per bet, you can back one horse a day and make £21,900 per year on your £109.500 staked.
If you can only back to tenners then the figures are a thirtieth.
However, if you have a betting bank (money put to one side that you can afford to lose) you can back several horses a day staking a tenner on each, you can emulate the big hitters by splitting one big bet into five, six or seven.
If you backed an average 6 selections a day = £60 per day, you would have staked 21,900 over a year. At the same 20% rate of profit you would show a profit of £4,380 without risking any big bet.
So you can emulate the big backers by turning your mooney over more often.
And that's at level stakes.
3) Use percentage level stakes to greatly increase you profits. Compound your winnings
Level stakes is typically thought of as an amount, for example, a tenner, on each bet.
Percentage level stakes betting is where a percentage, say 2%, of your bank, is bet on each selection. If the first one loses, your stake goes down for the next, if it wins, the next stake is increased.
So, as the bank rises in a good run, your stake increases, thus capitalising on the winning run.
In a bad run, the stakes go down thus minimising losses during a losing run.
4) Use Best Odds Guaranteed, (B.O.G.).
I know a lot of people play the exchanges and the best of luck to them. But we have found that we get better profits using BOG the night before racing.
BOG is simple. You take the price on the horse and if the SP is bigger they pay you out at that bigger price. If, on the other hand, the odds shorten, then you get the benefits of taking the price and get paid at the price taken. We have found this gives us a real edge.
For more in depth appreciation of our philosophy, browse the blogs. You will find nearly all the past couple of years are taken up with trends previews, but, if you use the page numbers at the bottom of the blog page to navigate you will find some contrarian views that will give you food for thought.
Ok. Thats our biography in as far as it relates to horse racing and betting. The history of our search for the golden fleece of the London bloke's original system. The discovery of it but at a lower performance than originally. Lessons learned in the quest to find out that system and finally, our approach today after 27 years of hard work and experience.