As has already been established, I don't know much about betting on horses. I first realised this while visiting Hitchin in Hong Kong in 1999. We went to the races, where I came up with what I thought would be a sure-fire betting system:
The number 4 is seen as incredibly unlucky in Hong Kong. So I reasoned that the locals were unlikely to bet on number 4 in a horse race. That being the case, if a rational human being such as me, who doesn't believe in unlucky numbers, were to bet on number 4 to win, he should get far better odds than he deserved (because nobody else would be betting on it). Although such a betting system was unlikely to be successful in any one race, I reasoned that, all else being equal, if I bet on number 4 in every single race, it was bound to pay off in the end.
I lost my shirt.
I had failed to take into account the fact that the superstitious Chinese allocate the unlucky number 4 to the worst nag in each race. Well, that's my theory at least.
Anyway, yesterday, Jen and Ann and Bill and I went to Newbury Races. In her absence, I decided I was going to place a bet for Carolyn. So I came up with a new betting system: I would pick a horse whose name reminded me in some way of Carolyn…
And there it was—No.7 in the third race—Penny Black… It reminded me of Carolyn for two reasons: (1) a few weeks ago, I gave Carolyn my lucky penny (no, I don't believe in that sort of thing, but I thought Carolyn might), and (2) I have often told Carolyn off for not calling either of her daughters Penny (in which case, they would have been named Penny Farthing, geddit?) So I placed my bet: a fiver on number 7 to win at, ahem, 50:1.
It came in just before the start of the fourth race.
But for that, I could have won Carolyn two-hundred and fifty big ones.
In the meantime, Jen and Ann and Bill had been placing bets for our four-person syndicate, using some bizarre system involving something they called the horses' form.
Our syndicate won £102.
From now on, my sure-fire system is going to be to take along some people who know what the hell they're doing.