Racing: A-Z of Betting - A is for . . .

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The Independent Online
Accumulator: And also for avoid. Doubles, trebles and the rest were invented in the 1820s by a Newmarket bookmaker called Richard Crockford. Punters thought him mad to offer a huge payout for a relatively small stake, but Crockford was well aware that the percentages which work in a bookie's favour in a single race grow ever larger as the number of selections is increased since a single loser will cancel out any number of winners. When Crockford had his bright idea, he was all but penniless. By the time of his death, he was one of the richest men in Newmarket. The moral of this story has been lost on every generation of punters since.

Akehurst, Reg: Epsom-based trainer with the happy - or, some of his colleagues might say, irritating - knack of taking apparently exposed horses and improving them by a stone or more. His strike-rate in the big handicaps in the 1990s is such that a pounds 10 level stake on every Akehurst runner in a handicap worth pounds 20,000 or more would have put you pounds 570 on the right side of even. There are doubtless those trainers who insist that this record is the result of a midnight ceremony involving weird symbols on the walls and a sacrificial goat. The more mundane truth, though, is that he is simply better at it than they are.

All-weather racing: A slight misnomer, since most of the elements of a British winter have forced its abandonment at one time or another, but undoubtedly one of the most significant innovations in racing since the War. In its early days at Lingfield and Southwell, particularly over the lethal and unlamented plastic hurdles, the runners were of such desperate quality that most were puffed by the time they reached the post, and those with even the merest hint of ability could run up hat-trick after hat- trick without ever starting at odds against. Now, though, the competition for places is fierce, and many punters have started to realise that, when compared to a maiden hurdle on heavy ground at Fakenham, a 12-runner handicap on Equitrack or Fibresand is a far more interesting proposition. The going is fast and consistent, and the horses now relatively so, while the fact that there are just three tracks, all left-handed, cancels out another of British racing's great imponderables.

Ante-post: Betting on a race several days, weeks or even many months in advance is, in general, a very efficient way to back losers, albeit that there may be Pyrrhic satisfaction to be had in taking 33-1 about a horse which, come the big day, is beaten at 5-2. On extremely rare occasions, an ante-post gamble will succeed, but you can be sure that the principal beneficiaries will be the owner and trainer concerned, who are more than rich enough already. Anyone striking a bet on the day of a race would be extremely foolish to ignore factors such as the going, draw and current stable form, yet that is what those who plunge in the ante-post market do as a matter of course. A cautionary tale concerns the punter who spent the entire winter of 1990-91 backing Cool Ground for the Gold Cup, at all odds from 40-1 down the 7-1 at which he eventually started. He stood to win a fortune, but Cool Ground could finish only fourth. Twelve months later, Cool Ground won the Gold Cup at 25-1. Said punter, needless to say, did not have a penny on.

Authorisation: The process by which a request to stake pounds 200 at 12-1 in an open-looking handicap is rapidly transformed into an offer of "pounds 25 at 12-1 and the rest at SP, take it or leave it". It is no coincidence that authorisation generally takes place somewhere in the head office of a "leisure industry" multinational which has a stock market capitalisation in the billions and a chief executive on at least pounds 1m (plus bonuses and options) per annum. As they know only too well, the last thing their shareholders are interested in is laying a fair bet at a fair price. Giving their shrewder punters the "knock-back" is also an excellent way for bookies to collect information on which horses are fancied for a particular race, and as such, considerably cheaper and more reliable than bribing a stable-lad.