Magic Sign: Betting-ring slang for Ladbrokes, and one of John McCririck's favourite
phrases, much to the irritation of the collective PR departments of Hills, Coral and the rest. Do not be deceived, though, by the cosy language. When the Magic Sign start backing a horse on-course, it means they are spending a little money in the betting ring in order to shorten up the starting price and save themselves a small fortune in their off-course betting shops. If it happens to be your horse that they are squeezing, and you have not already taken a price, the only magic involved is of a distinctly black hue.
Match betting: Once upon a time, all betting was like this. Horses would turn up for a meeting and race two-by-two in a series of heats on a knockout basis, often with 10 stone on their backs and over anything up to four miles. In the mid 1770s, however, the realisation grew that testing nothing but the sheer dogged determination of horses was not doing much to improve the breed, and anyway, if you ran them all at once, you could get better odds. Modern racing was born, and match betting pretty much consigned to history. As if to prove that nothing goes out of fashion forever, though, it is now making something of a comeback, thanks to spread betting firms who will quote horse X to finish, say, two lengths ahead of horse Y. Some good judges reckon there is value to be had in such market, but the usual spread-bet wealth warnings still apply.
McManus, JP: The proper bookmakers who lay his bets on the rails might not agree, but for the big off-course chains of bookies-cum-accountants, the punting legend that is JP McManus is one of the best things to come along for ages. Betting is nothing without hope, and McManus's frequent killings, particularly at the Cheltenham Festival, give backers everywhere fresh optimism that if they can just keep trying, they will one day reach the same state of gimlet-eyed punting nirvana, when the bets are big, the winnings even bigger and every gamble is landed. It is, needless to say, not quite that simple. For one thing, McManus is naturally blessed with the sort of shrewdness and self-discipline which is very difficult to learn. He is also kept exceptionally well-informed, by the trainers who prepare his own horses and those of a close-knit circle of Irish owner- punters, and possessed of enough wealth elsewhere in his business dealings to absorb temporary heavy losses when - as is often the
case - things go wrong. McManus started his career in betting as a bookmaker, and is fond of remarking that good bookies make good punters, and vice versa (well, you know what he means). The implication, somewhat depressingly, is that when it comes to punting, you've either got it or you haven't. And most of us haven't.
Morphine: Which suddenly started turning up in dozens of urine samples taken from greyhounds when, a year or two ago, the dog racing authorities switched from their previous dope-testing procedures to the ultra-sensitive techniques employed by the
Horseracing Forensic Laboratory in Newmarket. This is not a tale of previously unsuspected skulduggery on an extraordinary scale, however, but rather an indication of how efficient modern drug testing can be. On further investigation, it was discovered that many trainers add bread to their dogs' feed, and not just any old bread either. For some, your standard medium-sliced white was simply not good enough. It had to be posh stuff, with things on top - blue poppy seeds, for instance, which contain only the tiniest trace of morphine, but still enough of it to set off the alarms. Unscrupulous chemists in the Walthamstow and Catford areas have been warned.Reuse content