Racing: G is for ..

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The Independent Online
G is for . . Getting Out Stakes: As in "getting out of trouble", an ironic nickname for the last race on the card, when five or six apparently unbeatable selections have already failed to oblige and the other members of your party have long since stopped believing - or even listening to - a single word you say. Forget all about seventh-race salvation, for it is written that the only one among you to find the winner will be that irritating bloke whose name you can't remember, who only came because he works with someone else, and has already picked up on four previous races thanks to horses with names that remind him of ex-girlfriends.

Going: Ignore - momentarily at least - the distance of the race or the weight to be carried: the most important single factor to consider when deciding whether to back a horse is whether it will act on the ground. The best horses, so they say, will go on anything, but the vast majority - i.e., the sort the likes of us back day in and day out - will have a definite preference for (or aversion to) either a sound or an easy surface. The right ground is essential if they are to produce their best form, and it is no coincidence that bookmakers hate long spells of settled weather. As the barometer rises, so too does the percentage of winning favourites, but all it takes is a day or two of rain and suddenly every race in Britain is little more than a lottery. In fact, it does not even require rain - a heavy-handed clerk of the course who simply cannot resist trying out his spanking new watering system can create almost as much havoc. Usually, he will then compound the error by insisting that the going is still good to firm, even when the jockeys return to weigh in looking like mud wrestlers.

"Goowonmysahn": Betting-shop culture's principal - indeed, only - gift to the English language, the distinctive call of the agitated punter is repeated four or five times at increasing volume. Often followed by a cry of "awbladdyell".

Gorytus: Odds-on favourite for the 1982 Dewhurst Stakes, only to finish tailed-off last. The forensics proved inconclusive, but many punters - and not just those who lost a small fortune on him - will always be convinced that Gorytus was...

Got At: History does not record whether a shifty chap with a dose of hemlock hidden in his toga was ever caught hanging around the Coliseum stables before a big chariot race, but on all subsequent form, it seems a fair bet. For as long as people have gambled on racehorses, there have been others who will stoop to anything to ensure that the odds are firmly in their favour, and though it is theoretically possible that a punter might dope a hot favourite in a small field and back all of its opponents, there will more usually be a bookmaker or two involved somewhere. They might have big liabilities on an ante-post favourite, as was rumoured to be the case with Pinturischio back in 1961, when the colt was a hot favourite for the Derby. In the weeks before the race, he was doped not once, but twice, a thorough job which ensured that he was not able to line up at Epsom. Alternatively, a bookie will organise a doping and then lay the horse concerned for all he is worth, as seems to have happened at Doncaster's St Leger meeting in 1990, when two fancied horses were stopped. Those concerned were never caught, thereby giving every embittered punter in Britain a convenient excuse whenever their poor judgement leads them to back a beaten favourite.

Grand National: Not for nothing do the bookmakers go to considerable lengths on National day to look after the "once-a-year" punters. There are Help Desks, extra staff, occasionally even a smile, and all because the layers know that no other race has the same power to hook people on betting. All it takes is pounds 1 each-way on a 12-1 winner, and suddenly the "once-a-year" backers who thought they could handle it find themselves drawn deeper. Next, they are dabbling in small doubles each Saturday afternoon. Before they know it they are out of control, experimenting with the Class A stuff -Yankees and Tricasts - before finally, inevitably, rock bottom is reached. When the first slip comes under the window for a horse in a big sprint handicap, the pusher - sorry, bookie - knows that the investment has paid off, and the poor fool is hooked for life.