The A-Z of betting: C is for . . .

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Camelot: Purveyor of the worst bet in Britain, and also the most popular. Any bookie who tried to pay out at 66-1 when one of his punters had found a 1,000-1 treble would risk instant gelding, yet this is what the National Lottery gets away with twice a week. And while a bookmaker will generally be pleased to make a profit of about 3 per cent on turnover, Camelot takes 5p in every pound you stake, which is not a bad reward for running a low- overhead, risk-free monopoly. As for your chances of winning, an illuminating (if fairly rough-and-ready) calculation is that if you buy a Lottery ticket on Monday morning, you are almost 3,000 times more likely to die before 8pm the following Saturday night than you are to hit the jackpot. If your luck is really out, of course, you will do both.

Certainty: "Something established as inevitable", according to the dictionary, unless prefaced by the word "racing", in which case it is anything but. The list of horses which allegedly had only to maintain a pulse for the duration of a race in order to win is a long one, and includes hotshots beaten at Royal Ascot at such short odds that aristos with more green than grey managed to lose a fortune while simply trying to make enough money to tip the cabbie taking them home. The story is also told of the punter in the 1940s who believed he had come up with a brilliant winning system, and instructed his bookie that he wanted to back Gordon Richards's most fancied mount each day to win pounds 1,000. It worked well enough until Sir Gordon was due to ride a 1-20 chance in a two-runner race, making the punter's wager that day a rather meaty pounds 20,000 to win pounds 1,000. Somewhat predictably, it lost.

Cheltenham: As the sun rises over Cleeve Hill on the opening morning of the National Hunt Festival in March, Cheltenham racecourse looks like most punters' idea of heaven. Three days later, as they stagger into the darkness, their last desperate pennies gone with a 50-1 chance in the County Hurdle and their livers reeling towards total failure, it will feel a great deal more like hell, but at least, unlike Lucifer, they will have had a rollicking good time during their annual Fall from Grace. Book now to avoid disappointment.

Cocaine: As used by some unscrupulous Americans at the turn of the century, one of the most effective stimulants ever administered to a British racehorse, though precisely how hooves which were designed for running could also be used to hold a rolled-up $100 bill has never been adequately explained. The Classic-winning trainer George Lambton, in Men And Horses I Have Known, recalls that in 1903, "one constantly saw horses who were notorious rogues running and winning as if they were possessed of the devil, with eyes starting out of their heads and the sweat pouring off them". In order to demonstrate to the Jockey Club that the practice should be banned, Lambton took the imaginative step of doping some of his own runners, administering five doses to horses with no worthwhile form. The results were four winners and a second, enough to convince Lambton's well-connected friends of the dangers of drugs. Their use was banned by the Jockey Club shortly afterwards, forcing gangs of agitated thoroughbreds to hang around street corners in the seedier end of Newmarket, trying to score a line.

Coup: A trainer prepares a horse to win a particular race, usually a valuable handicap, having carefully hidden its true ability from the handicapper by running it a dozen times over the wrong track, trip or going (in some cases, all three). Once he has snaffled the best of the ante-post value for himself, he may even tell the owner what the target is. When the big day arrives and the horse improves on all its known form to come home in a hack canter, it is said to have landed a coup. There is never any suggestion that the trainer instructed the jockey for its earlier races to be damn sure he did not do anything silly, like win - because that, of course, would be Cheating.

Credit Accounts: And also for the cheques you send to cover them once a fortnight, in accordance with the well-known mathematical rule that the sum of all your credit accounts is always equal to the size of the overdraft on your current account.