Hard-luck story of the lost Continent

Luck, according to the dictionary, is an abstract noun, meaning "Beyond control and subject to chance". As every punter knows, however, there is nothing abstract about it. It shadows our every move and decides our fate. When you are winning, you feel you have it grasped tight in your fist. Lose, and it is the leaden weight around your shoulders.

Luck, according to the dictionary, is an abstract noun, meaning "Beyond control and subject to chance". As every punter knows, however, there is nothing abstract about it. It shadows our every move and decides our fate. When you are winning, you feel you have it grasped tight in your fist. Lose, and it is the leaden weight around your shoulders.

It is out there on the racecourse too, blocking the favourite when he needs a run two out, and allowing the 25-1 chance in front to steal a vital length. When the favourite finishes fast but too late into second, all those who backed him will curse their luck but also reassure themselves that, next time, they will get it all back. Next time, after all, the runner-up will be a "winner without a penalty".

It is one of the great betting shop maxims, along with its close relative, "lent not lost". It is also why, when William Hill's odds compilers sat down on Monday to price up the Great St Wilfrid Handicap at Ripon this Saturday, they made Continent the 9-2 favourite and offered everything else at at least 12-1. This, remember, is a fiercely competitive sprint handicap for which a maximum field of 23 runners seems certain to go to post.

Continent's price looks ridiculous, yet, as David Hood, Hill's PR man, pointed out: "Everyone will have seen how unlucky he has been in his last two races ... [and] he will be difficult to oppose." Apparently so. Yesterday, they cut him to 4-1.

Now Continent certainly took an almighty bump – from his stable-mate, Undeterred, no less – in the Stewards' Cup at Goodwood 11 days ago. The time before that, at Ascot, he looked to be full of running but couldn't find a gap, and the time before that, at Newcastle, it was much the same story.

His loyal band of supporters have backed him generously on each occasion, because the "winner without a penalty" is the racing equivalent of doing the same numbers on the lottery every week – no fun at all, but still better than missing out if they ever do come up.

But when does bad luck stop being bad luck and turn into a nasty habit? What constitutes bad luck is, of course, wholly subjective, but the best punters, such as professional backer Eddie Fremantle, are careful not to over-react to what looks like an unfortunate defeat.

"My method of doing things is to give a price to everything, and in general I would build things like that into the price," Fremantle said yesterday. "There will probably be an over-reaction when a horse looks unlucky, although I've got no figures to back it up. In the case of that particular horse, it's one of those which has supposedly been unlucky at least three times on the spin, and I thought that at Newcastle, when it did get out, it didn't actually do anything."

There is certainly little chance of Fremantle's money heading in Continent's direction. "I can't envisage anything being 9-2 for that race," he says.

"Certain horses are priced up as if they would definitely have won, and I can't believe that Continent would have been shorter than 9-2 if he had won [at Goodwood]. In fact, he'd probably have been longer, because he'd have been carrying a penalty."

It is a thought which anyone studying the form for Saturday's big handicap would do well to bear in mind. No-one can know for sure whether Continent would have won the Stewards' Cup without the unfortunate intervention of Undeterred.

Indeed, Kieren Fallon, the rider of Undeterred, was adamant after the race that he would have won had he not suffered interference from Guinea Hunter. To back Continent at a price which suggests not only that he would have won, but done so with some comfort, is madness.

However, if you could find a bookmaker prepared to offer, say, 2-1 that Continent will be unlucky once again this Saturday, that would be another matter entirely.

Threat to Folkestone

Arena Leisure issued a warning yesterday over the future of Folkestone racecourse. The company has a redevelopment plan for the track, involving the sale of land.

Ian Renton, Arena's director of racing, said: "In essence, it is our least profitable racecourse.

"It needs substantial investment. What we hope to do, and we have applied for planning permission, is to completely redevelop the course which would mean selling some land off for essential use, reinvesting the income from that in new grandstands and leisure facilities".

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
News
Campbell: ‘Sometimes you have to be economical with the truth’
newsFormer spin doctor says MPs should study tactics of leading sports figures like José Mourinho
Sport
football
Life and Style
Agretti is often compared to its relative, samphire, though is closer in taste to spinach
food + drink
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Kelly Osbourne will play a flight attendant in Sharknado 2
people
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
The dress can be seen in different colours
i100
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
Voices
Lance Corporal Joshua Leakey VC
voicesBeware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
Alexander McQueen's AW 2009/10 collection during Paris Fashion Week
fashionMeet the collaborators who helped create the late designer’s notorious spectacles
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003
Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

Dinner through the decades

A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

Philippa Perry interview

The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

Harry Kane interview

The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

Michael Calvin's Last Word

For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?