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".

Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'