Racing: Success lurks in the pool

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The Independent Online
LOSING MONEY to those pleasant females in Cheltenham's Tote booths is somehow more tolerable than losing it to a surly boards-bookie. But there are other reasons to prefer Tote pool betting at the Festival.

A pounds 10 win bet placed on all 20 winners at last year's Festival would have produced the following returns on each of the three days: pounds 665 Tote versus pounds 580 starting price (Tuesday); pounds 621 to pounds 508 (Wednesday); pounds 918 to pounds 726 (Thursday).

Bookmakers' odds usually offer better value for the first two or three horses in the betting. But beyond those, Tote win dividends are almost always larger, particularly in big fields.

Last year, for example, Alexander Banquet (9-1 SP) paid pounds 16.60 for a Tote win bet (including pounds 1 stake). In contrast, Unsinkable Boxer (5-2 SP) paid pounds 2.90 on the Tote - less than 2-1.

Place betting comparisons are more complex. Tote place dividends can vary drastically. Last year, Lord Dorcet was third in the Champion Chase at 50-1, but the Tote place was pounds 4.00 - equivalent to an SP of just 12- 1.

One way to exploit this unpredictability is to find a little-used Tote booth in some far-flung corner of the track. Then, before each race, keep your eyes glued to screens displaying the latest Tote odds.

Freak dividends are sometimes projected and a shrewd, last-moment bet can be placed if there is no queue. It is doubtful, though, that this pastime would appeal to all Festival visitors. They would miss most of the action on the course, for a start. And they could still lose.