When French colt Pour Moi and its tricolour-waving jockey entered the winner's enclosure after the Epsom Derby on Saturday, it was a bittersweet moment for Chris McGrath, The Independent's racing correspondent.
The good news was that he had achieved the pundit's holy grail of predicting the top three in Britain's richest horse race. Unfortunately, with odds that would have returned up to £707 for every pound bet, he had neglected to have a flutter himself.
While the rest of the UK was getting carried away on the latest wave of royal fervour by heavily backing Carlton House, the favourite owned by the Queen, McGrath spotted the potential of Pour Moi and its 19-year-old rider Mickael Barzalona.
The 4-1 winner was followed by outsider Treasure Beach, at 25-1, and Carlton House, who at 5-2 completed a rare triple prediction, which bookies yesterday revealed has cost them an estimated £150,000.
McGrath was philosophical. "It's not very often you get the top three in such a high profile race. If you are a tipster then maybe you should have to put some money on your predictions. When I got home after the race my wife arched her eyebrow as if to say, 'where's the money?'"
The remarkable forecast for the world-famous 1.5-mile race had its roots in disappointment after McGrath had laid a substantial bet on his hot tip for the Epsom Oaks, the fillies Classic run the day before the Derby, only for Wonder of Wonders to finish second.
McGrath, who has previously topped the Racing Post's annual rankings of newspaper tipsters, said: "I was absolutely convinced this horse would win the Oaks so my confidence was shattered by that result. The Derby was looking like a difficult race to forecast. I spent a long time thinking harder and harder and pondering the likely winners. It goes to show that that extra bit of hard work can pay off."
Bookies said that The Independent's prediction had cost them a significant amount with an unusually high number of punters backing McGrath's selection, which was unusual by including a long-shot between two favourites. Alex Donohue, of Ladbrokes, said it received an estimated 500 "tricast" bets on the winning trio, costing it about £25,000. "We take our hats off to Chris. It was a difficult selection given that it included an outsider like Treasure Beach and we received more bets for that combination than we would have expected."
Defeat for heavily backed Carlton House meant any losses due to McGrath's coup were dwarfed by the estimated £15m that betting shops would have paid out for a royal victory.
But bookmakers will be paying more attention to the forecasts of The Independent's pundit.
If the influence of a tipster on a winning streak were in doubt, William Hill announced in 2005 that a 6 per cent decline in its half-yearly profits of £130m was due to a 10-week string of race-winning predictions by Racing Post writer Tom Segal.Reuse content