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Carlisle (a) - the betting
7 April 2006
Quite a lot to tell you about this week and fortunately my boss is on holiday so I have the perfect excuse for writing a decent length column for a change and not just dashing out a brief article over lunch.
Tapas is the first subject on the menu. It's bloody shite! I say this after going for tapas at La Tasca in Covent Garden sort of area last night with the missus and her friends. Incidentally, the company did little to make the evening any better as most of her mates are not the sort of people I would choose to befriend. They say you can choose your friends but not your family, which is true. But they forget to mention that you can't choose your partner's friends either and quite a lot of the time they will really get on your tits. But enough of the company and on with the real subject of the rant, the bloody food.
I should begin by explaining that I am a bit of a fussy eater. At this stage I'm sure quite a few of the other CA staff are yelling "a bit?" in disbelieving tones at their screens. The foods I don't eat include, but are not limited to, fruit, vegetables, rice, noodles and really spicy food. And when I say fruit and veg I don't mean only select items in those groups, I mean the bloody lot. I eat spuds, right enough, but are they are vegetable really? Green is not a natural colour for a food in my book. Anyway, bear this fussiness in mind while I continue the story.
My previous experiences of tapas have not been too bad. I have been to restaurants in big groups where you each order three or four dishes and they are yours. You may choose to do a bit of swapsies but generally speaking that's your dinner. I'm not a glutton or owt but when there's food I enjoy I do like my fill of it. So last night, with seven of us at the table, the decision was to order a couple of dishes each and share it all out. Not a popular idea with me. Remember that fussy eater bit earlier? Yep, well the food arrives and my pork kebab and deep fried seafood immediately disappears round the table and I get offered chicken salads and mushrooms and shit like that. Where's me bastard dinner gone you fat bastards? But apparently it's OK because there's paella coming later. I don't give a shit, I hate paella. So last night's meal for me was garlic bread, San Miguel, a few morsels of the food I actually ordered all served with a large side order of sulking. If I never go to a tapas restaurant again that'd suit me. The missus thinks it's a great place to take me because I can just order meaty dishes and maybe a spud-based one too. Me, I prefer restaurants where when the waitress brings me my dinner some bugger doesn't fucking nick half of it. It's a bloody stupid idea and I won't listen to anyone who tries to tell me otherwise. I have mounted my soapbox for this one and I refuse to come down off it. At least no twat tried to drink half my beer as well, I'd have fucking decked 'em!
But enough of that ranting, unless I find something else to bitch about when writing the rest of this column, and on to other matters. It's the Grand National on Saturday and as usual it has sparked interest in offices up and down the country as the sweepstake comes round and you put in your quid and draw your horse. Then some bugger like me tells you that you don't have a hope in hell as you've picked a three-legged donkey that died last year but no-one realised. And then I have to explain how horse-racing works to someone who complains that they weren't in the office when the sweepstake came round and why couldn't we have done it the other day when everyone was here? So before I give you my thoughts on the race let me explain a little about how it all works...
By the way, you weren't expecting me to discuss the football any time soon were you? If so, just press Ctrl+F, enter 'Carlisle' and skip to the little bit near the end that might be of interest to you. I'm in full flow now and I ain't stopping for anyone.
Horses races generally have several declaration stages. What this means is trainers enter their horses into a race such as the National several months beforehand. You can't just turn up on the day and expect your nag to get a go. At each declaration stage the number of runners tends to decrease as some trainers realise their horse won't be fit for the race or won't be good enough. As you normally have to pay an entry fee at each of these declarations some trainers won't bother wasting money on continuing to enter a horse that isn't as good as they hoped it would turn out to be. So as the day of the race draws nearer the number of runners is reduced. The handicapper rates each horse on ability displayed on the track so far and based on that rating assigns each horse in the field a weight they have to carry round the gruelling four and a half mile distance. Trainers either then complain about the weight their charges have to carry or tell the press how they think their runners are well in at the weights. Time ticks by, some horses pick up injuries so are removed from the field. Others are entered into races more suited to them. Then as the final declaration stage is reached a safety limit of 40 runners is imposed and only the best 40 horses who remain get to take to the famous Aintree course to face the huge fences in the Grand National. And that's why you can't have the sweepstake on the Monday leading up to the National – no bugger knows who the final 40 runners will be. Of course, Grimsby Town Football Club have got round this problem with a different type of sweepstake where you buy tickets and may or may not actually get one of the 40 horses. It's a lottery. Talking of which...
Most people in my office know that I am a keen gambler so for the past few days various people have pressed me for an opinion on the race and even a tip. It would be wrong of me to deny you lot the very same information I have provided my colleagues. In fact because I love you lot so much I will go above and beyond what I told my workmates. The Grand National is a handicap race. That means the horses are due to carry weight that depends on their ability. The better the horse, the heavier the load on his back. If the handicapper has set the weights right and every horse runs to the form they have displayed in the past there will be a 40-runner dead heat as they all cross the line together. Ever heard of that happening in the National? No, and it won't this time either. Some horses will fall, some will unseat their rider and some will be pulled up by the jockey, when they don't think the horse can continue without risking injury. Some will probably refuse at a fence and hopefully buckaroo their rider over it. I say hopefully because it's funny to watch. Anyway, the stats on this race show us that we can generally rule out anything carrying more than around 11st 2lb, which rules out the top six on the card. Horses carrying the lower weights are generally not good enough to win either so you can scrub out the bottom 10 or so on the card. Now you want to be looking for a nine-year-old in the runners you have left, preferably not a grey as they have a rubbish recent record in this race. Other than that, it's take your pick time. This race is a bloody lottery and almost anything from the middle of the card can win it.
You have been patient long enough to deserve a couple of specific tips for the race though. Clan Royal has been made favourite in the past few days, ahead of Hedgehunter. Clan Royal is a couple of years too old really and is being ridden by Tony McCoy, Mr National Hunt himself. But he's never won this one and I can't see him doing it this year either. This is a definite lay for me, especially at 7.0 on Betfair, that's too short for a race like this. Hedgehunter is also worth laying and is currently available at 8.0 on Betfair. He's carrying far too much weight and winners of this race generally don't defend their title so Hedgehunter is unlikely to win again this year. I'm not going to tip the winner because I don't have a strong feeling for who it will be. I will say that Numbersixvalverde and Sir Oj interest me though.
Oh, and those of you driving to the game on Saturday might want to bear in mind the extra traffic that the Grand National will bring to the roads in the north-west. I'm not sure whether it will affect you or not though, depends on your route to Carlisle. Ha! That got some of you didn't it? You were expecting football tips now weren't you? Find next, go on.
I knew there was something else I wanted to rant about – John Smith's. It's a nasty enough pint but they are sponsoring the Grand National. It used to be someone a bit more classy like Martell or Hennessy. Pah! Anyway, this year, in conjunction with The Sun, John Smith's are running a competition where you can win a million quid. You answer an easy question and text the answer plus your name and age to a given number and you get 5 numbers back in return. If the first five horses home match the numbers you were sent, in the order they are in your message, then you win a million quid. It costs 25p plus your standard network charge to enter, but is it worth it? At best you are getting odds of 4 million to one (if your text message is free and you just have to pay the 25p). However, the chances of getting the right five horses from the field of 40 is 658,008. But here the order of the horses is important: 1-2-3-4-5 is different from 1-2-3-5-4 so the number of possible ways in which you could pick five horses from the 40 runners is 78,960,960. So the chance of you having the winning ticket is nearly 79 million to one and they will give you odds no greater than 4 million to one. Tight bastards!
I can put it off no longer, I'm going to have to talk about this weekend's game against Carlisle aren't I? Those of you who have Ctrl+F'd your way here – welcome, you are at last where you wanted to be. It's first v second in League Two, a top of the table six-pointer, whatever that really means. Carlisle have the best home record in the division whereas our away record is only fourth best (behind Carlisle, Northampton and Leyton Orient). This is a big game and we score few goals and concede more on our travels than we do at home. We could be looking at a massacre here.
The last time we beat Carlisle at their place was back in 1998 on our way to getting promoted that season. That was in April too. Is this an omen? But in '98 we went up via the play-offs so let's hope it's not that much of an omen eh? In terms of overall results we have the edge here. We are ahead 16-6 in terms of league wins, with seven draws in there too. Oh, who am I kidding? We're doomed laddie, doomed. Let's get this defeat to Carlisle out the way and then get on with the business of picking up as many points as we can from the other games shall we?
Betfair punters will let you back Town at 4 and lay them at 4.1. Carlisle are on offer at 2.04/2.06 with the draw at 3.75/3.85. Your bookies go evens about Carlisle with the draw at 12/5 and a win for the Mariners at 11/4. This is interesting. When my phoned beeped on Tuesday night and I read the odds on offer from Ladbrokes I thought I had it easy this week; with Carlisle at evens it was a surefire tip wasn't it? Now I'm not so sure. Town won't win this match, of that I am sure. So a lay of the Mariners is certainly a possibility. Could we squeak a draw? Mebbe, but I really doubt it as I strongly fancy that home win. So lump on the home win or lay Town? Or both? If I am wrong and we come away from Carlisle with all the points it will be expensive if I lay Town. But this stage of the season is not the time to bottle it. A 1pt lay and a 2pt home win could cost us around 5pts if it goes wrong but that's the tips for this week. Carlisle ought to win this quite comfortably and make us 3 points profit. Yeah!
Bet 42: 2pts back Carlisle @ evens (general)
Bet 43: 1pt stake lay Grimsby @ 4.1 (Betfair)
Record so far... (not including the above)
Strike Rate: 51.3%