Eclipse  According to horse racing historian Michael Church, no horse has ‘achieved greater fame or left a more lasting legacy through his progeny’ than Eclipse. Foaled during an annular eclipse of the Sun on April Fools’ Day, 1764, Eclipse was bred, and originally owned, by HRH William, Duke of Cumberland. Cumberland died a year later and at the subsequent dispersal sale Eclipse was bought, for 75 guineas, by William Wildman, a cattle salesman from Smithfield.

An unruly, temperamental type, with an unusually low head carriage, Eclipse did not race for the first time until May, 1769, by which time he was a mature five-year-old. On his racecourse debut, he won the first heat of the Noblemen and Gentlemen’s Plate, over four miles, at Epsom with such ease that inveterate gambler Dennis O’Kelly famously predicted the result of the second heat as ‘Eclipse first, the rest nowhere’. O’Kelly was correct and immediately bought a half-share in Eclipse for 650 guineas.

The following April, by which time Eclipse was unbeaten in nine races, O’Kelly bought the horse outright, for 1,100 guineas, and transferred him to his stables at Clay Hill, Epsom. All in all, in a career lasting less than eighteen months, Eclipse won all of his eighteen races without ever being seriously challenged. His winning tally included eleven races with ‘King’s Plate’ in the title, run at venues throughout England, including Lewes, Newmarket and Winchester. However, having proved himself, far and away, the best horse of his generation, Eclipse ‘walked over’ on several occasions and was ultimately retired from racing due to lack of competition.

Following his retirement from racing, Eclipse proved a success at stud, siring three Derby winners. Even more remarkably, Eclipse features in the male line of ninety-five percent of English thoroughbreds and appears somewhere in the pedigree of the other five percent. Eclipse died from colic in 1789, at the age of 24. His skeleton is on display at the Royal Veterinary College, near Hatfield, Hertfordshire and he is commemorated by the Eclipse Stakes, run annually at Sandown Park since 1886.

Golden Miller  Comparing steeplechasers from different generations, in an effort to determine which was the ‘greatest’ of all time, is a popular, but ultimately, futile activity. However, although he raced long before the advent of Timeform ratings or any other empirical measure that would allow comparisons to be made, Golden Miller must surely be considered, at least, one of the greatest.

Owned by Dorothy Paget – an extremely wealthy, but plain, hefty woman, with a reputation as fearsome as the horse himself – and trained, initially, by Basil Briscoe, Golden Miller won the Cheltenham Gold Cup five consecutive times between 1932 and 1936. Even allowing for the fact that the Cheltenham Gold Cup, at that time, was not the ‘Blue Riband’ event it later became, no other horse – not even the mighty Arkle – has won the race more than three times.

Of course, following his third win in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, in 1934, as a seven-year-old, Golden Miller went on to win the Grand National under top weight of 12st 2lb. Not only did he beat Delaneige by 5 lengths but, in so doing, he beat the previous course record, which had stood for 72 years, by 9.6 seconds. In fact, his winning time of 9 minutes 20.4 seconds wouldn’t be beaten for 40 years and, even then, it took the legendary Red Rum to do so. Golden Miller remains the only horse ever to have won the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Grand National in the same season.

Despite being described by one racing journalist as ‘a god on four legs’, Golden Miller fared less well on subsequent attempts in the Grand National. In fact, his refusal on the first circuit in 1935, when sent off the shortest-priced favourite in National history, caused Paget to fall out with Briscoe and transfer Golden Miller to Owen Anthony. Anthony saddled the horse to win a fifth, and final, Cheltenham Gold Cup in 1936, but Golden Miller failed to complete the National Course again in 1936 and 1937.

Lessons Learned from Betting  Perhaps the first lesson to be learned from betting, especially on horse racing, is that, no matter how encyclopedic your knowledge or how sharp your betting skills, you cannot hope to win every bet. Of course, you may experience periods when your judgement appears nigh on perfect and you back winner after winner but, equally, you will almost certainly experience periods when, as the result of ill-judged selections, or just plain bad luck, you cannot ‘buy a winner’. So being realistic, and perhaps combining your picks with free bet opportunities on YesBets and the like is step one.

The subject of losing runs, which are an ‘occupational hazard’ for any punter, leads quite nicely to the second lesson, which involves the establishment of a betting bank, or ‘tank’.  A betting tank is, quite simply, an adequate sum of money set aside solely for the purpose of betting on horses. Calculating the size of your betting tank, based on your strike rate and average winning odds, is a straightforward process. Establishing a betting tank guarantees that you always bet within your means and, consequently, are less likely to experience the negative emotions, such as anger, despair or guilt, associated with losing money, which can lead to chasing losses and, potentially, financial disaster.

Lesson three is that any staking plan that advocates increasing or decreasing stakes in response to a series of results simply perpetuates the so-called ‘Gambler’s Fallacy’ and is bound to fail in its objective. A previous series of results, good or bad, has no effect, whatsoever, on the probability of a win or loss occurring in the future, and no juggling of stakes can produce any beneficial effect on profit or loss when compared with level stakes.

The fourth, and final, lesson in this short ‘parable’ on the dangers of betting faced by the recreational punter starts with a quote from the venerable Barrington William ‘Barry’ Hills. The former Lambourn trainer, who reached the top of his profession largely through astute punting, once said, ‘If you could buy money they would sell it in a shop down the road’. Of course, ‘buying money’ refers to betting odds-on, where winnings are a fraction of the initial stake. As Hills quite rightly pointed out, a punter who places a bet of £700 on a winning selection at odds of 4/7 is more likely to experience relief at not losing £700 than euphoria at winning £400.

 

Dawn Run  Female horses rarely win the Champion Hurdle or the Cheltenham Gold Cup. In fact, the roll of honour for the Champion Hurdle includes just four mares, African Sister, Dawn Run, Flakey Dove and Annie Power, while the roll of honour for the Cheltenham Gold Cup also includes four, Ballinode, Kerstin, Glencaraig Lady and Dawn Run.

Of course, the salient point is that Dawn Run, who remains the only horse, of either sex, ever to complete the Champion Hurdle – Cheltenham Gold Cup double should be remembered not just as an outstanding mare, but as an outstanding racehorse.

Owned by the late Charmian Hill and trained by the late Paddy Mullins, Dawn Run was variously described as ‘ferocious’ and ‘savage’ by connections, but was nonetheless a relentless galloper. In her second season over hurdles, 1983/84, she won the Ascot Hurdle, when ridden for the first time by Jonjo O’Neill, the Christmas Hurdle at Kempton, and the Irish Champion Hurdle at Leopardstown en route to a crack at the Champion Hurdle proper at the Cheltenham Festival.

Sent off slight odds-on, at 4/5, Dawn Run led turning for home but, ultimately, was all out to hold the late challenge of 66/1 outsider, Cima, by three-quarters of a length. Nevertheless, she became the first mare to win the Champion hurdle since African Sister in 1939 and subsequently won the French Champion Hurdle, under Tony Mullins, son of Paddy, to become the first horse ever to win the Champion Hurdle and the Irish and French equivalents.

Dawn Run won her first three starts over fences, too, despite a lengthy absence through injury, but unseated rider Tony Mullins in the Cotswold Chase at Cheltenham, her preparatory race for the Cheltenham Gold Cup, in January, 1986. Rightly or wrongly, Charmian Hill replaced Mullins with Jonjo O’Neill – for the first time since the 1984 Champion Hurdle – and the Corkman was seen to good effect, galvanising the mare up the Cheltenham hill to beat Wayward Lad by a length and make history.