Mel Gee here…
I have been asked by Josh to provide some articles over the coming months with pretty much a free hand insofar as topics are concerned provided they are sports related, service related or as in this case, who I am and where I came from.
The first thing that I thought of was where to start!
Do I start by retelling stories from the racecourse?
What about my first telephone encounter with Lester Piggott? Or my first meeting with the great man? Perhaps a story involving Sir Henry Cecil?
Or perhaps stories from so many other meetings with the famous and the talented?
No, those stories can be for another time if there is an appetite for them… (let us know!)
So, instead let’s get back to the very late 1960’s…
I was an ordinary lad, average schooling, average intelligence, but determined to fight the system that wanted to send me to one of several local factories as workforce fodder. Unskilled, lowly paid, five day weeks, and the weekend to myself. No thanks!!
I was a people person – not a machine worker.
My family background has nothing at all to do with sport of any kind, and certainly not akin to the wealthy ladies and gents who graced Ascot, Newmarket, Epsom and York. My background was much more dour, lower working class just above the poverty line.
My interest in horse racing was firstly from my dad who would risk what we didn’t have in an effort to gain more – disaster!
A childhood friend who lived next door who would take me to the local bookmakers (I was underage, so watched only) and he would treat me to the experience of losing all money to hand, borrowing to lose more money, and consequently he would be in debt, and eventually turned to theft to fund his addiction. He did eventually go bankrupt in later life owing bookmakers, family, friends et al.
If you read the above again, I think it is from this early experience that I became as disciplined as I am today when it comes to a bankroll and betting. Plus, the innate fear of being in debt.
But I did enjoy watching the sport of kings!
I also believe that having had so little spare money in the early days gave me the edge over almost all other bettors. I could learn my trade, practice my art, research, and paper trade to my heart’s content with no fear of losing any real money.
I could get good at something for the first time in my life and I was better than almost all of my peers. However, at the time, I didn’t truly realise or understand this.
I was now learning a trade, as the saying went at the time – albeit not one that could be roundly advertised. After all, betting was not a recognised trade!
Without the hindrance of money (or losing it!) I became almost obsessed with reading, researching, and trying to understand how horse racing worked from the upper echelons of the Jockey Club across all spheres through to mucking out stables in the mornings.
When there are no financial pressures, learning is far easier to do and that is what happened to me with the form book from a very early point in my quest to make a profit from betting on horse racing.
Where it all started
It was 1970 with Lester Piggott and Nijinsky, quickly followed by Mill Reef in 1971, that I knew I had found a reason to get up in the morning.
The 1970’s were quite easily the best consecutive years for British horse racing. I have 50 years’ experience and although we have seen some great horses, never have there been so many, one after the other as it was in the ’70’s.
It was these great horses – Mill Reef, Brigadier Gerard, Grundy, and Troy on the flat, plus we had Red Rum, Crisp, Pendil, L’Escargot, Bula, Night Nurse and so many others who kept my interest bubbling into an outright passion.
I spent every waking hour reading and figuring out the form book. In the beginning I tried to interpret the whole form book and did a pretty good job, but not really making any money, and of course, it takes a whole season to go by to learn and practice…
And then another year, and another year, and another!
All the rules I had were self-determined only to find further down the line that the rule was wrong! More research! More backtracking and more years ahead to get it right.
And then the racing calendar got changed! Arrgghh! No! Let’s start again! The Pattern race calendar remained almost as was, but Class B races, Class C races, Class D races and Class E races became Class 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 races! How was that going to work?
And then the racing calendar changed again with new types of races – the dreaded Class 7 banded races which thankfully are now a thing of the past.
And the racing calendar changed again! The introduction of two-year-old Novice races replacing most Maiden races. The same for 3YO’s. The introduction of longer races on the turf flat and the insistence of more and more races for mares only.
And of course, the wholesale change to the racing calendar in 1989 with the introduction of the misnomer that is all-weather racing.
Let me remind you, having not had money to lose to this sport, it was my passion for it that kept me going year after year, but – and it is the biggest thing that evolved with me – I kept on learning how to interpret the form book for all disciplines. Whatever the change, I found a way to deal with it.
And then the penny really dropped!
The one constant throughout the years is the Pattern race. It has to remain a constant because there is a whole breeding industry dependent on it for the survival of horse racing itself. The Pattern is worldwide. The Pattern is where the best meets the best and, throughout the season, the best meet the not so best – and that is where the edge is.
I can read and interpret the form book. I’m good at it too. That’s not to be conceited. I have earned my stripes with doggedness in research – no computers, no iPad, no iPhone, no database.
A complete hands-on approach with countless hours in the bank. I’ve paid my entrance fee.
I have evolved into someone confident in making a profit from betting on horse racing.
I am almost 100% involved in Class 1 races.
Today, I do not look at a race card and attempt to find the winner of the race. I look to see if there is a bet for me. A subtle difference, but if no bet, then it is no bet. No guessing on a whim or a fancy.
I am very happy to sit back and watch the race unfold, learn, and wait for another day.
It is not easy to win consistently. It is even more difficult to pursue something which often appears to be a lost cause.
I was fortunate insofar as my pursuit to become a winner was bolstered by my love for the sport, and ‘all things horse racing’. My drive was never borne from all things betting. Had it been the latter, I would not have stood the test of time.
The sport of kings = The ruin of princes.
That is somewhat of a précis of my 50+ years journey to get into the 2% of bettors who do actually make a worthwhile income from betting on horse racing. There isn’t too much I would change along the road to today.
Dedication, patience, discipline, personal sacrifice and good luck have played a major part in my success, along with the trusty steed known as Mill Reef.
If you’d like to join me on my journey, you can sign up to my First Class Racing service by clicking this link today.