Talking Betting With......Adam Ward
A shareholder in horses with Mark Usher and pundit on new horseracing show Bet Racing Nation, today we continue our Talking Betting series as Stephen talks all things betting with Adam Ward.
Adam Ward is a shareholder in horses with Mark Usher and helps to edit the trainer's excellent website. He is also a pundit on new horseracing show BetRacingNation. In the latest in our popular "Talking Betting" series we unearth what attracts younger racegoers into the sport of racing and what more can be done.
How were you first attracted to horseracing?
Windsor is my local track and I was taken there from a fairly young age. I used to be allowed the odd bet, but seeing a thoroughbred up close in the flesh was quite something. The thrill of racing grabbed me straight away. Monday nights were the most exciting night of the week for me!
Is it affordable for younger people to get into racehorse ownership?
If racing is your main hobby like mine, then I believe it is yes. There are so many different ways to get involved and there are some great syndicates out there catering for all in terms of horse and budget.
At a low grade level, many offer free shares, with just the monthly outlay, which works out at as little as a ten pounds a week. Joint ownership and partnerships are the way forward in my eyes. Spreading the cost and minimising the risks.
What is the attraction of being involved with the horses?
Being involved in a winner of course! It may sound cliche, but there is simply no better feeling than being involved with a winning horse and following it's progress from the stables to the track. You experience the setbacks, the frustration and the heartbreak, but when it all comes together, there is no feeling like it. That moment of sheer jubilation is priceless. My first winner was Ridgeway Hawk at Southwell of all places but it didn't matter where it was, I felt on top of the world and was smiling for weeks. Then he went and won again!
Also the fact that it doesn't matter how much you spend on a horse as a yearling, as you never know how good they will be until they reach the racecourse. That's why I think some of the money that gets thrown around for unraced horses at the sales is madness. Great for the Breeders though!
Is betting an important part of the experience?
Yes and no to be honest. Some people want to get involved in a horse, just to have a good punt when the time arises, but there is no guarantee. As an owner you are optimistic, and when you know your horse is fit and well you think it will win, but so do the owners of the other horses in the race.
To be honest, the feeling and satisfaction of your horse winning is more of a buzz than landing a bet. If you manage to do both then it's fantastic.
How easy do you find it to get a bet online? Which bookmakers do you use?
I don't believe in having 6 accounts and hoping to get 14-1 instead of 12-1. Most sites are best odd guaranteed now anyway.
I spend more time going racing, so I'm probably a bit old school in the respect that I bet on track. I have only one online account with Paddy Power and I have remained loyal to them. I have never had a problem getting a bet on and my account hasn't been shut down as I probably don't win enough! When you see people having problems getting a bet or having their accounts shut down, it makes me laugh as bookies clearly aren't bookies anymore. Not the online operators anyway. If I knew there was an account landing some decent bets through my firm, I'd be using it to my advantage not shutting them down.
Do your friends share the same interest, or is it a closed world to them?
Not at all. They enjoy the days out at the big festivals but it is another world to them. I only realise how much I know when I am asked what I think are basic and simple questions, but then I realise to an outsider how complex it must seem.
What's your favourite track?
Cheltenham is in a class of it's own for the simple fact, it always has the best horses and they do not race there every other day, so when it's on, it's competitive and special. Sandown is a fantastic track, flat or jumps and no matter how busy, you always seem to be able to move around.
Fakenham is a track that everyone should visit. Very unique. You can get close to the action and the locals create a great atmosphere.
Is racing too expensive and scaring off younger people with things like dress codes etc?
Yes! If you expect younger people to come back on a regular basis, then they need to be given a discount! It's as simple as that! It's not rocket science. Ascot have a great scheme in place with the StarCard which offers half-price tickets to anyone between the ages of 17-24 and the card is free! Ascot do some great marketing but they must have whispered about the card as everyone I speak to seems to never have heard of it!
Cheltenham's 18-24 membership is also worth a mention. £195 for the season works out at about £12 a fixture, that includes the four day festival and the 3-day open meeting. These are the only real standouts of value I know of. As for the dress-code, my non racing friends favourite part about the day out is dressing up, the boys as well as the girls. Racecourses just need to be a bit more intelligent about how they implement it in some cases. My view is that if you are required to dress a certain way to be able to enter a certain enclosure and don't agree with it, simply do not buy a ticket for that enclosure.
How could racing promote itself better? Are the BHA doing enough?
The thing which amazes me most about racing is that there are so many organisations involved and they always seem to be at each others throats, yet come raceday, the show goes on and everything seems to run smoothly!
It is hard for racing to break into the mainstream news and it has only done so recently through the brilliance of Frankel and Tony McCoy. Other than that, the only things that get through are all the negative stuff. Top of that list is integrity. Without it, racing has nothing and is nothing. What has happened this year has been nothing short of embarrassing. Racing needs to adopt a zero tolerance policy. Gerard Butler should have been banned for life! He held his hands up and seems a decent guy, so god only knows what went through his head. It is not only a case of cheating, it is a case of horse welfare and negligence that is simply not on. The same can be said of the Godolphin saga, the amount of money and people that are involved in that organisation and apparently nobody knew it was going on? If that really is the truth, then a lot of people were clearly neglecting the responsibilities of their job.
As for the BHA, they do some good for the sport but unfortunately no one cares to listen about all the good things they do, they just like to have a go when something goes wrong. They need to up their game though, as they simply do not do enough. So many key issues get brought up time and time again and yet nothing seems to be done. It's like politics. Someone comes in, claiming they with do this, this and this and are passionate about helping people and making changes, then 4 years later, nothing has happened and someone new comes in making a load of new promises. Racing is a fantastic sport, but needs people who will cut the nonsense, admit when they are wrong and work together.
I'll save a rant about the fixture list for another day.
How do you see the future of the sport, especially in relation to prize-money?
In terms of prize-money, not so good, as racing has again sold itself short yet again and tied itself into a new four-year levy deal. Yes it was a nice press-release and everything seemed rosy, but it reality, racing will be only be marginally better off, which will not solve the problem long-term.
The majority of racing in this country is low-grade stuff and there is no getting away from that, but in terms of trying to attract new owners into the sport, a class 4-6 race's winning prize-money is generally between the £1,700-3,500. To keep a horse in training with all expenses (Jockeys, Weatherbys, farrier, entries etc) is roughly around the £1,800 a month mark. I'm not saying people should or do get involved in racehorse ownership to make a healthy profit, but the prize at the end of it all should at least go some way to covering the costs. It seems ridiculous that a horse would have to win a race every month or every other month to at least try and cover it's expenses. We all know at that level it is highly unlikely.
Luckily shareholders like me get involved for the love of it!
Follow Adam on Twitter: @AdamHWard
And also checkout BetRacingNation on Twitter: @BetRacingNation