Talking Betting With......Sam Turner
Racing Editor for bettingexpert. Always searching for winners "against the crowd" and trying to find the value.
How do you make it in the world of racing journalism? With the Cheltenham Festival underway, today on the blog we continue our Talking Betting series as Stephen talks with Daily Mail racing writer Sam Turner aka Robin Goodfellow.
In the latest in the series we chat to Robin Goodfellow of the Daily Mail, Sam Turner. He is a regular on Racing UK and holds strong views about racing and its future.
How did you first get into the world of betting and gambling?
I was at school when a friend ‘coerced’ me to head to the bookies for the first time. I think I backed one of Pat Eddery’s which won at 2-1 at York and I was hooked from then on. I often used to think I’d have been better off if Pat had got beat!
Before you became "Robin Goodfellow" of the Mail what jobs have you had in the industry?
I left school and rather than head to University I wanted a job, so a pal got me a position as board marker in a local Stanley Racing betting shop. Basically, I should have just worn a target on my chest as any missed prices or SPs usually ensured a torrent of betting shop pens and losing betting slips came my way. Some of our ‘clients’ were also partial to natural herbs so by the time Crayford and Hackney had finished on a Saturday morning I was often in a world of my own courtesy of second hand smoke.
I was always a keen writer as a kid and did some freelance articles before getting a job for BBC Ceefax Racing. I did that for 18 months before getting a job on a local Midlands paper covering football (Telford Utd) and racing. Two seasons of Conference football was enough to finish anyone so I then went freelance before I moved to The Sportsman as one of the Four Horseman tipsters and eventually Oddscracker, which was set up as a rival column to pricewise. The Sportsman didn’t last very long sadly, but I was lucky to then be offered the position with at The Mail.
What was the biggest win and the biggest loss you have ever had as a punter?
I knocked out a fortune on the darts in-running once which I’m not particularly proud of. I put my faith in Raymond Van Barneveld to beat Andy Fordham in the final of the Worlds a few years back and just kept backing him. I thought it was like finding cash in the street . . . until Barney choked and I lost a small house.
Probably two of the better results were backing Upgrade to win the Triumph Hurdle at 33s and Collier Bay at 80-1 to complete the Irish/English Champion Hurdle double, they were a good few years ago mind!
How do you find dealing with insiders in the racing world i.e jockeys and trainers?
I’d like to think I have a decent relationship with both. It’s a tricky equation to get right to maintain friendships with connections while also being objective in your analysis of a race. You have to try and be true to yourself and not let your pocket influence your opinion, that’s why I try not to bet if I do a shift on RUK. It is easy to let your mouth run away with you if you have backed a loser.
To be honest, as long as you are straight with people and deal with them as you would like to be dealt with then most folk are grand.
What advice would you give to any aspiring punters trying to bet professionally for a living?
Bet little and often and watch as many races as you can. Staking is the biggest part of the game, avoid huge bets like the plague as they take some recovering from if two or three lose in succession. I’m a big fan of each-way multiples as putting the right type of horse in a bet like that can work to a punter’s advantage. Get a couple of those right a year and bookmakers will do well to get the money back off you.
Finally, try turning the sound down during races so you form your opinions and you’re not forced to listen to pundits like me spouting tosh.
How has covering horse racing as a journalist changed in recent years?
Hard to say really. I suppose it’s not quite the gravy train everyone believes it is anymore. Don’t get me wrong, it is still a wonderful privilege to be paid to go racing, but I think the advent of the internet has meant that papers require their pound of flesh and the adage, less is more, doesn’t count these days.
Tipping is certainly harder as I think punters are much better educated now than they were 10 years ago and the advent of overnight pricing has ensured that the layers have an early warning system in place.
On the positives, two decent racing channels and the ability to see all races on the internet have helped a good deal.
What are the hardest things about the job you do now, the upsides and downsides?
Hardest thing without doubt is keeping on top of summer racing. I compile my own speed figures and that takes up to an hour of my day (sometimes longer) during the summer without fail. It can often be even longer. That is crucial time that could be spent running back videos and finding future winners.
The upside is 48 hour decs on the Flat as I can organise my working hours to suit myself and can free up an afternoon to actually watch the racing instead of having my head bowed over a computer screen.
What mentality do you need to thrive in the competitive world of racing journalism?
I’m not sure I know! I got a break through luck, hard work and a bit of initiative. I was happy to work seven days a week and I'm always prepared to listen and learn from those I respected. I think too many folk think they’ve cracked it early in life and if you’re not careful that attitude can bit you in the arse.
I try and remind myself how fortunate I am to have the role I do and never take it for granted. I can’t stand hearing folk moaning and whining about their job in racing – if they hate it that much get another.
As a punter do you use "inside" information for betting/trading or purely your judgement?
I don’t use it. The last two horses I laid that were reportedly not fancied both won. I prefer to bet my own thoughts, I can only blame one person then . . . other than the jockey or the trainer!
How do you see the racing game developing in the next ten years? Optimist or pessimist?
I’m a pessimist by nature so I can’t pretend I’m not concerned. The advent and increased profitability of FOTB machines in bookmakers is a worrying development for racing as I can’t remember the last time I went into a bookies and saw a crowd of punters watching and betting on horses. That was certainly the case 15-20 years ago as the fruit machines only had a £10 jackpot and they weren’t really responsible for diluting the money staked on racing.
I also think UK racing needs to stop being obsessed with staging all of its main races on a Saturday. Ireland utilise Sunday as a family day and put on some cracking fare and we should do the same – it seems madness to me that we try and cram in some excellent meetings all on the same day. I can understand sponsors wanting the TV coverage, but surely we could put together some packages with them that included high quality racing on a Friday and Sunday as well.
Follow Sam on Twitter: @STurnerTipster
And read more of his work at The Daily Mail
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