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1980 - The origins of this event

I've just realised what I've been doing wrong all these years; I've been backing horses to win and not greyhounds or humans. What am I talking about? Well, during the past year two events took place that have gobsmacked me completely. One, was the sprint race between a greyhound and a racehorse. If I'd been present that day I'd have wagered my last half euro that the horse would have won, easily. But no. The greyhound beat the horse comprehensively. Then in June '04 came the other event that seriously dented my confidence in the ability of the racehorse.

But we've got to go back to 1980 for the origins of this event. In Llanwrtyd Wells, Powys that year there was a pub argument about whether a man could beat a horse and rider over a gruelling 22-mile race across the roughest terrain that Wales could offer. Hills, valleys, rivers - the lot. A prize of £1000 was put up for the first runner to beat a horse over the line. I'm not sure what odds the bookies would have offered on the first runner to do so on that day, but for me the horse would have been long odds-on, an absolute certainty. And so it proved. The leading human runner trailed in about three quarters of an hour behind the first horse. Pub argument was over - horse the winner. You would have thought so, but not everyone did. It became an annual event in Llanwrtyd Wells (I'm glad I'm just writing it, and not having to say it), with an extra £1000 being added each year to the prize for the first runner to beat the horse. Still no runner could do it although the time lag behind the horse eventually came down to seconds rather than minutes, and that to me was pretty amazing considering the distance of 22 miles and a total running time of over 2 hours.

And then in June '04 I saw this tiny snippet of a paragraph in the national press that I could hardly believe. With the prize now at £25000 (courtesy of William Hill) a runner from London called Huw Lobb beat all the 47 horses in the race across the line to collect his 25 Grand. In my view he certainly deserved it. The only trouble is that every time I back a horse now I'm haunted by this recurring vision of a muddy man in singlet and shorts beating my selection by a short head at the winning post.

These horses that were beaten by Huw Lobb, and the greyhound, might well have benefited from treatment from Ken Payne. Remember him? If your racing memories go back to the 60s and 70s you certainly will, for he was one of the most flamboyant, exciting - and controversial trainers of the period. When eventually everything went disastrously wrong for him he wrote his life story, telling all up to that point, and then promptly disappeared from the racing scene. The book is called The Coup and is now out of print and much sought after, but if you can get hold of a copy do so, for it tells a most entertaining racing story. For those who haven't read it and can't get hold of a copy I'll give an inkling of what you've missed. His training career was really quite short - from a glorious day in January 1968 until a horrific one in October 1976 - but in between! Before training racehorses Ken Payne had done his National Service in Malaya (which turned out later to be very important) and after coming home set up a windowcleaning business, starting with a bucket and a ladder. Before long he had built it up to such an extent that he was employing 700 men, and so he got his nick-name Window Payne. But he was always short of money and had always been interested in horses, so he got hold of a pony and trained it for racing on the small flapping tracks, hoping to take the bookies to the window cleaners! And so he did; because while he'd been in Malaya he'd met a strange vet known only as Georgie who introduced Ken to the murkier side of horse training. Basically, he showed Ken how to build up a horse by giving it a course of special vitamins and also a regime of anabolic steroids injections. Remembering how successful the treatment in Malaya had been, Ken got in touch with Georgie who, for a fee, sent on to Ken the necessary materials which were then used on the pony. It won and Ken collected thousands; that's how it all started.

Strangely enough the horse that launched Payne's training career at Catterick in 1968, the hurdler Neronton, hadn't had the drug treatment. When it came to Payne in October '67 it was broken down and could hardly walk. An old horseman friend of Payne discovered what was wrong with the horse's feet, cured them and they then restored it to its form of years gone by when it had been a pretty good hurdler. All this was kept quiet and Neronton was entered in a selling hurdle at Catterick - a broken down old horse trained by an unknown trainer. Payne got the bulk of the money down at odds of 8/1 to 10/1, spread over a wide range of betting shops in the New Forest area (where Payne was based) and elsewhere. Neronton was ridden that day by Brian Fletcher, later to ride three National winners, but at the fifth hurdle Neronton virtually fell. Payne thought he had and that he had lost everything, but Fletcher picked him up and went on to win, going away. Ken Payne had won over £20000, enough to set him off on his training career. At first it was at Berkeley House, Lambourn and later he moved north to Kingsley House at Middleham. Eventually he built up there a string of over 100 horses for Flat racing, but wherever he was he always had money problems because of his extravagant life-style. To pay the bills and survive he had to keep on landing betting coups, and these were usually in selling plate races where he would enter a number of runners to confuse the bookies. The coup horse, however, would always be well prepared in Payne's customary way, with its course of B-12 vitamins and injections of steroids. Payne always reckoned that what he was doing was not cheating in any way, for he maintained that his treatment just made the horse stronger but did not make it run faster. At the time the official veterinary view agreed with him and he was quite open about what he did.

The bookies, naturally, hated him for his coups and did everything in their power to thwart him. But I'll have to continue with the story next month, including his utter downfall in October '76. And I've also discovered some details of his life after what's told in the book and after he disappeared so dramatically from the British racing scene.

Now, though, we must get on with this month's system. It's often pointed out that the factors which make a system successful in one era may not be so effective at some later time. But I'm convinced that there are some ideas which should prove to be profitable at any time, and this month's system is based on such an idea. It's a very simple one - a trainer's success rate. Also it fits in quite neatly with our fore-going piece about the trainer Ken Payne and his profitability. The name of the system is quite uninspiring - Project A – but we'll forgive it that if it comes up with as many coups as were landed by Window Payne.

The aim is to find horses that have the quality to win the chosen race. The Trainer holds the key to success and he is the ONLY PERSON who knows the quality of his horses and which are laid out to win. All trainers have periods in a season when their horses are at their best and can be relied on to bring home the bacon. These are the horses you can pinpoint with this simple formula: You will need a notebook and all you have to do is to note the trainers who train the winner of each race.

When you find a trainer who has trained two or more winners in a day, or two or more winners on consecutive days, he is the trainer to note. You then back his next 3 runners that comply with the following rules:- Must have won a race in the current season.
If in a Handicap race, there must not be more than 12 runners.
If in a Non-handicap race, the maximum runners must be 15.
ELIMINATE: All Sellers and any qualifier NOT in the first 5 in the betting forecast.
SPECIAL NAP SELECTIONS;- Each qualifying horse must have been 1st or 2nd in both of its previous 2 races.
It must also be quoted forecast favourite in the betting forecast.
We do not recommend betting in a race of 3 runners or less, or in the big handicaps where too many top class horses are competing.
Do not bet in handicaps where the qualifying horse carries more than a 31b penalty on the Flat, or 61bs over the Jumps.

If avoidable, do not bet Odds-On.

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