Enermy number one

"...good to read about someone who makes serious money from punting, and Veitch makes very, very serious money indeed."

I’ve read a lot of racing books in recent months but I haven’t written a book review for some time. Why? The answer is simple. I’ve read a lot of terrible books and I haven’t read anything that has really been worth recommending to others. I had high hopes of Dave Nevison’s latest offering, but that turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. I had enjoyed his first book, even though it was a bit light on form analysis, but his second was pretty much a cash-in on the first. Much to my regret this and other well promoted offerings out sell my books on the Amazon book list by some margin. Is there any justice in this world?!

The autobiography of professional gambler Patrick Veitch is another book that has had more publicity than the saga of Jordon’s marriage, but is it any good? Does it reveal, as the title claims, any of his secrets to successful betting? Will it help to improve your gambling? I read the two hundred or so pages with interest…

Patrick Veitch is well known in professional punting circles, and is one of the few punters that the big bookmakers really fear. They have good reason to fear him. In recent years he has taken more than £10 million out of their satchels and done material damage to their share prices.

Veitch isn’t a Harry Findlay type of punter. In his book he doesn’t describe any Harry size wagers. These can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds. Veitch is a big punter by most standards but his maximum is more in the region of forty rather than four hundred grand. However, while Mr Findlay and his associates lump onto odds-on favourites in the hope of a long-term profit of a few per cent, Veitch works to a much higher margin. The bookmakers basically fear him because he is likely to sneak very large stakes onto long shots that win at a pretty good strike rate. The bookies can therefore face massive liabilities if Veitch smashes into one. This isn’t to say that he is a long-shot specialist. He basically seeks value i.e. he is always trying to strike a bet at odds greater than the horse’s actual chance of winning. I have a feeling that he works out his stakes according to his calculated edge over the bookies. This means that when he backs a 100 to 1 shot that he believes should be less than 8 to 1 (believe it or not he spotted one!) he places his maximum bet. On the hand he will have a much smaller bet on, for example, a 5 to 1 shot that he thinks should be 5 to 2. Basically he is always trying to maximise his advantage and he seems to be able to work out his value better than most. This isn’t to be unexpected of a maths student from Trinity College Cambridge!

The book describes in detail some of Veitch’s biggest wins. These wins can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds and can take the form of betting coups on a single horse or accumulators or Scoop six bets. However, most of his big wins focus on win or each-way singles.

One of his biggest wins was the well-publicised coup on Exponential on 16th August 2004 at Nottingham. This one was backed in from 100 to 1 into 8 to 1 and Veitch and his associates won over £500,000, with Veitch himself netting £235,000. Nice one!

The Exponential sting reveals a good deal about Veitch’s methods. I note from the book that he seems to go all out on horses he owns. Exponential may not have run in his name but it was nevertheless owned in part by Veitch. He therefore had inside information on the horse and knew every detail about its well being. This information is not available to the average punter and so it gives him an instant edge.

The other thing that I observed was that in order to win big you have got to be ultra secretive, and Veitch is very, very secretive. He runs his betting like a military operation in the sense that any coup is top secret and meticulously planned. He even gives his agents a military rank. This isn’t just for fun because he calculates a security rating for each agent.

This rating is basically his assessment of whether the agent will leak information to others, and he gives each agent a stake multiple based on this rating. For example, if I acted as Veitch’s agent I might stake £100 wagers for him, but my multiple might be 10, so when he said “I want five times your stake to your multiple” this would mean that I had to get five grand on for him.

His actual betting operation is also highly complex and involves many different agents. Each is given specific instructions on when, how much and at what odds to bet. He illustrates his cunning by detailing the Exponential coup and how his agents took up as much of the 100 to 1 that they could. The odds then plummeted but this was part of his plan. This allowed him to switch from bashing the bookies to hitting others punters on the exchanges. On the exchanges he could start backing at high volume, at the time when bookmakers had started to knock-back his bets. He was able to do this because other punters who had also backed Exponential at 100 to 1 started to lay off at the shorter odds for a tidy profit. Veitch was more than happy to accommodate them and by taking up their offers he was able to Hoover up all the available cash layed at 33 to 1 downwards. He timed his operation to such perfection that he managed to get most, if not all, his stake on at odds much higher than the final SP of 8 to 1.

He also reveals the level of subterfuge he will deploy in order to put the bookies off the scent. For instance, Exponential had debuted wearing blinkers for the first time. This immediately alerts punters that the horse could be un-genuine because it is very rare for a horse to wear blinkers first time out. It therefore went off a high odds and was well beaten. The case against Exponential seemed to be confirmed. On the day of the coup Exponential again wore blinkers but this time also wore an eye shield. This doesn’t really have any influence on a horse’s performance but again it creates a little bit of extra type in the racecard next to the horse’s name that might put them off backing the horse. In the case of Exponential it looked to others as if the trainer was already getting desperate to find a way of making the horse run faster after just a couple of runs.

Veitch also gives a good tip by explaining why he specialises only on flat racing. He tells us that with so many fixtures and so many horses in training he can only afford to concentrate on flat form. He would otherwise burn himself out. This means that he takes every winter off, which wouldn’t be for me as I love my jump racing! However, his suggestion of specialising in one code makes a lot of sense because to win you need to devote a great deal of time to research, form study and the watching of races. On the latter Veitch attaches great emphasis and reading between the lines he basically views recordings of flat races and tries to identify potential or hard luck stories for some of the beaten runners. He then makes a note about them and studies the subsequent form of the horses that beat them or finished behind in order to work out the strength of the form. This helps him to identify potential long shots, and he backs them in the circumstances that he feels will give them an extra edge.

Draw analysis is another thing that gets a number of mentions in the book. He makes a claim that this aspect of form study is less important these days than in the past because drainage and watering systems have improved. Some courses have natural draw biases (e.g. Chester) but this tends to get factored into the horses odds. Veitch is nevertheless interested in horses that finish well from a poor draw or have some sort of draw advantage. Interestingly while he spends a lot of time studying the statistics he pays particular attention to recent races at a track to see if there is any evidence of a current bias.

You have probably gathered by now that I like this book because it contains a number of useful tips to help improve ones own betting. It doesn’t spill the beans by any means, and Veitch is constantly reminding the reader that in order to stay in front of the bookies he can’t give away too much, but he gives away enough. On the minus side it isn’t exactly an entertaining read. There are few good one liners, but it is nevertheless a good to read about someone who makes serious money from punting, and Veitch makes very, very serious money indeed.