Sunday 18 March 2018

Billy Keane: Only time there's value to be had from bookies is when they're kept in the dark

Billy Keane

Billy Keane

Doggy men are secretive sorts. You could be in the middle of a lonely beach in the dead of winter when even the seals are hibernating, and there they'd be, two doggy men, whispering, as near to the waves as possible.

The waves block out any listening devices – like the spies do in the movies when they turn on the tap to drown out conversations. It's as if the cockles buried deep in the sand and the seagulls squawking overhead were spies for the bookies. Half the fun in dog racing is keeping the secret.

The clock never lies. If your greyhound zips in around 29 seconds for the 525, then you know he's a good one. By the way, the 525 is in yards.

Funny how dog-racing distances, horse races, the pint and the weight of babies are measured in old money. All the important things in life. No doubt some eurocrat is sharpening his pen as we speak. The European Union is the last hiding place of the pernickety, the supercilious and the self-perpetuating 'i'-dotters and 't'-crossers, who keep themselves in jobs by making more paperwork for the rest of us.

The bookies get the dog times too and so the fast hound will go off at a very small price. The dog people have to get the bit of value. Dogs have to be fed. There's the vet and every pup must be inoculated against the deadly parvovirus, which is picked up from cats. So now you know why it is cats and dogs don't really get on that well.

Sometimes the dogs are better fed than ourselves. If you think about it, there can't be too much wrong with dog food when it comes to human consumption. Liver and onions is a big tinned favourite with the dogs and I do love liver and onions – especially so if doused in gravy.

If the dog food was bad, the dog lovers would kick up an awful row. And rightly so. It makes sense then that there can't be much wrong with eating a tin of dog food for the dinner. The tins of doggy grub are half the price of food for humans. But they still cost, and then there's cheese and milk to build up the bones.

The only time there's ever a bit of value to be got from a bookie is when they are kept in the dark. Best not try the dog food. Maybe the wife could try a bit first, like the tasters that kings used to have to keep from getting poisoned.

The trick is to qualify a dog at a grade lower than his true ability. The secrets of arranging this feat are known only to the few and do not necessarily involve chicanery. It's a bit like an inter-county football team playing Junior B.

What you have to do is make sure the dog isn't fully trained to his max when he does his trials. The greyhounds are allocated races on the basis of their times in pre-race races.

The problem is, every now and then, there are dogs that thrive on doing nothing. A bit like some of our senators. There are dogs which, ah feckit, go faster when they aren't trained too hard – and yet pine away if they get too many gallops.

Aidan O' Brien won yet another Epsom Derby with Ruler Of The World. It was some burden of a name to give a horse. There was a man from out the road who named his son Mick O after Mick O'Connell but the young lad couldn't kick the petals off a dandelion. But Ruler Of The World is set to win the Irish Derby next week.

The problem for Aidan at Epsom was that he didn't know his best horse. His patron, the astute John Magnier, explained that there was no point in doing all your best work in Ballydoyle.

In other words, Aidan couldn't race his Classic contenders against each other at full pelt, just to find out which one was best. Derby horses are only three and, at this time of the year, they are still babies. No point in wearing them out. Aidan's fine son Joseph was entitled to first pick. He and his dad guessed wrong and Ryan Moore rode the winner.

I wouldn't see anything much wrong with fooling the bookies. The problem is, punters too are fooled by the dogs qualifying at times far below their best. But the trainers can hardly expect to run the dogs into the ground when they are but bare pups. Dogs wear out very quickly.

Some aren't even given the decency of being put down humanely. So it was that a cruel greyhound handler placed a hound in a cloth spud bag, loaded the bag with stones and threw the bag, dog and all, over the big bridge in Listowel.

Mickeen Carey, fishing for brown trout, watched and was horrified. He dropped his rod and tried to get to the middle arch of the five-eyed bridge but the waters ran too fast and deep.

The dog, miraculously, appeared on the river bank. Mick adopted him, trained him and gave him the name Houdini. But Houdini could never manage the trick of running faster than five other dogs for a half a minute. Still there aren't many dogs who could compare to him as an escapologist.

Irish Independent

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