When I started work as a trainee journalist at the Berrow’s Worcester Journal many moons ago I was based in a big office with huge windows overlooking the River Severn and Worcester Racecourse with the historic cathedral in the distance.
One end of the office was populated by our advertising department presided over a sharp and funny manager, Suzie, while the editorial department consisted of me, an older male journo called Bob who did most of his work in the old school fashion of hanging around down the pub picking up gossip and rumours and occasionally a juicy exclusive story.
There was also an ancient sub-editor, an equally ancient sports editor and my editor, Geoff Cottrell, a proud true East Ender, now sadly deceased.
He was always disheveled, his hair generally flapping the wrong way and he was usually to be found sucking on or fiddling with his noxious pipe.
Despite his looks Geoff had a journalistic pedigree to be envied and I was lucky to be mentored and encouraged by him as he cruised towards retirement at the Berrow’s Worcester Journal. He gave me an enormous amount of editorial freedom once the bread and butter work was done, allowing me to try out initiatives ranging from mad competitions to themed feature pages.
The other thing Geoff taught me was how to appreciate horse racing and how to bet, sometimes successfully!
We had a fabulous view of the racecourse and many an afternoon we would stand by our office windows, binoculars at the ready. Of course we never missed the big races elsewhere and he always organised big sweepstakes for the famous events.
I knew literally nothing about racing before I worked with Geoff and without his input would probably still be picking horses by their looks or names. That’s can be fun to be honest but if you want a better chance of winning you should probably learn a little more about the sport and betting on it. Maybe start by learning about form, horse racing odds and even how some types of weather and courses suit some horses more than others.
Some worry that betting on the horses can be expensive but actually you can have a great day or night out at the course or from the comfort of your own home with just a few pounds.
It really is fun for all ages cheering on a race. I went along to Ladies Day at Ascot once and enjoyed every minute from choosing the obligatory hat to the car park picnic surrounded by everyone in their glad rags.
There are apps now which make it super easy to follow and bet on races and festivals from all over the world. Some even have entertaining and educational articles about the industry and its characters and some tips on how to understand all the jargon and give yourself a better chance of winning.
The key is to only bet what you can afford to lose and with a bit of knowledge and a sprinkle of luck you could end up with a bit of extra dosh.