Steve Whiteley – One in a Million (or 1.5M!)

Steve Whiteley - One in a Million (or 1.5M!)

Many dyed-in-the-wool punters spend hours poring over the formbook in an effort to win a life-changing sum of money but, ironically, the punter who won the largest winning dividend in the history of the Tote Jackpot was, by his own admission, ‘not a horse racing man’. The punter in question was, in fact, Steve Whiteley, a 61-year-old heating engineer from North Tawton, North Devon, who was not a regular racegoer and attended a meeting at Exeter Racecourse, in March 2011, as part of a free promotion.

Having scrapped his original, permed Tote Jackpot entry, Whiteley settled, instead, for a single line entry, costing just £2. Nevertheless, he correctly predicted the first four winners – Semi Colon at 2/1, Black Phantom at 12/1, Ammunition at 16/1 and Mr. Bennett at 16/1 – and, by that stage, just seven entries remained. His fifth selection, Lundy Sky, at 5/1, also won at the expense of odds-on favourite Glitzy D’Ocala leaving his the only ticket remaining in the Tote Jackpot.

His sixth, and final, selection, Lupita, was on a losing run of twenty-eight and was ridden by Jessica Lodge, an amateur rider who had yet to ride a winner under National Hunt rules. Whiteley said afterwards that ‘Lodge is just a name that sticks in my head’. Perhaps understandably, Lupita was sent off 12/1 joint-seventh choice of the thirteen runners, but belied those odds by keeping on gamely to lead inside the last hundred yards and lift the spoils by three-quarters of a length. In so doing, the seven-year-old won an incredulous Whiteley £1,445,671.

Small Stake, Huge Payout

Small Stake, Huge Payout Apparently, ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again’ was originally a maxim used to encourage American schoolchildren to do their homework. However, the importance of not giving up too easily was highlighted by an anonymous Coral punter who, in April, 2017, staked £19 on a permed accumulator bet and won £822,972.75 or, in other words, the highest horse racing payout the bookmaking firm has made since it was established in 1926.

The unidentified man, believed to be from Leicester, made five selections at the home of Irish jump racing, Punchestown, in Co. Kildare, and combined them in five £3 four-folds and one £4 five-fold. Das Mooser, about whom he had taken 10/1, set the ball rolling when making all to win the hunter chase, on his debut under National Hunt rules, at half those odds and was followed, in quick succession, by Woodland Opera, at 9/2, in the novice chase and Definite Ruby, at 7/1, in the mares’ handicap chase. Just over an hour later, Bacardys, at 10/1, beat favourite Finian’s Oscar by a short head to win the Tattersalls Ireland Champion Novice Hurdle and, later in the evening, Canardier – backed at 33/1, but sent off at just 8/1 – completed the clean sweep by winning the flat race.

Not that our intrepid punter was aware of any of the goings-on at Punchestown, having headed off for a night out. However, he did eventually check the racing results in the early hours of the following morning and later described his life-changing win as ‘the realisation of a lifetime dream’. Apparently, the man, who is the son of a bookmaker, had been placing similar bets, in the form of trebles and accumulators, on a daily basis for the previous twenty years but, in his own words, ‘kept hitting the woodwork’.

First Betting Shop Millionaire

First Betting Shop Millionaire Even back in 2008, fifty pence was less than the price of a loaf of bread, or a pint of milk, but that was the amount staked by Fred Craggs, a fertiliser salesman from Thirsk, North Yorkshire, who would subsequently become the first ‘betting shop millionaire’. The day before his sixtieth birthday, in February, 2008, Craggs placed an eight-fold accumulator on horse races at Sandown Park, Nad Al Sheba, Warwick and Wolverhampton at his local William Hill betting shop. Fittingly, under the floodlights at Gosforth Park that evening, his eighth and final selection, A Dream Come True, won at 2/1 to land cumulative odds of nearly 2,800,000/1.

Craggs remained blissfully unaware of his good fortune until the following day, when he visited another William Hill betting shop in nearby Bedale. Having placed another five bets, each worth fifty pence, as was his custom, he asked staff to check his betting slip from the previous day. Craggs apparently visibly paled when informed that his total winnings were exactly £1,000,000 – subject to maximum payout rules, but nonetheless unprecedented in the history of British betting shops – but later said that he had experienced only a ‘dull sensation of excitement about the win’. William Hill spokesman David Hood was, thankfully, a little more upbeat, saying, ‘It is a staggering bet, and earns him a place in history as the world’s first betting shop millionaire. Even a scriptwriter couldn’t have dreamt this one up.’

Boxing Day Bonus

Boxing Day Bonus The ‘cash out’ option – which allows online punters to receive an amount of money back before the event on which they have bet has finished – was introduced to allow bookmakers to balance their books on advantageous terms. Depending on the likelihood of a bet winning, punters could, conceivably, be offered much more than their initial stake, but still far less than if the bet does actually win. Consequently, from the punters’ point-of-view, cashing out is always something of a ‘double-edged sword’.

Consider the example of an anonymous Betfair punter who, on Boxing Day, 2015, staked £1 on a 21-fold accumulator on afternoon and evening football matches. His selections include 18 matches that kicked off at 15.00, one that kicked off at 15.15 and two that kicked off at 17.15 and 19.45 respectively. A late goal scored by Olivier Giroud for Arsenal against West Bromwich Albion gave him 19 winning selections out of 21 and an option to cash out for £223,000, against potential winnings in excess of £1.2 million.

The astute, or lucky, punter took that option and, just minutes later, Myles Weston scored for Wycombe Wanderers against Plymouth Argyle in the 15.15 kickoff, making the scoreline 3-3, which it remained until the end of the match. Thus, the punter profited the tune of nearly of a quarter of a million pounds from a bet that, had he let it run its course, would have returned precisely nothing. Betfair spokesperson Naomi Totten was keen to emphasis how cashing out ‘gives customers the ultimate control over their bets’.

Dettori Multiples

Dettori Multiples Lanfranco ‘Frankie’ Dettori earned a reputation as the punters’ friend when, way back in 1996, he went through the card at the Festival of British Racing at Ascot and cost the bookmaking industry, as a whole, in excess of £40 million. The popular Italian jockey hasn’t achieved anything of quite the same magnitude since but, at Royal Ascot in 2019, had the bookmakers running for cover once again.

Having ridden a double on the Wednesday, Dettori proceeded to ride the first four winners on the Thursday and only narrowly missed out on a five-timer when Turgenev – backed from an early price of 12/1 to 7/2 favourite – was worn down and headed in the final fifty yards of the Britannia Stakes. However, in a move that Ben Keith, owner of Star Sports, later described as ‘utterly pathetic’, Bet365 and Sky Bet subsequently ‘knocked back’ multiple bets on horses ridden by Dettori on the final two days of the Royal Meeting.

Bet365 refused some four-fold and all five-fold accumulators on both Friday and Saturday, while Sky Bet refused any multiple bet that included Dettori’s three longest-priced mounts on Saturday. Matt Bisogno, outgoing chair of the Horseracing Bettors Forum, speculated that bookmakers were treating multiple bets on Dettori as a ‘related contigency’, but Keith was much stronger in his condemnation of the action, suggesting that ‘Joe Coral, William Hill and Cyril Stein must have been turning in their graves when the story came out.’ In any event, Dettori spared the blushes of Bet365 and Sky Bet, by riding just a single winner, Advertise, on Friday and Saturday.