Sunday, March 22

Friday, January 17

Alex Bird's Golden Rules to Finding Winners


Born in Newton Heath, three miles east of Manchester city centre, in 1916, Alex Bird was the son of a bookmaker. Consequently, he was introduced to horse racing and gambling at an early age. However, in a classic case of ‘poacher turned gamekeeper’, following the death of his father, Bird sold his share of the business to his sister, May, and embarked on a career that would make him one of the most famous, and successful, professional punters of the twentieth century.

Golden Rules

1. Refrain from betting, at all, if the going changes from one extreme to the other. 

2. Keep an eye out for promising apprentice jockeys, whose weight claim can place them at a distinct advantage.

3. Avoid betting in handicaps.

4. Avoid betting in maiden races restricted to three-year-olds, especially three-year-old fillies.

5. Avoid betting at ‘first show’ prices, which almost invariably increase, especially if the betting market is weak, as it often is at run-of-the-mill weekday meetings at lesser racecourses.

6. Concentrate on conditions, or non-handicap, races, with between eight and ten runners and a limited number of in-form horses. Avoid backing favourites in such races and combine second- and third-favourites in each-way doubles and trebles instead.   


Alex Bird began his career as a professional punter in 1946 and, luckily enough for him, the photo-finish was introduced to British racecourses the following year, following a feasibility study by the Jockey Club. Bird discovered that, from most vantage points, an optical illusion invariably favoured the horse on the far side or, in other words, the horse furthest from the observer, in a photo-finish. He also discovered that, by standing in line with the winning post, in an elevated position, and closing one eye, he could prevent the optical illusion and accurately identify the winner. So, for the five minutes or so it took to develop the photograph, he was in possession of information that few, if any, on the racecourse had. He used the information to excellent effect, reportedly winning 500 photo-finish bets in a row and amassing a small fortune.

However, Bird placed his biggest single bet ever on Mill Reef in the Gimcrack Stakes at York in August, 1970. Having won his first two starts as a juvenile, including the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot by six lengths, Mill Reef suffered the first of just two defeats in his 14-race career when beaten a short-head by My Swallow in the Prix Robert Papin at Maisons-Laffitte. On the eve of the Gimcrack Stakes, torrential rain turned the going on the Knavesmire heavy but, undeterred by the desperate conditions, Bird invested £60,000 at 4/6 on Mill Reef. His confidence was not misplaced because Mill Reef, who was blessed with a beautifully light, fluid action, put up what Timeform later described as ‘a performance that had to be seen to be believed’, winning by ten lengths, with jockey Geoff Lewis sitting motionless. 


Alex Bird published just one book, his autobiography, entitled ‘Alex Bird: The Life and Secrets of a Professional Punter’, which he co-wrote with Terry Manners, in 1986. Unsurprisingly, the book chronicles the ups and downs of his decades-long battle with the bookmakers, which was nonetheless conducted in a spirit of mutual respect.


Alex Bird is often referred to as the ‘original’ professional punter. He flourished in an age before betting exchanges and, in the early days, before just about everything the modern punter takes for granted, including the form book, handicap ratings and standard times. Of course, his early success was due, in large part, to the fact that photo-finish technology was still in its infancy, but his longevity bears testament to the fact that he was anything but a ‘one-trick pony’. Bird turned over an estimated £2 million annually, but worked with a return on investment of 2%, so on-course betting tax, originally levied at 2½% and raised to 5% in 1968, before being reduced to 4% in 1972, did his career no favours.  Nevertheless, Bird continued to land touches until well into his seventies, famously backing Final Shot at 40/1 – against a starting price of 12/1 – in the Ayr Gold Cup in 1990. The fact that Geoffrey Hamlyn, who returned starting prices for ‘The Sporting Life’ for over four decades and came across all the major players in horse racing, regarded Bird as an ‘investor’, rather than a ‘gambler’, speaks volumes

by tips4punters |  

Friday, September 6

Natural Horse Care Means Chemical Free Living For Optimal Performance

Your horse is a living, breathing creature that deserves the best. Anyone who has ever owned a horse has discovered just how perceptive and brilliant they can be. If you want to keep your equine partner healthy and thriving, you need to take an active role in caring for your horse’s health in a natural way. 

Natural Horse Care Starts By Reducing Chemical Exposure 

Natural horse care can be beneficial to your horse, but it’s also beneficial to you as an owner. It can decrease your horse keeping expenses while possibly reducing your veterinary bills. Natural horse care starts by limiting the number of chemicals that you expose your horse to on a daily basis. While it’s virtually impossible to eliminate every single sketchy substance that your horse comes in contact with, you can make changes that lower the risk. Making your horse’s life better will add to your enjoyment of being a good owner. 

Fewer Chemicals On Your Horse 

When it comes to the ingredients that you put in and on your horse, scrutiny is key. If you don’t understand the ingredients, don’t use them. Take time to learn about the chemicals in common items so you can form an educated opinion on how it can affect your equine friend.  

For example, many fly sprays contain harmful chemicals. 
  • Pyrethrin is highly toxic to fish, honeybees, and birds. It can also be dangerous to cats and smaller dogs.                                                                                                              
  • Permethrin is highly toxic to cats, fish and other animals that live in water. It also has a low toxicity in birds.
Why expose your horse to something so harmful? Instead purchase a fly spray that contains natural ingredients or essential oils. 

When it comes to medications, they have their place when needed. But try using natural ingredients to treat sore muscles when possible. Some, such as turmeric, can be just as effective as NSAIDS in bringing relief without the chemical exposure. 

Fewer Chemicals In Your Horse 

The performance you get out of your horse depends on what you feed them. If your horse is an endurance horse, it’s going to need more than hay and oats to perform the way you expect. You know that they need a mixture of carbohydrates, dietary fat, and protein. But did you know that  horses need antioxidants such as vitamins C, E, and selenium to reduce the free radicals that build up in muscle tissue? Feeding your horse a balanced diet will give you optimum performance, but you must be alert to certain harmful chemical substances found in some commercial feed. 

Avoid These Chemical Food Additives 

There are several chemicals found in foods and other products that can be unsafe for your horse. Though they may not cause any serious issues immediately, long-term exposure could have an adverse effect. Keep your horse healthy by limiting how many of these ingredients they are subjected to on a regular basis.

Ammonium hydroxide – This dangerous substance can be found in many industrial cleaning products, but it can also be found in certain foods. It was famous for being used to make “pink slime” that many fast food chains added to their products. Though most restaurants have stopped this practice, it can still be found in some foods. If you see it on the label, pass it by.     

Sodium benzoate – On its own it is generally safe, but if sodium benzoate converts to benzene, it can be dangerous. Benzene is a hazardous chemical that can be found in some foods. It has been shown to cause inflammation of tissues and possibly lead to chronic diseases, such as cancer. 

Artificial colors, dyes, and flavors – Sometimes they can be tricky to find, as manufacturers are not required to provide information on what makes up the ingredients of such a generic term. The artificial flavor could be hydrolyzed vegetable protein, or monosodium glutamate (MSG). MSG has been known to cause health problems in studies involving animals as well as humans. Artificial colors are continually being tested, with many being taken off the market due to health concerns.  

Natural Horse Care And Essential Oils 

People have been using essential oils and aromatherapy as a form of alternative medicine for many years. Essential oils have been used to successfully treat a wide range of ailments in horses, from anxiety to infection. 

Prior to a performance, some horses can become anxious and stressed. Research shows that using essential oils such as lavender essential oil has a calming effect on horses. By using a natural spray that includes lavender or ylang-ylang essential oil on your horse, you can help to decrease fear and anxiety, while increasing confidence. 

Other essential oils that can reduce anxiety include:
  • Basil essential oil has muscle-relaxing properties that can reduce tension. Inhalation is recommended. If applying in a topical, dilute one part with four parts carrier oil.              
  • Valerian essential oil is distilled from the root of the plant. Its earthy aroma can ground and calm a horse.
Essential oils can also be used to soothe muscles and joints.  When diluted in a carrier oil,  essential oil blends can be used in a soothing massage.
  • Eucalyptus essential oil is excellent for soothing sore and overused muscles. It has anti-inflammatory properties to reduce pain. Always apply in a carrier oil if applying topically.                                                                                                                             
  • Frankincense essential oil can be used to relax muscles and alleviate tension. Works well to calm both horses and humans before competition.
Both thyme and tea tree essential oils have antifungal and antibacterial properties that make it perfect for treating scratches, thrush, and abscesses. Dilute in a carrier oil before application.  

Less Chemicals, More Happiness 

A horse that has less exposure to chemicals is a healthy and happy horse. And a healthy, happy horse provides optimal athletic performance. When it’s so easy to provide a natural environment for your horse, why would you have it any other way? Do yourself and your horse a favor; the results will be well worth the effort.