It's maybe not the most frugal thing to do but when the big races like the Grand National or the Classics get under way, many people fancy a flutter. Horses (and ponies) can get into your blood at any age.
Growing up in the country, for me, meant one thing - ponies! It's a passion that developed into a love of racing. I am lucky to have seen both sides of the industry's coin, having owned and raced my own horse and worked behind the scenes with vets, stable staff, trainers, jockeys and the administration of racing clubs – these make it possible for even the most frugal budget to afford involvement at some level.
As kids with ponies, I think our parents would have freaked at some of our antics, had they known of them! We weren't rich, showy types, more down to earth, hairy, muddy pony types, galloping about the countryside, completely oblivious to everything except the thrill of it all. Much of our time was taken up racing one another and I hate to admit it, but we did used to utter such things as “I'll bet you..." whatever we had - usually a few sweets! (Please note that under age gambling is an offence, you need to be at least 18 years of age to wager an actual bet.)
Nowadays, gambling has become a nationally accepted pastime, with many bookmakers, such as William Hill, offering attractive and lucrative free bets for customers. Used wisely, you really can have an affordable and fun virtual day at the races.
Horse racing is a far cry from Pony Club mounted games and weekend show-jumping, but everyone is in it for the thrill and excitement that equines can provide. As adults, we can still experience that feeling through wagering a bet now and again on any of the thousands of horses that compete or race throughout the year. It's from the thrill of the gamble that national heroes such as Red Rum, Desert Orchid, Mill Reef and Shergar were raised; it is from the love of the sport – yes, I do consider it a sport – that celebrities such as Frankie Dettori thrive and some of the nations best-loved films, like National Velvet, have well and truly stood the test of time, thanks to racing.
Ponies get into your blood when you are young but horses can get into your blood even when no pony ever crossed your path as a child – that's why you find yourself falling for the thrills and spills of racing and the fun of trying to predict the outcome. The breeding, speed, stamina, training, jockey skills, form and general luck of the draw all combine to lure you into believing you have it all sussed - you pay your money and you take your chances. If you're lucky, you win!
NB: Never gamble more than you can afford to lose. There's no such thing as a sure thing in horse racing.