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The Plot

Somewhere, in a racehorse trainer’s kitchen or on a gambler’s smartphone, there is a touch underway right now.  There is always a touch going on, but like icebergs, they are usually hidden in the depths. We only ever get to see just the moment when the touch is actually landed. 

One such gambling iceberg emerged into view in the small hours of the morning on Sunday 7th February 2021, in the middle of lockdown, when an event began to unfold which threatened to take £28 million from the horseracing industry. By the time anyone noticed, it was already too late to do anything about it.

At leading bookmaking chain, Bet Victor, Chris Poole awoke to a nightmare.  With the enterprise still in progress, he told the media: “It started in the small hours.  About 2 am.  I went to bed and these three horses were just ordinary outsiders and by the time I woke up again this morning, there had been a huge gamble.”  He added: “If it comes in, we’ll pay, absolutely. If they win, we will pay.”

Bet Victor and the rest of the bookmakers really had no alternative. All they could do was look on in horror as the gamble snow-balled to the point where a £28 million pay-out rested on a horse called Gallaher’s Cross running in the 4.25 at Musselburgh. Person or persons unknown was in the middle of winning a massive betting coup, and the only thing that could stop them now was a not very good racehorse and the jockey riding him. 

A plot like this is known in horseracing as The Touch. To land a touch is to win a serious sum of money by betting at long odds on a horse to win a race in which it is considered to be an outsider, but which, for various reasons, you know it will win.  This is difficult. If a horse is any good, most people will know that and bet on it themselves.  In response, the bookmakers will shorten the odds (returns) they offer on your bet, so that even when the horse wins, you don’t win much money.

To land a touch you must find ways of beating both the bookmaker and the horseracing authorities. These ways are covert and complex, often involving two or three years in the planning.  Compared with the touch, the old style bank heist is just a blunt instrument.  For many of those involved, the touch is an art, but for the big players, it is a way of life.  For them, the touch is everything.

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