Tipping services have been around as long as bets have been placed...

Punters have been willing to back that belief up with their hard-earned cash, to try and get an inside line on winners and ‘guarantee’ making a profit from their betting (which we all know is not possible). I imagine that well over 50% of you reading this have tried some sort of paid service before (I know that I have), and of those that have I’d be surprised if 20% of you would tick the box marked ‘satisfied’.

Tipping services actually started life not as we know them today, but as something much more sinister.... Doping Gangs. As far back as the 17th-century, gangs operated widely across British racetracks and training centres using a variety of methods to stop horses, this must have been pretty lucrative given that most races in that day and age were either matches or very small field affairs.

The authorities started to act as things began to spin out of control. in 1666 ‘exciting substances’‘ were banned at Worksop races, and in a bid to get to grips with the worst extremes, in 1812 the ‘nobbler king’ Daniel Dawson was made an example of and hung for organising the poisoning of several horses with arsenic by putting it in water troughs!

Probably the most famous of all the tipsters, or at least the most colourful, was Ras Prince Monolulu... a regular figure around British race tracks famously sporting an outlandish ostrich feather headdress and flamboyant embroidered robes proclaiming ‘I gotta horse… I gotta horse’ to the crowds of punters in the early to mid-20th Century. His greatest triumph and the one that sealed his place as ‘the tipster extraordinaire’ was when he tipped the outsider Spion Kop who won the 1920 Derby at odds of 100-6.

As racing became more a thing of the man in the street, instead of the privileged domain of Lord Derby and his chums, racing sheets and tipsters proliferated. Stories abounded of nefarious characters who would offer a free winning ‘tip’ based on ‘maximum strength inside info’. This would generate a large database of punters, the inside man would then tip every runner in the race to separate segments and cash in on the people that were given the winner, who would then be asked to pay for the next tip on the basis that the tipster had ‘proved’ his inside information was sound, and given that most humans (never mind punters) are susceptible to greed and easy money, it is a strategy that worked, albeit only for a very limited amount of time.

Then there were the ‘odds-to’ tipsters. In the early 80’s as a young punter I had personal experiences of five minutes before the ‘off’ having to call a number from a public phone box (no mobiles then!) and get the name of the horse, in exchange for placing £20 on behalf of the tipster with the stern instruction to ‘take opening show’. I have seen horses in low-grade races with a string of duck eggs before their name, open at 16’s then go 12’s, 8’s 6’s, plunging all the way down to 9/4 before winning by a wide margin to the chagrin of bookmakers and punters... who weren’t in the know... alike.

However, I have also seen a ‘job horse’ open at 4/6 when 5/1 was expected. The agents had no option but to place the bets they were committed too, but then watched it drift right out to 4/1… needless to say it didn’t win, in fact, I never saw it on a racetrack again. The big problem with setting up a ‘job’ is that you never really know if someone else is doing the same thing in the same race. I have seen multiple springers in the same race… indubitably, one of them and one set of punters win, but the others all have to lose.

Premium rate lines were no better, as people paid £1 a minute to listen to someone waffle on about the fact that the tip - which was never named until the end of the message - was catching pigeons on the gallops and was so well in that he had over two stone in hand of his mark… then you finally got the name after 5 minutes.

But it was the advent of the internet that saw a veritable myriad of tipping services emerge, all promising to make your punting profitable in an effort trying to part you from your cash, but no matter how professional and transparent a service is these days, the majority of punters believe that they’re still operated in the main by shady operators who are little more than liars and thieves.

But take a step back and think about it for a second… tipsters are probably the chief weapon used by the majority of punters in their daily battle against the bookies. Think of The Racing Post’s ‘Pricewise’ who causes market makers to dive for cover like lemmings throwing themselves off a cliff, slashing the odds of his selections under the weight of money from punters. And thousands of punters who are even less informed follow their tabloid tipster of choice… Templegate of The Sun, or Newsboy of The Mirror.

And with the coming of specialist racing press such as SportingLife, Racing Post, Racing Ahead or The Weekender, an increasingly analytical approach to finding winners became the vogue with people like Nick Mordin, Mike Segal, Paul Keally, Andy Holding, Hugh Taylor, and data-driven organisations such as Timeform and Superform all finding well deserved respectability in the marketplace.
In the next article in this series, we will start to take a closer look under the bonnet and be asking...

  • Can tipping services actually make me any money?
  • Why would I use a tipping service anyway?
  • How can I trust what a tipping service is telling me?
  • How easy is it for me to achieve the profits they’re talking about?

This series is now complete and in the first article we've looked at the history of horseracing tipping services, the other related articles cover the types of services that are out there and why I would use a tipping service. Then we looked at why hitching up to the wrong tipping service will cost you money and why you shouldn't let the tail wag the dog showing the obligations on both sides once you have joined one. The series finishes off giving you a "warts and all" look at a year in the life of Cleeve Racing