Who doesn’t enjoy hearing about a humble punter absolutely taking the bookmakers to the cleaners by turning a tiny stake into a life-changing sum with a well-plotted accumulator? These stories pop up in the press every now and then and they are always liable to raise a smile. After all, it’s like winning the lottery, but through skill rather than by chance, and it may well leave you reaching for your laptop and searching for a bookmaker to beat. We decided to round up five examples of everyday sports fans making a killing by turning their expertise into profit:
From plumber to millionaire
In March 2011, Steve Whiteley, a plumbing Engineer from Devon, hit a six-horse acca to scoop the Exeter Tote Jackpot and turn £2 into more than £2 million. Taxes reduced it to £1.45 million, but Whiteley was not complaining. He admitted he was not really all that into horseracing and only went to the track a couple of times a year, when entry was free. On that fateful day he first opted for multiple selections, but when he realised he would have to stake £32, he whittled it down to just one six-fold accumulator. He got off to a strong start as Semicolon came in as the 2/1 favourite, followed by Black Phantom at 12/1 and Ammunition at 16/1. He really started getting excited when another 16/1 shot, Mr Bennet, romped home in the fourth race. With just two to go, Lundy Sky did the business for him at a starting price of 5/1. His selection in the final race was Lupita, a 12/1 outsider who had never won a race and nor had the jockey. But Lupta pulled off a stunning victory – the only one in his entire career – and Whitely’s bet came in at cumulative odds of 358,639/1. The Tote jackpot had rolled over and he took the lot home, on top of his winnings, making him a rich man. Yet he refused to give up his £500-a-week job and went back into work the next day.
Dark day for Coral
Bookmaker Coral was stung for £823,000 after a customer, who asked to remain anonymous, landed a five-fold accumulator with a £19 stake. The punter chose five runners at Punchestown, but did not even watch the races. Instead he went out on the tiles, and only realised he had won when he came in and checked the results in the early hours of the morning. “I’ve been placing these accumulator bets pretty much every day for twenty years, and winning this bet is the realisation of a lifetime dream,” he said. “Over the years I’ve come close to landing a big return a couple of times but kept hitting the woodwork, and now I’ve done it I feel remarkably calm. I don’t know if I’ll even carry on betting after this as I feel I’ve achieved my goal.” Cue punters heading over to https://www.sunbets.co.uk/racing/meetings/today/R in their droves in a bid to pull off a similar feat.
Another unidentified punter hit the headlines back in 2001 when he correctly predicted the winners of the top five English football leagues and three Scottish divisions, the rugby union champions, the country cricket champions and the Champions League winners. The winning odds were a record 1,666,666/1, and his 30p bet netted him a cool £500,000. The last one to come in was the Champions League and his selection, Bayern Munich, played Valencia in the final. It ended in a 1-1 draw after extra-time, and never would an Englishman have been so pleased to see a German team win on penalties.
Frankie’s Magnificent Seven
Arguably the greatest highlight in horseracing history came when Frankie Detorri rode all seven winners at Royal Ascot in 1996. His supreme achievement remains unmatched in the history of the sport, and the fact it happened on Queen Elizabeth II Stakes Day, with the BBC cameras rolling, made it all the more magical. The early bird price on it happening was 235,834/1, while the starting price cumulative odds worked out at 25,095-1 as bookies wised up over the course of the day. Punters went crazy after he won his first six races, and it seemed like half the country lumped on Fujiyama Crest, his seventh mount, sending the odds plummeting from 11/1 to 2/1. Detorri pulled off a seventh win, the crowd erupted and the bookmakers wept. Few had backed him to win all seven, but one punter that did was Darren Yeats, who put down £59 and ended up winning £550,000.
In 2008, Yorkshireman Fred Cragg, a fertiliser salesman, celebrated his 60th birthday by laying down the princely sum of 50p on an eight-horse multiple covering races at Sandown, Wolverhampton and Dubai. The first horse to come in was Isn’t That Lucky, a 10/1 shot trained by Jonjo O’Neill, and Cragg’s luck held out all day, culminating in his eighth selection winning at 2/1 in Dubai. The name of the horse? A Dream Come True. It really was for Craggs, who turned his 50p stake into £2 million. The birthday boy was so stunned that he sat through an entire family meal before revealing his win, his new-found millionaire status and his impending entry into the Guinness Book of World Records.
Martin Green is an experienced sports writer and tipster.