My name is Nick Pullen and racing has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember.
It started in childhood – when it was mostly about cheering on horses I’d picked out on the basis of their names or the jockey’s colours.
I got a bit more interested in the sport thanks to an uncle. His betting activity on Saturday afternoons captured my imagination. The idea of winning money was a seductive and heady fuel to my young mind – and it served to keep the motor running.
My early teenage years saw me struggling to get to grips with a new language found in the pages of the Sporting Life.
Late teenage years marked my entry into the world of betting shops. If earlier interest had been driven by dreams, this period saw those dreams shattered and recast as the delusions of callow youth. Learning proved to be a slow and expensive process. But I persevered. And I learnt a thing or two. Mostly about what not to do.
But racing wasn’t my whole life. Other things were going on. Jobs on building sites, pubs, girls, night-school and then university in Yorkshire.
And after that jobs in financial publishing – editing and writing newsletters and books, meeting interesting people with non-mainstream ideas that they were building businesses out of. It wasn’t racing. But it was part of a parallel journey – one that was shaping my thinking and preparing me for things as yet not thought of.
The racing was always humming away in the background. The more you do something, the more you think about something, the more you work at something, the better at it you get. It’s inevitable. The interest gets deeper and the involvement more and more a fixed part of your life. The bets get a bit bigger too. And what was once a pastime has evolved into something more central to who you are and what it is you want to do.
In my early-thirties I did something I thought I’d never do and went and worked in the betting industry. I went into it thinking I might learn a few things that might be useful to a punter. And, to be fair, I did...
But the biggest lesson I learnt in the betting industry was that I am not cut out for the politics and inauthenticity of a corporate environment where you spend 40-hours a week sitting under strip- lighting watching your life disappear whilst being ‘managed’ by actors, blaggers and bare-faced, brass-necked liars.
It was a bad marriage. And the break-up was messy. I’m a big believer in the burn-the-bridges-and-burn-the-boats school of making life changes. If it isn’t right then get out now – without any further delay or procrastination – and worry about the consequences later. That’s what I did.
One thing did come out of it though. Boredom is a big part of working for a bookmaker. The business is centred on intense but isolated points in the week when betting activity reaches a zenith – 3pm on Saturday afternoon, for example. It’s like a succession of flash floods. When the waters come roaring down the culvert, it is all hands to the pump for as long as it lasts. The rest of the time you sit idle or the next thing to it – waiting for the next hotspot of activity.
I can’t sit idle. It’s a waste of life. And it’s bad for the soul. I got tired of shuffling papers and pretending to be worked off my feet during the down periods. Instead I started writing and distributing a daily racing advisory – sharing my thoughts, insights, observations and bets.
It was a privately circulated email to friends, colleagues, punters of my acquaintance. People forwarded it on to their friends and contacts and so forth. You know how these things work.
And then in the early-summer of 2007 – just as I was about to walk out of the bookmaker’s front door for the last time – some of those advisory emails founds their way into the email box of an old friend and colleague from my publishing days.
It turned out he was still in the business. In fact these days he owned the business having set up his own publishing company. How did I feel about maybe writing a racing letter for his sports-betting subscribers? One door closes and another one opens. Life works in ways we don’t always understand. But somehow we get to where we’re supposed to be.
That company was/is Oxfordshire Press and since the late summer of 2007 Dave Gibson has published every word I’ve written on racing – a fair few million of them. And we’re still going strong. This old pen hasn’t run out of ink yet.
Against the Crowd is what that daily racing advisory has evolved into over the intervening period. It reflects all the major lessons I have learnt about racing and which have served my betting so well over the years.
It is who I am, how I think about racing, what I believe and how I bet the races – on paper. It is me and my contrarian race-betting methods and analysis in my own words – Monday through Friday.
I hope you’ll give the service a try. And, if you’re already with us, I hope you stick around. We’ve had more than our fair share of big-priced contrarian successes over the last 8 years. Too many to remember them all off the top of my head.
Certain ones stick out. The highlight was probably Auroras Encore winning the Grand National having been advised the night before at prices up to 100s. Cole Harden at 33s in the 2015 World Hurdle is another one. More recently Russe Blanc at 25s in the 2016 Classic Chase at Warwick sticks in the mind.
Like I say, we’ve had plenty more big winners before, after and in-between times. A steady – if sometimes interrupted – flow of them across the years. But I don’t want to sound like I’m tooting my horn. I try not to do too much of that.
I just concentrate on doing my best and I let my readers come to their own conclusions. It’s what they think that matters most. You might care to check out some of what they have to say. Most of them say it all a lot better than I ever could.
Thanks and best wishes,
Against the Crowd