There is nothing worse than reaching the front of a long tote queue as the last horse is loaded into the gates, impatiently trying to get the ticket processed and staring forlornly as the field jumps without the bet going through.
Actually, it can be worse, if the ticket is a Triple Trio wager – a potential goldmine. And that was our fate last Sunday.
My colleague Michael Cox and I had perused the form, whittled down our numbers, then whittled them down some more in order to have a cheap throw at the stumps.
Of course, that was all moot when we didn’t get the ticket on in time.
Thankfully, Francis Lui Kin-wai’s 97-1 outsider Fionn’s Pride beat Dennis Yip Chor-hong’s unlucky 62-1 shot Joy Together to knock most punters out of the game.
I wish we could say we were smart enough – or insane enough – to have either of those horses in our numbers, but alas, no. Instead, we look ahead to this weekend and an even larger jackpot.
Such is the allure of the Triple Trio, the perplexing bet type which requires a punter to select first, second and third in any order in three consecutive races. It sounds tough, and there’s no easy path to the riches it promises.
This Sunday sees a jackpot of HK$64 million, with an expected dividend in excess of HK$76 million for a $10 stake. It’s the biggest pool of the season.
Keeping in mind there are two separate Triple Trio jackpots – the other is midweek – the “weekend” Triple Trio has not been won for a full HK$10 unit since Champions Mile day on May 4.
That day, of the nine horses needed to strike gold, only one horse – Sean Woods’ Oxford Charley – was at double-figure odds. And the payout was a cool HK$12 million.
It seems the Jockey Club delights in making it as tough as possible, given the races chosen on Sunday – a Class Five over a mile and two Class Fours over 1,400m and 1,800m.
A Class Five as a Triple Trio leg is a typical path to disaster, as horses inexplicably turn their form around or, as limited horses, finally get everything to suit.
The last two legs are a bit more straight forward. Michael Cox has done the form, as always, and hopefully he’ll be able to get us home.
Amazingly, the big pool this weekend is child’s play compared to some of the enormous pools of the past.
The final meeting before the handover in 1997 – also the final meeting of the 1996-97 season – featured a HK$198 million jackpot. However, the big talking point was the amount wagered – a staggering HK$675 million, or roughly HK$100 per resident at the time.
Large syndicates were formed around the world, all trying to grab a slice of the pool. Not that it helped the local computer teams, who had their accounts closed by the Jockey Club in the fear they could act corruptly to ensure a payday.
In the end, not one punter hit the winning combinations, and those who struck the first and second legs banked HK$2 million for each HK$10 ticket.
The fear – and the success – of the computer teams has meant that a ceiling of HK$100 million now exists, so the days of the mega jackpot are gone.
Stories of life-changing results abound, and while many are true – the computer teams have thrived on the bet type – some are undoubtedly Chinese whispers that have gained momentum over time.
One that’s definitely not exaggerated is the story of the punter who failed to collect a HK$30 winning ticket on the Triple Trio in November 2001. Given the dividend was around HK$38.5 million, the punter missed out on a HK$118 million payday, with the money instead diverted to the club’s charity efforts.
On the flip-side, one woman had the ultimate introduction to racing when, on a work outing one night at Sha Tin, she took a HK$10 computer pick selection for a pool which topped HK$100 million.
Three races later, she walked away with $34 million.
So that life-changing result may be just around the corner, if only we can crack this weekend’s puzzle.
Just as long as we get the ticket on this time.