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Do your homework and sports betting will add an extra layer of enjoyment to the thrill of picking a winner

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BY JOHN GUBBA
When I was a kid growing up my father spent hour upon hour studying form and statistics about sport. He had a great love for horse racing and launched a successful broadcasting career giving racing tips on BBC Radio Merseyside.Never did I get to hear about the losses, and God knows there must have been occasions when the family went short because a horse failed to fulfil its potential. But when dad won big it was good news for everyone, including an army of fans who religiously followed all his predictions.Most famously, Ron Gubba was a big friend of the great “Ginger” McCain, the famous race horse trainer who guided the legendary Red Rum to win the Grand National three times.

I will never forget the excitement of watching Red Rum beat Crisp in one of the most thrilling races ever to win the Aintree classic for the first time in 1973. Knowing that dad had placed a sizeable bet at favourable odds six months before the race, after McCain had urged him to back his horse, was my first taste of what it’s like to back a winner because I had also secretly gambled my pocket money.

Luckily for me, because I have never had the time to study the form, I did not get hooked on gambling on the horses. My weakness has always been football. And as a passionate fan I must confess I have been tempted to take a punt on my team from time to time. As any sports fan will concur there is nothing to match the thrill of watching your heroes triumph knowing that you have also hit the jackpot.

For some it is all about the adrenalin rush of winning and it does not matter what they bet on. Many sports fans I have met even back against their favourite team or individual occasionally to soften the blow of losing. While others are addicted to the thrill of in-play betting. We all like to predict what will happen next and the satisfaction of putting your money where your mouth is will definitely give you a buzz when you get it right.

However knowledgeable you are about horse racing – you can bet on the Aintree classic at Grand National betting  – my advice is never gamble money that you can not afford to lose. Treat gambling as a purchase rather than an investment and you will never fail to enrich your sporting experience.

Oh yes, I almost forgot, dad’s winning bet on Red Rum paid for a whole year’s school fees. So do your homework and, you never know, you could be celebrating all the way to the bookmakers.

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With Grand National’s closest ever finish overshadowed by death of favourite it’s time to question safety – but race must go on!

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Neptune Collonges - the first grey to win the National since Nicolaus Silver in 1961 - pips Sunnyhillboy at the post

Neptune Collonges - first grey to win National since Nicolaus Silver in 1961 - pips Sunnyhillboy

BY JOHN GUBBA

There are few sporting events with a more dramatic history than the world’s most famous steeplechase, the Grand National – and today’s epic finish was one of the greatest ever when Neptune Collonges, ridden by Daryl Jacob, came from behind to win a photo-finish with Sunnyhillboy

It was a pulsating climax to the Aintree marathon over four-and-a-half grueling miles. But the sweet taste of victory for trainer Paul Nicholls and his team was contrasted by terrible tragedy as Tony McCoy limped away from the track after Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Synchronised was put down.

When the favourite fell at Becher’s Brook, a black tent was put around the stricken horse as it’s life was ended. It was a black day for the sport with a second horse, According To Pete, also a fatality making it the second time in two years that two horses had died during the race.

The double tragedy immediately led to widespread criticism from animal charities who labeled the National a ‘shameful spectacle’. Without doubt the future of the race will be called into question as animal rights campaigners question its safety. 

Winning trainer Paul Nicholls said: ‘We all knew before we came here the risks. The horses get looked after brilliantly but unfortunately these things do happen.’

Be that as it may, it is hard to defend a sport that kills its heroes and the new safety measures introduced this year have clearly not worked. The organisers must find a way to make the National safer without turning it into a non-event. Many great horses and jockeys have made the National special down the ages and no true sports lover would want to see it disappear. The race must go on – but let’s make sure this is not a death trap for the horses who make it so special.

Four weeks ago Tony McKoy was looking back on Synchronised’s Cheltenham Cup win . . .
http://youtu.be/AnKt9_hfCG8

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Ginger McCain was Mr Grand National and the story of his fairytale triumphs with Red Rum would make a blockbuster movie

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Ginger McCain and his beloved Red Rum on Southport Beach

Ginger McCain and his beloved Red Rum on Southport Beach

BY JOHN GUBBA

Records are made to be broken. But there are some achievements that will surely last forever – and in the case of Red Rum and his trainer Ginger McCain I believe it is a racing certainty that their story will never be bettered.

Racing lost one of its greatest ever servants yesterday when Donald McCain, that was his real name, died two days short of his 81st birthday.

To many he was Mr Grand National. And his achievement in training the legendary Red Rum to win the world’s most famous race three times in 1973 1974 and 1977 – finishing second in the two years in between – is nothing short of miraculous.

It was a fairytale story with a script deserving of a blockbuster movie that began with McCain working as a Liverpool taxi driver to supplement his income.

That was how he got to know Noel Le Mare for whom he bought Red Rum for 6,000 guineas and then trained him on Southport beach to become the greatest National hero ever.

As a young boy I remember my father, an old pal of McCain, was tipped off by the charismatic trainer that he had this super horse destined to win his first national.

Red Rum romped home as the 9-1 favourite that day at the end of  March 1973 – but my father had got his bet on six months earlier and his winnings were manor from heaven for a family of seven.

McCain famously went on to claim his fourth National win in 2004 with Amberleigh House, two years before retiring and passing on the reigns to his son Donald.

He is as much a part of Liverpool folklore as The Beatles and the Anfield Kop – a true legend – and I have always been a fan. From the moment Red Rum famously reigned in Crisp in the final strides of that first epic race. And the rest, as they say, is history.

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