The Reuters global sports blog
Twenty years ago this week, Pete Rose received the harshest of all of baseball’s penalties: a lifetime ban for betting on games while managing the Cincinnati Reds, the team that brought him fame as a player and infamy as a manager.
Rose protested his innocence for years, but eventually admitted to gambling on baseball games in his 2004 autobiography, “My Prison Without Bars“.
Former Philadelphia Phillies slugger and Hall of Fame inductee, Mike Schmidt wrote an opinion piece recently saying his former team mate is having to sell his autograph to make ends meet while steroid cheats are raking in millions of dollars.
Bookmakers believe victory for 7-1 favourite My Will and in-form jockey Ruby Walsh in Saturday’s Grand National would cost the industry up to 100 million pounds.
Luckily for them, Walsh looks like the only real reason to back the horse.
The race has thrown up its share of equine superstars over the years, but in reality it is just a glorified handicap and not a race for serious gamblers to get excited about.
That does not stop millions of one-day-a-year punters flocking to betting shops to wager on the Aintree race.
Some would argue that you have more chance of getting the lottery numbers up than finding the winner from a field of 40 horses who have to jump 30 fences over the 4 1/2 mile course, likely to be made all the more gruelling on Saturday by the forecast of heavy rain in Liverpool.
To win the race you need a horse that has stamina, guts and determination in abundance, but most of all you need a heavy slice of luck on your side.
Some useful facts and figures to consider:
* Just four favourites or joint favourites have won in the last 20 years
* Six of the last 10 Grand National winners have been trained in Ireland
* 26 of the last 30 winners have carried less than 11 stone
* Only two grey horses have won the Grand National – The Lamb (1868 and 1871) and Nicolaus Silver (1961).
My Will has to carry 11st 4lbs but Walsh, oozing confidence after riding a record seven winners at last month’s Cheltenham Festival, has won the big race twice on Papillon (2000) and Hedgehunter in 2006.
Record-breaking 13-times champion jockey Tony McCoy has chosen to ride Butler’s Cabin but McCoy supporters will know that the Irishman has yet to taste success in the race.
For me, I like the look of the aptly-named Irish Invader, trained by the shrewd Willie Mullins and at odds of around 25-1, it should give me a run for my money.
Credit crunch? World financial crisis? Don’t you believe it. The Cheltenham Festival, the highlight of the British jumps racing calendar, starts on Tuesday and millions of pounds will be gambled over four days of high-quality action.
Forget the glamour and fashion of Royal Ascot, this is where tweed adorns the shoulders of the English gentry and the Irish travel in their droves to roar on their equine superstars.