Day At The Track

Bookie Dan Carlin plays the numbers game

01:58 AM 13 Jul 2016 NZST
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Dan Carlin, harness racing
Ireland's top bookmaker, Dan Carlin, plying his trade at Portmarnock Raceway
Nadina Ironia Photo
They say to be good bookmaker you need to have the following attributes: the computing mind of an actuary, nerves of steel and the heart of a lion. But in Dan Carlin's case you also need to have the patience of Job for this is the man who prices up all 4 classics of the Ladbroke's Vincent Delaney Memorial weekend a full 6 months in advance.

A former trainer and driver himself back in the 1990's, Carlin turned from poacher to gamekeeper when his father Liam, a fearless layer himself, passed away leaving a thriving bookmaking business centred around harness racing in Ireland, which was the envy of all the other oddsmakers at the time.

With nobody at the helm anymore, Dan felt this too good an opportunity to let slip and reluctantly surrendered up his colours, whip and helmet and traded them in for a satchel, an odds board, and some chalk.

He began using his wits and cunning that were once quite able on the track steering Bridget The Midget to countless victories in favour of a life in the betting jungle where a mistake doesn't lose you lengths, its loses you thousands of euros. Ouch!

Having settled into the role as the largest harness racing bookmaker in Ireland, Dan soon began to spread his wings and started travelling to the larger UK classic meets where he now stands shoulder to shoulder with the largest layers on the UK scene, Barry "Pinno" Pinnington, John "Smarty" Smart, and Tim "The Shark" Brown. He's come a long way but put in all the hard yards to get where he's got.

Approached by Derek Delaney in February 2012 about the possible ante-post book for the first ever Vincent Delaney Memorial, Dan accepted the challenge and quickly grasped the nettle.

It's hard to price up a book where you have to sift through the form of 40+ horses but when its 2 year olds that have yet to hit the track, with many who havent even qualified yet, it's like a tight-rope walk over the grand canyon without any safety net.

Dan will testify that the owners of Frisco Fiddler, Camden Tino, Titanium and last years winner Miraculous all had substantial punts on their horses many months before they even went behind the starting car for the first time, but that must also be weighed up by the number of hapless owners whose pride and joy got the virus or broke down just days before the event with their dreams in tatters and their money gone down the drain.

You could probably stable a lot of horses with the beaten dockets in the shredder as race day approaches. But we all live in hope of holding an ante post bet of €100 at fancy odds of 66/1 and to see our horse cross the line in front. It's manna from heaven. This is a numbers game you see, and after four years of trading in this specialist market, Dan has now become a past master.

Asked last night what were the latest prices for all four classics on August 13th/14th at Portmarnock Raceway, he quickly e-mailed through his updated lists.

For the Ladbrokes sponsored VDM for 2 year old colts, Tyrion Hanover (Somebeachsomewhere) is the hot favourite at 4/5, whilst Rhyds Rival has experienced sustained support since the market opened back in February and is now as low as 2/1.

In the VDM Diamond Creek sponsored fillies event, the as yet unraced Coalford Honey is 2/1 followed by She Be Rockin is 9/4. In the Oakwood Stud 3 Year Old Derby last years top juvenile, Miraculous, heads the market at 5/4 with local Irish hope Newtown Rock currently on 5/2.

Rumours are circling that Jody Jamieson might be flying in on the day again to renew his association with "The Rock" as he is dubbed, and that could be why his price is so short. Dan is taking no chances there.

Last but not least the Paul Murtagh Memorial 4 Year Old Classic is arguably the most intriguing contest of them all. Sportstrick has been supported in from 9/1 to 7/4 favourite on the back of victories at Appleby and Musselburgh but the early market leader, Rewrite History, is now friendless and drifting out from 7/4 out to 9/4 on the back of a lack lustre reappearance at Musselburgh where he appeared to labour at a pivotal stage of the 1 mile 3 furlong turf track contest. Eventually finishing down the field.

Don't write him off just yet though and the Gilvear family from Scotland are sure to leave no stone unturned in an effort to see their stable star to recapture the form of his 3 year old campaign that seen his post a 1:56 mile at York.

On a quick call to place my own ante-post bets on the races, Dan kept his cards very close to his chest when quizzed on what are his largest liabilities are, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out that Oakwood Eternity was a huge 50/1 not so long ago and shes now at a lowly 4/1 following her victory last Thursday at Annaghmore. She could be the dark horse in the field.

Dan was then quick to add that theres still some 66/1 shots out there so its all still very much to play for as we count down the days to the eliminations, which start on August 13th, with the finals to be held on the following day.

Don't be fooled by the nice guy image that trades under the banner of "Dan Carlin The Punters Darlin" for this man is in the business of making money and if your selection gets beaten on the day don't come looking for a refund.

You win some, you lose some and whilst some of us travel home from the races on a bus, Dan and his ilk always seem to have the latest model Mercedes. But we all love the thrill of a punt and need Dan Carlin and the rest of the oddsmakers to add a dash of excitement to a raceday. Long live the on-course bookies!

by Thomas Bennett, for Harnesslink

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