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The Changing Face of Newspaper Tipping

Few of the 300,000 people gathered at Aintree on 26 March 1949 were celebrating after the success of 66/1 Russian Hero in the Grand National. Despite being locally trained, there had been little enthusiasm for the chances of the nine-year-old, a dodgy-jumper who also had question-marks about his ability to stay the trip. There were, however, some who profited from this eight length success. The bookies, obviously, but followers of Cayton, the communist Daily Worker’s tipster, were also in party mode. Cayton, aka Alf Rubin, advised Russian Hero each-way. His choice was not entirely ideologically-based as Rubin had napped the horse when he won at Birmingham earlier in the season at 8/1.

Cayton was one of the most successful newspaper tipsters of all time. His success with Russian Hero was certainly no fluke; two years later he advised Nickel Coin, the 40/1 National winner. Big-priced winners were a speciality and as late as 1989, Cayton clicked with 50/1 Champion Hurdle victor, Beech Road. On four occasions, Cayton won the Sporting Life Naps title, earning approval from followers of racing from royalty down to the humble two-bob punter. His ethos, contained in this piece https://grahamstevenson.me.uk/2017/11/19/rubin-alf/, remains a useful benchmark to this day.

It was telling that a communist newspaper felt the need to encourage readers to bet, but this was an era when newspaper circulation was huge. More than 12 million papers were sold per day in 1956, which didn’t include evening papers which also sold in their millions. And racing – and, by association, betting – was an important factor in those sales.

The austere Manchester Guardian was the exception, ignoring racing unless it could report it in a negative light. It was not until the late 1960s that the paper started to feature racing on a daily basis, appointing film critic Derek Malcolm as its first turf correspondent.

Horse racing sold papers. The regional evening rags featured the following day’s racecards and results of that day’s events. For many, particularly pre-legalised betting shops, the evening press was the only means punters had of discovering the outcome of their (often illegitimate) betting activities.

Daily papers were able to preview that afternoon’s action, and to make suggestions on the likely outcome of races. Successful tipsters were a sought-after commodity, and successes were celebrated, often receiving front page coverage, particularly within the raucous red-top (tabloid) end of the market.

Although most tipsters were referred to by name, they were also given nom-de-plumes often relating to the newspaper industry, for example, Newsboy, Templegate and Bouverie). The name Scout suggests the gathering of information, while Robin Goodfellow is a sprite – usually benign, but occasionally knavish.

Newspaper circulation has been in decline for years, and there is little evidence that this will be reversed as more people turn to the internet for their daily shot of news. Free papers, which have little enthusiasm for racing, have also played their part in this decline. Besides, papers had already started cutting back on their racing coverage, axing racecards and editorial content.

Nevertheless, newspaper tipsters survive and their progress can be charted through sites like Napchecker and one should always use the best guide for online betting one can. And, of course, we show the full picture, allowing you to evaluate a whole wealth of information.

The demise of newspapers has also seen a shrinkage in the specialist racing market with many weekly publications vanishing over recent years. Fortunately, help is at hand with specialist websites, which are able to support your betting ambitions with a range of practical options. Had such a facility been available when Russian Hero won the National, who knows how many punters would have been able to find quotes of 100/1?

Date Published: 11/06/2020