The Picnic Bookie

If you want something done, ask a busy person. That’s a line apparently attributed to Benjamin Franklin. It could, I suspect, be applied to Casey McCutcheon.


McCutcheon, 33, picnic bookmaker and son of long time bookmaker Cam, obviously manages his time well as it’s split between fielding at the picnics, doing the form, trading on Betfair and that’s in between his day job in marketing and service as Vice President of the Oak Park football club.

This season he ventured, for the first time, into the realm of his father’s profession after buying the picnic licence from Phillip Nott and he loved it!

“I’ve just finished my first season at the picnics,” McCutcheon said of the secondary racing circuit that runs from October to April, “and had a ball. Learned a lot and did a bit more business than expected. I treated it a bit like playing footy; prepare during the week and then game day on the weekend.

“I took a conservative approach as you might do starting out any small business and it was generally profitable. At one stage, we went 23 meetings without a loss and then we lost four or five in a row so there’s always volatility.

“I enlisted some help from a mate in Sydney who is a very good form analyst. He has a great eye for a fast horse but he’d never framed markets before. We did plenty of work doing the form and naturally it took us a while to really get to know the trainers and the jockeys. We thought there might have been a bit of skulduggery at the picnics but in the end it proved to be pretty straight in our assessment,” he said.


About Picnic Racing

The picnic races are held at various venues, well known to most Victorians, including Balnarring, Healesville, Mansfield and Woolamai but extends to more remote locations including Omeo and Swift’s Creek in the Tambo Valley. He missed some of the more far-flung venues but plenty of ‘miles’ were clocked up and it was a worthwhile venture according to McCutcheon.

“I think we held double what was projected when we bought the licence. There were quiet days when we would hold only two or three thousand but the top quarter of days were between 15 and 20 thousand with 20 thousand the top.

“I hardly saw a race live all season but a plus was the replays being shown on Racing.com so you could do the form properly. It’s a small pool of horses and once you’d seen them two or three times, you largely knew what they were capable of.

“It’s old fashioned racing but we tried to provide a modern service and matched that with some branding. That raised a few eyebrows but we weren’t wanting to put noses out of joint. We learned the protocols and I think we made more friends than enemies,” he said.


Picnic Bookie Betting Strategy

McCutcheon and his partner bet on Melbourne as well as the local picnic events and Betfair proved a handy tool while operating on the metropolitan fixture. “Only half the bookies bet on the Melbourne races and half way through the year, Sportsbet started to bet on the picnics which was interesting and probably stimulated the market a bit.

“I think a lot of people are surprised to learn that the picnic bookies, in general, will let you on for a reasonable bet,” he said.

McCutcheon operates on both sides of the fence, combining operation of the picnic licence with a bit of general form punting on the higher profile meetings.

“I like to bet early, say on the Wednesday when you think you might be getting good overs on something and backing it back on the Saturday…. or getting off on the Friday and most of my bet back would be via Betfair,” he said.

The punting year was reasonably kind to McCutcheon despite a few heartbreaks along the way – especially with the two feature race protests involving the Darren Weir trained Palentino. “Went the wrong way for me both times,” he said in reference to Palentino ‘losing’ the Hayes Stakes and retaining the Australian Guineas.



The Future

As for longer term or grander bookmaking plans, Casey is happy to play it by ear. “It’s fairly low risk at the picnics and I suspect we’d see ourselves doing another season or two there before looking to have a general bookmaker’s licence,” he said.

It may be inevitable that he follows in the footsteps of his father Cam who has been prominent in Victoria bookmaking ranks for 35 years. “The old man’s still going strong and has survived well at the game for a long, long time. He’s always played the figures and tried to make a book. He introduced me to Betfair and I suppose the concept of limited risk…. small fish are sweet.


Punting Tips

“In my own punting, I’m focused on the overlays mainly on the weekend’s racing. I don’t believe in taking flat risk. And Betfair obviously affords the opportunity to win either way, irrespective of the result, if you get the trading right,” he said.

In terms of general advice to punters, Casey says you should always separate head from heart although he concedes he may not have done so in the wake of an early big collect in 1999 when Catbird won the Golden Slipper and Sunline, the Doncaster.

He believes you also have to separate the elements of business and pleasure when betting and divorce ownership from the punt.

 



“You can have a pleasure bank for the fun bet and a serious bank but don’t get them confused and don’t get seduced by any of your own horses if you have an ownership interest,” he says.

McCutcheon has an obvious passion for the game as a whole, its horses and its history which is palpable as he reflects on the racing year.

“I had a bit of luck through the year with Malaguerra. A friend of mine, Leonard Russo from Bluegrass Bloodstock picked him out and bought him as a yearling for the owner and with that connection and the horse’s obvious form, I’ve run with him all the way through. He’s become a cult horse with David Gately driving the catch cry of ‘the Malaguerra form’,” he said.

A call that, apparently, even trainer Lee Freedman has adopted. “Well he’s got the Malaguerra form,” Freedman apparently said when recently asked why Malaguerra was so good.

Aside from Palentino, there were a couple of other speed humps through the year which are inevitable in the course of any form punting. “With Tarzino, I waited for a price in the Derby; it was crunched late and I didn’t get on….and I missed the price Turn Me Loose in the Emirates which hurt because I love Murray Baker and being on his horses. Just in the past couple of years, he’s had amazing success with Mongolian Khan, It’s A Dundeel and Turn Me Loose and he’s been doing it for years. Don’t ever underestimate anything he brings over,” he said.

McCutcheon says the worst result of the year, in a sense, came on Melbourne Cup day when he operated at Mansfield. “Held $8,000 on the Cup, a 100/1 chance wins and we won $17 on the race, got that wrong,” he said.

And his last word of advice for punters. “The bottom line is that it’s amazing what Betfair markets can tell you,” he said.


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