5 Minutes with Dr Geoffrey Hutson
I have to say I was super excited when Dr Geoffrey Hutson agreed to be interviewed for my blog! His books Watching Racehorses and Watching More Racehorses were recommended to me by a fellow owner. I learnt so much from them and they’re a must read for any racing fan and punter!
Besides from being author of two amazing books, Dr Geoffrey has worked as a Research Fellow in Animal Behaviour at the University of Melbourne for over 20 years. Becoming a professional punter in 1998, he bets on the stock market for serious money and on racehorses for serious fun, as he likes to say!
Tell us a little bit about yourself
I come from a medical family. My mother and father were doctors and both my brothers are doctors. I am the black sheep. My room was next to the surgery phone and in those days GPs got up in the night to make house calls. I remember the phone ringing and my father getting up and pulling on a coat over his pyjamas and going out at some ungodly hour to deliver a baby. I decided that is not the life for me! My mother took me to CSL to see if I wanted to be a microbiologist. I decided I didn’t want to spend my life indoors looking down a microscope. She then took me to see the professor at Monash Zoology Department because I was always interested in birds. He said that zoologists went on fabulous field trips to study animals in the wild. That sealed it for me. Zoology was it.
What sparked your love of racing and racehorses?
I came to racing through the punt. It was my mother’s fault. She used to get me to put on her Cup bets, mainly each-way on five or more horses, including Bart’s horses and anything ridden by Darren Gauci. She always seemed to collect. I then started to listen to Bert Bryant on three-way turf talk and go down to the tote to have a daily double and quadrella. I would spend the afternoon working around the house and listening to the races on my transistor radio. I remember one double with Holiday Lover that paid $3000. It’s hard to let go once you have an early win like that! You are hooked for life. My interest in the horse came much later when Marie Haskell came to do a PhD with me at Melbourne University. Marie was a pony club instructor. We bought a horse together to teach my kids to ride and I took her to the races to teach me everything she knew about horses. We then wrote a small scientific paper about our attempt to pick winners based on looks, but failed miserably. The media got hold of it: “Scientists pick losers!” and it all took off from there. I decided with that amount of interest that I had better do it properly. Twenty five years later I am still doing it, except now of course we have covid and the lockdown.
Who has been your favourite racehorse to observe or what has been your most memorable experience on track and why?
So You Think. A magnificent animal. See Watching More Racehorses p.188 for a more complete description! It’s probably not the most memorable win but I was extremely satisfied to get $2.00 the place about So You Think when he ran third in the 2010 Cup as a 2/1 favourite. Such a shame the horse was taken from Bart and sent to Ireland.
You said in Watching More Racehorses “no see no bet”, but does a horse’s form on paper count for anything in your eyes? For example, do you think Winx’s behaviour suggested that she was always going to win?
Of course form is important, it is just that I don’t consider it. Winx was a nice relaxed horse and I would never bet against her. I backed her for a place in her first Cox Plate in 2015, but in subsequent years she was way too short at $1.20 the place. And I can never predict that a horse is going to win. All I can say is that the horse’s behaviour shouldn’t get in the way and that it should run forward.
I always say that horse racing is called gambling for a reason (because luck is involved), but do you believe that an element of science is always involved when a horse wins?
You always need luck, but hopefully a little bit of science can help in finding a winner.
Do you believe that your advice could translate to those looking to buy a share in a racehorse long before they hit the track and if yes, how?
Probably not. I went to the yearling sales once with Gai Waterhouse and watched her pull them out their stalls and walk them up and down and then put her hand up for thousands of dollars. So that’s one way to pick them, breeding and walking, but the horses are green and you have limited opportunities to assess their temperament which would be the main criterion for me. As for breeding, do you know that Dame Nellie Melba’s sister couldn’t sing and Don Bradman’s brother couldn’t play the piano?
You became a full-time punter in 1998. With the advances in technology, do you think this is just as easy to do these days? Would it have been possible without your database?
My main income is the share market. And technology has made that much easier these days. I can check prices and put in orders to buy and sell on my iphone. I don’t have to ring up a stockbroker. And the same with punting. I don’t have to line up behind a big hat at the tote window. The internet has changed the world we live in. And no. My database is invaluable and I’m still adding to it and including new variables.
For those people that can’t only view a horse in the mounting yard, and therefore, have limited time to observe, what three things would you suggest they pay attention too?
1. Arousal. A horse needs to keep four feet on the ground. Relaxed and calm is good.
2. Acceptance of the bit. A horse needs to be comfortable with the bit. No head up, head tossing, twisting, gaping, baring the teeth.
3. Strapper effort. No swearing at the horse, jagging down on the lead strap, or using two hands to control the horse.
In one word, I like the horse to be normal!
If readers could take one piece of advice from your teachings what would it be?
Regardless of how you make your selections, be it the pin method, tips, detailed study of the form guide, jockey silks, or lucky numbers – have a look at the horse in the mounting yard! And if I was allowed a second piece of advice – keep records!
Can readers look forward to a sequel of Watching More Racehorses (perhaps titled Watching Even More Racehorses)?
That would be a good title! I think the chances of it happening are rapidly diminishing, but never say never. The main problem is that people don’t buy books anymore when there are other entertainments available at their fingertips. My book distributor Dennis Jones and Associates went into liquidation, my local bookshops all shut down, including Mittys and The Horseman’s Bookshop. My overseas bookshops folded – the High Stakes Bookshop in London, The Gamblers Book Club in Las Vegas, Addenda in New Zealand. And I think sports betting is displacing racing as a favoured gambling outlet. It is much easier to have an opinion and bet on who is going to kick the first goal for the Eagles than who is going to win the first at Belmont! You don’t need to leave the house, study a form guide, or read a book!