Steve Whiteley got serious value for money when he accepted a promotional free ticket to Exeter racecourse back in 2011. The only thing he had to pay for was his bus ticket to get there and the £2 he spent on the bet that would change his life.
But it could have all been very different.
The heating engineer from North Tawton was there with friends, not really being a big racing fan himself, and was encouraged to make the bet by a pal. Initially he picked two horses in each race, but when he was told the stake would be £32 he baulked, and scrapped half of them reducing the stake to £2.
This left him with the following selections:
- Semi Colon (2-1)
- Black Phantom (12-1)
- Ammunition (16-1)
- Mr Bennett (16-1)
- Lundy Sky (5-1)
- Lupita (12-1)
What made him choose these horses? Nothing, he just liked the sound of their names, or, in the case of his final selection, the jockey’s name.
He placed the bet on the Tote Jackpot which had been rolling over for more than a week, climbing above £2 million in prize money. His eventual winnings of £1,445,671.71 would make him the biggest winner of the Tote Jackpot in its 45 year history.
The luckiest too by the sounds of it, given that there were 363,285 jackpot tickets bought that day and he chose his horses without studying form or doing any sort of research what so ever.
How Events Unfolded
Since Steve didn’t fully understand what was going on, only visiting the race course once or twice a year, his friend was explaining things to him as the day went along.
After the fourth race, in which Mr Bennett won only because two more fancied horses fell and a third unseated at the last fence, he was informed that there were only 7 people in the country still in with a chance of winning the jackpot. After the next race they had all been knocked out.
It was at this point that Steve says he started shaking, even going to the bookie to check he was reading his ticket correctly.
When it came to the last race, with Steve’s the only ticket still in the running, his horse, Lupita, didn’t seem to stand a chance. She had failed to win any of her previous 28 starts over jumps.
What’s more, the jockey, Jessica Lodge, had never won one of her previous 19 races either, so all in all the expectation was that the bet wold lose and the pot would roll over once more.
But Lupita took the lead in the final furlong, making Mr Whiteley sweat but ultimately making him very rich.
One of his friends let slip that Steve had just fitted him a new bathroom, adding:
With friends like these, eh Steve?