Steve Ahern was one of Britain's greatest punters. He was making millions of pounds in profits back in the 50's and 60's from his betting forays and rose from being a penniless schoolboy betting in pennies to multi-millionaire status, living in luxury on the Isle of Majorca.

This is our third extract from his book Riches From Horses, published in 1964 (now out of print).

I had gone 14 frightening months being battered about by ill-fortune. But I had been sharpening my skills all that time and my mind was firing at such a high octane that when I struck form again there was no stopping me.

Contrary to public belief, the Derby is one of the easiest races to predict. I made thousands of pounds and proved this point once again by backing Pinza early at 28/1. That was just one in a string of successes with which I staggered the bookmaking fraternity.

Two weeks after I enjoyed a successful coup on a horse called Royal Alligator, the horse went up to Doncaster to run in a very hot Selling Plate.

Trainer Staff Ingham had a very useful 2yo entered. So had Peter Thraile. And the class was just a bit too good for Royal Alligator at this stage. I backed both horses, 100 quid at 5 / 1 and 25 quid at 5 / 1, and they came home in that order, Ingham's horse winning by a neck. It was a good minor killing.

I had 500 quid on Royal Alligator at his next start at 5/1 and he won in a jog-trot. He was still not too well known. I was in form again and 1 finished the season in excellent style and had a good winter holiday.

Towards the end of the jumping season I was told by one of my paid contacts that trainer Willie Stevenson was going to gallop a very good jumps horse, bought abroad, after the last race at Wolverhampton. I made it my business to be there.

I could see immediately that this horse, Sir Ken, had greatness in him. In fact, he turned out to be Champion Hurdler twice. This was a uniquely great horse, worth following. Nor did I have to wait long for my first tickle.

I had a very good friend, a doctor, who used to go racing with me when I fancied something, provided he had nobody dying on his hands at the time. He loved having a tilt at the bookies.

I thought I knew four stone-blind certainties at Liverpool, including Sir Ken. Royal Alligator was in a race there in which he had to meet a good horse from -the Victor Smythe team but I still thought him a certainty.
Dorothy Paget had a horse called Aspirant in a Selling Plate, and it looked just as sure to win. Sir Ken was entered in the Coronation Hurdle, a good-class race for Maidens. My fourth choice was an Irish 2yo.

On the first day, we went to the course and I started fairly moderately with 500 pounds at 4/1 on Royal Alligator which won very comfortably. I then had 600 pounds at 6/4 on Aspirant, which also fulfilled my expectations.

That night the doc and I had a bit of a celebration with cabaret and dance. The champagne and brandy flowed but, as usual, I had little to drink because a loose tongue could have given away my secrets.

In the paddock the next day, nobody paid any attention to Sir Ken, never having heard of him. Then, just before 1 placed my bets, a team of three came up to me and asked what I knew about Sir Ken.

There had been no leak from me and 1 hadn't even told my doctor friend yet. I guessed someone at the stable had talked, and I realised I would have to be quick to get my money on. The first bookie to mark up had Sir Ken at 50/1 and someone beat me to it, bringing the price down to 20s. I took all I could get at this price, and then more at 100/6 until I stood to win 2500 pounds.

This was one of the 'few times I was over-cautious in backing my judgement when really in form. I should have had 10 times as much on Sir Ken. I knew that in my heart of hearts, even before the race started.

The doctor backed him heavily on the tote and earned himself a year's salary. I question if I have ever seen a horse win so easily. At the end, almost a hurdle separated Sir Ken from the second horse.

The Irish horse also won and made me another thousand quid and I came away from the meeting with quite a fortune.

My luck had turned completely and there was now a lot of thinking and pinpointing to do that weekend to sort out future successes.

A fortnight before the Doncaster St Leger meeting, a 2yo of Willy Stevenson's called Harry Lime was to be tried out and I had it figured as something out of the top drawer. Stevenson tried it against a very good 2yo which had already won five or six races and Harry Lime responded magnificently and I knew I was on to something.

He was entered in a Selling Plate at Doncaster and I saw no chance of him being beaten. 1 drew 1200 quid from the bank and got the doctor, plus two bookies, to go with me and put this large sum on at good prices.

I hired a car to get the lot of us up there but halfway there the car broke down. As Harry Lime was in the first race 1 was in quite a stew. Luck had it that three bookmakers recognised me as they drove by and said they had room for only one.

I begged them to take me and the doctor, and they did, but only after I told them the name of the horse I was going to back. They agreed to bet only in the cheaper rings.

With only two of us putting the money on, I knew it would be difficult to get decent prices but right away I had a stroke of luck. A Newcastle bookie put me on at 500 pounds on 9 / 2 and with the doc's help I got most of the rest on (about 1100 quid) and the price held good.

My luck was holding solid. Harry Lime won by four lengths with the jockey, Charlie Spears, sitting up there like a cabman.

I had cleaned up a few thousand on him in half an hour. When I was in top form like this, backing horses was like taking money from kids.

One afternoon I was at Sandown Park having a look when I was given a tip that there was to be a gallop I might like to see after the last race. The horse was a big, splendid 3yo named Three Cheers and he was partnered with a strong 4yo handicapper, Mush.

Jockey Ken Gethin I knew very well and he was clever at not revealing the true ability of a horse in front of onlookers. They jumped off and he lost two or three lengths at every turn, finishing five lengths behind at the finish. But I was not deceived. I know my horses and I had seen enough of Three Cheers to know that this was really one to follow.

A fortnight later he was to run in a handicap at Stockton. I managed to get aboard a charter plane which Ken Gethin and the owner Cyril Croft were flying in to the course.

Both didn't say a word about Three Cheers to me. There was a lot of kidding but no tipping. We landed on a small airstrip but when we got out of the plane there was no hire car or taxi waiting; in fact, no transport of any kind.

I eventually offered an RAF driver 12 quid to take us to the course in his jeep. I told him Ken was riding a certainty and that he could put the lot on and win enough to buy himself out of the air force!

"How in the hell do you know I'm riding a big certainty today?" demanded Ken.

"Never mind that now, let's get there or we'll all be losers," I replied.

As we neared the course I helped Ken to undress and put a macintosh round him. He ran straight through the jockeys' entrance, wearing only the mac. Officially he was too late to weigh in but the clerk of the scales was kind to him and let him go through.

I dashed through the turnstiles and ran to the first bookie I saw and put 400 quid on at 9/4. Then I dashed around putting more on at the best prices I could find.

Three Cheers romped home by four lengths. But the money I won that day was a stepping stone to even larger earnings from Three Cheers.

The first thing I did when I got home was to ring my brother-in-law and I told him to back Three Cheers for me to win the Cesarewitch Handicap at 33/1, to win me 5000 pounds. 1 then rang other bookies and kept backing him until I had backed him to win me more than 11,000 pounds.

Ten days later, Three Cheers ran at Birmingham and I had a modest 500 pounds on him at 5/2 and he won by six lengths. I told all my friends he was a cert to win the Cesarewitch.

NEXT MONTH: More of the Steve Ahem story and how his big plunge on Three Cheers worked out.

Click here to read Part 4.
Click here to read Part 1.
Click here to read Part 2.

By Steve Ahern