Make mine a large one

Daily Double: Horse Racing logo

EVER since Ug bet Zog a woolly mammoth spleen that his eohippus was faster, horse racing has been a big money business. Since it is well nigh impossible to work out which out of all the starters is going to finish, most of the big money goes from punter to bookie, not the other way, as those in the trade would have us believe as they try to hide their Mercedes AMGs.

Daily Double is an attempt to bring as many factors of the real thing on a computer without having to wade through screeds of confusing options. It uses a simplified form of the American wager system, which is extremely similar to the British one in that it's still easy to lose.

A horse can win, place or show - that is, come in in the first one, two or three places respectively. Surprisingly enough, you don't win as much money on a horse to show than you would if you'd bet on it to place. Any bookmaker who ignored this would have a snowflake's chance in a furnace.

There are nine different betting systems, three of them being straight wagering on winning, placing or showing. An exacta is wagered over two horses in the one race; the punter must predict which will come in first and second exactly.

The game is not strictly true to form on this point, because it makes the exacta odds the sum of the standard odds, as opposed to using a separate exacta pool. A daily double is spread over two of the day's races - the named horses must win the chosen races for a payoff.

Things start to get faintly confusing when quinellas are brought in. A quinella could be described as an inexacta - two horses in one race are chosen to win or place, but which wins and which places is irrelevant. Well, maybe not quite irrelevant - the winnings on the first horse are staked against the second horse, so the odds should always be as high as possible.

A parlay is the same, but different. Two horses in any two races can be chose to win, place or show, and the winnings from the first are the stake on the second. As always, winnings from a showing are very much smaller than from a winning horse.

Betting is simplified by having a large form book, where all the horses' previous results are recorded. There are 80 horses and 12 jockeys, each of which perform differently according to the going. This form book, which will need to be consulted continuously, is printed on thin paper and will become dog-eared very quickly. The form book is also the key to the game, as entry is gained by knowing a horse and jockey combination in a certain race.

Betting is a simple, icon-driven process, and the runners can be viewed for any of the afternoon's 10 races. The aim is to come away with more money than the opposition - up to three other people - after all the races have been run.

Each race consists of some fairly jerky horses juddering along a track, with the top three horses named as the race progresses. A hissy digitised voice proclaims the winner - the whole thing smacks slightly of being written in Basic and then compiled.

To the jaded gamer, Daily Double would probably elicit amused disbelief at how simple the game presentation is. But as an evening's entertainment for up to four racing fans - settle up afterwards in after dinner mints - Daily Double could provide many hours of solid playing.