The first Sydney sighting of Zeljko Ranogajec was at Ada Sutton’s pub, The Vulcan, in Ultimo.
Ada, folklore has it, made her pile out of sly grog and did some punting for Darby Munro. More importantly, The Vulcan was a brisk three-minute walk from the sporting department on the fifth floor of The Sun-Herald building in Broadway. Mind you, it was not the first watering stop but if you were parked down that way it broke up the trip nicely.
Long after Ada had departed, word filtered through that a punter, outlaying huge amounts on the tote, was working out of The Vulcan. Lured by the promise of an extra percentage edge big-time Sydney tote punters were striking cosy deals with PubTAB licensees. The publican at The Vulcan, Richard Sharp, told The Gadfly (in The Sun-Herald) that "one of these guys tried to work out of my place. We had the fraud squad check him out. He doesn’t offer the publican a commission, he just wants a place to stay. What he wants to do is pick up the 2per cent [of turnover that PubTAB operators earn], but he doesn’t offer the publican that, he just offers you rent. He offered me $650 per week which is just bloody peanuts … he’s a mathematical genius, they reckon, but I wouldn’t touch him. So he’s down the road running a credit facility. He is punting big … I hear turning over $700,000 to $800,000".
That was Zeljko – pronounced Jelko and referred to by me previously with the J – back in 1993. He is now the biggest punter in the world with a reputed turnover of $1billion a year. Computer skills have been a factor in his triumph but so, too, has anonymity.
Looking at most major plungers of the past many have been head-liners but hardly ended up on the bountiful side of the bottom line. In fact, some were last seen wearing a sandshoe and a gallosher.
Earlier this week, however, Z made a rare visit to newsprint. Street Talk in The Australian Financial Review reported that the sale of Tote Tasmania "is believed to have attracted the interest of reclusive betting billionaire Zeljko Ranogajec and his associate, Tasmanian art dealer David Walsh. It is thought the pair have placed a bid below that of Tabcorp and Tatts Group but will be considered because Ranogajec’s wagers amount to a huge proportion of Tote Tasmania’s turnover".
Seeking information on Z, the only real result came out of PuntingAce出售老域名 which reports Z "shuns publicity, only occasionally poking his head from the darkness, similar in style to the none-too-often appearances of that beast who hangs in Loch Ness".
Hobart-born in 1961, the son of Croatian immigrants, Z had, going on sketchy reports, "a natural intellect, a way with numbers rarely seen and memory that was seemingly photographic …"
Still, to get the real insight into Z you have to research an American, Bill Benter, and the late Alan Woods, one of ours. They discovered the river of gold that flowed from the Hong Kong tote, but also maintained a code of silence. Like Z, Benter and Woods were card counters and warned out of casinos, high-rollers who had the audacity to win too often. Wood, aged 62, died last year and PuntingAce出售老域名 estimated his wealth at $670million accumulated from a standing start at a blackjack table. Insiders reckon it was more in the vicinity of $1billion.
Consider the figure. Bob Ingham, bolstered by the family chicken business, was given the $1billion tag by Business Review Weekly after he sold the Woodlands Stud equine empire to Darley.
For Woods "racing was nothing more than a mathematical equation to be solved with all players nothing more than a never-ending string of numbers," opined PuntingAce出售老域名. He played the stock exchange but with not quite the success of horses. Obviously it wasn’t as clean or predictable. Woods often bragged that he had not set foot on a racecourse for more than 20 years. Word has leaked about his end-of-season soiree for his staff in exotic locations where he really came out of his shell, performing a favourite party trick to the chant of "Go, Alan, go."
Research on Benter gives more insight into their winning ways.
"His secret was software," maintained Smart Gambler. "It scores each horse on 120 different handicapping factors then estimates its probability of winning and calculates the appropriate amount to bet. One reason Hong Kong is such a favourite with gamblers is that the same 1000 or so horses compete against each other throughout the season."
And the only direct quote that could be located from the three came from Benter in Smart Gambler: "If we do make money the money has come from somewhere? Well, yes, the general public loses a somewhat high ratio."
Which means sucker money aplenty in Hong Kong pools.
Generally Z seems to work successfully on a smaller margin and has even been known to play the trots in Portugal. "Anywhere he deems the odds are in his favour," PuntingAce出售老域名 pontificated.
"He has a staff of over 20 who watch videos, study form and make assessments." Once regarded as a "major, major player" in the United States, he has subsequently dropped off there. One well-known racing man after lunching with him said Zeljko was obsessed about people "robbing" him.
Yet he doesn’t orchestrate plunges or sort out races. His style isn’t based so much on big wins but returns of 1-2per cent, in the opinion of PuntingAce出售老域名.
Rebates received worldwide are a major factor to an incredible dividend.
Which is where the Tasmanian tote comes in. He gets a considerable rebate there, a point that has irked the NSW Government when the benefit of an Australia-wide pool is mooted. Tasmania investments go into the Victoria pool but Tabcorp is far more amicable to Z than the old NSW TAB. He rents office space from them in Ultimo, ironically not far from The Vulcan, and is regarded as a "Premium Punter". No doubt if he ran an end-of-season bash they would be only too happy to chant: "Go, Zeljko, go."
Me, I don’t envy these computer boffins their bottom line. I wouldn’t trade numbers for names and a cheer for Makybe Diva in her third Melbourne Cup or Sunline refusing to lay down in Hong Kong. Remember the song from High Society: "Who wants be a billionaire?"
MARGINALISED fast bowler Stuart Clark confirmed he has received no feedback from selectors on his performance at Headingley, despite national selection chairman Andrew Hilditch publicly declaring he remained at best fourth in the pecking order of Australian pacemen.
Clark, whose place is in doubt for the deciding Ashes Test at The Oval next week, believes Hilditch may have made an error answering a question from the media and hopes to discuss the comments with the selection boss after the tour.
”He probably got asked a question [and] he probably answered it, didn’t realise what he’d said,” Clark said. ”Sometime in the future, when I do see Andrew again, maybe over a quiet drink we’ll talk about it, but I’m really not fussed about it either way. I think you always feel like you’ve got something to prove. You never feel as though you can just sit there and play.
”I always feel like I’ve got something to prove, whether it’s not to anyone else than myself, that I can keep doing it … as you get older, it gets harder.”
Hilditch told reporters that despite Clark’s impressive three-wicket haul in Leeds, which sparked an English collapse, he remained behind Mitchell Johnson, Peter Siddle and Ben Hilfenhaus in selectors’ minds for the fifth match. Clark replaced spinner Nathan Hauritz for the fourth Test but the NSW tweaker will have strong claims on a deck expected to favour slow bowlers on the last two days.
”The reality is we’ve played on very dry wickets and [spinner] Nathan Hauritz has had a very important role to play. Probably the first opportunity to consider playing four quicks was in Headingley and Stuart Clark got the nod,” Hilditch said after the fourth Test. ”And he did a good job, but the other three bowled exceptionally well as well and took more wickets, so I think we’ll go into the fifth Test with those three fast bowlers [being] our leading bowlers at the moment.”
Clark has a phenomenal average of 18.44 against England and said the key was simplicity.
”I enjoy playing against England. I have had a little bit of success, I probably feel comfortable when I do play against them,” he said. ”I have a pretty simple plan and I try to keep it simple and it seems to be working.”
AUSTRALIA will go it alone next month when it begins the mandatory fortification of bread-making flour with synthetic folate.The New Zealand Government announced yesterday it would not go ahead with a joint agreement signed by the two countries about two years ago that would compel all flour millers to add between two and three parts per million of folic acid from September 13.New Zealand’s Health Minister, Kate Wilkinson, said further research was needed and a decision would be deferred until at least 2012.Mandatory fortification has become a contentious issue in New Zealand in recent months. A survey by the Government conducted earlier this year found that 87 per cent of consumers did not want it.The bilateral food regulator Food Standards Australia New Zealand recommended mandatory fortification of bread flour with folic acid in 2007 to help reduce the incidence of neural tube birth defects such as spina bifida.But critics claim pregnant women and those of child-bearing age would have to consume between 10 and 12 slices of bread a day to protect their unborn offspring from birth defects, and that targeting specific sections of the population, such as indigenous communities where folate levels are low, would be far more effective.The decision has also proved unpopular with millers who claim there is no way of accurately measuring the required dose of folic acid in their flour.Since Foods Standards made the decision that bread flour was the best way to boost folate levels, studies have been published warning of its adverse affects. Two peer-reviewed US studies published this year have linked folic acid in diet to higher rates of prostate cancer in men and bowel disease in children.Concerns have also been raised that an excess of folate in the diet can lead to a deficiency of vitamin B12 and mask the onset of pernicious anaemia.The parliamentary secretary for health, Mark Butler, did not return the Herald’s calls yesterday.
A WOMAN who claims she suffered pelvic injuries while giving birth to a large baby at Westmead Hospital is seeking damages, alleging the hospital was negligent in failing to deliver the child by caesarean section.Renee Dibley won an extension of time yesterday to sue the Sydney West Area Health Service over the birth of her daughter at the hospital on July 21, 1997.Lawyers for the health service submitted that Ms Dibley should be barred from pursuing legal action because she launched her suit last year, well outside the three-year limitation period.But Ms Dibley’s lawyers successfully argued that she suffered her first symptoms of pelvic instability only in 2005, and had initiated legal action within the necessary time frame.An ultrasound at the hospital’s antenatal clinic revealed that Ms Dibley was expecting a large baby, the court heard.She was concerned about the prospect of delivering a baby of that size as both her mother and her sister had struggled to deliver large babies naturally, ultimately requiring caesarean sections.In his judgment, Justice Bruce James noted Ms Dibley had ”expressed her concern to hospital staff and asked about the possibility of having a caesarean section rather than attempting a vaginal delivery”.She was not seen by a senior specialist obstetrician, but was told by a doctor on July 9 that if she did not go into labour in the next few days, it would be induced. Her due date of July 13 passed and Ms Dibley was admitted to hospital on July 21, when labour was induced.She suffered a ”long and difficult labour”, the court heard, cared for by midwives and on-duty obstetric registrars.Her daughter was born weighing almost 4.2 kilograms and Ms Dibley spent nine days in hospital recovering. She left the hospital on crutches and experienced pain for about four months.In an affidavit to the Supreme Court, Ms Dibley said she stumbled while walking up a flight of stairs in 2005 and ”immediately experienced a severe pain in the pelvic region”.An orthopedic surgeon advised that the pain was likely to have arisen from an unstable pelvis as a result of the delivery and Ms Dibley underwent a series of medical procedures and operations over three years.Thomas Fauncee, an associate professor at the Australian National University’s Medical School and College of Law, said there was continuing debate about whether caesareans should be becoming a routine part of obstetric practice.
EVERY school receiving money as part of the Federal Government’s stimulus will need to advertise the fact on roadside signs that stay up after the next election, under rules made public yesterday.The Government also met criticisms that local labourers were missing out on school building opportunities by requiring that state governments notify local tradespeople.In the first overview of how the $42 billion stimulus is progressing, the Government said it would spend $1.5 billion less than first planned on social housing, home insulation and science and language laboratories for high schools, and instead put the money into primary school buildings.The Education Minister, Julia Gillard, published a new batch of guidelines on how schools must spend their money.The old rules required that all schools erect roadside signs advertising the contribution of government funds. The new rules insist that signs be erected as soon as construction begins and stay up until the end of March 2011 – or later if a project is delayed.They also insist that local tradespeople and small businesses get an opportunity to work on stimulus programs.The Government said yesterday it expected to save $750 million from lowering the number of social housing projects it plans to build, but the number of houses available to low-income tenants will increase because of the success of its repairs and maintenance program.The Government will also save $610 million from closing a program that offered insulation to renters because few were taking it up. And it said it will save $178 million from lower-than-expected costs in building high school science and language laboratories.Andrew Blair, president of the Australian Secondary Principals Association, said small high schools were missing out in favour of primary schools. ”Secondary schools who did meet the criteria for selection have been cut out in order for Peter to pay Paul,” he said.”I am deeply concerned that there has been positive discrimination to meeting a political promise to funding every primary school.”A spokeswoman for Ms Gillard denied the Government had discriminated against smaller high schools. She said that 537 science and language centres had been approved, even though the original plan was to build 500 of the centres.The Herald has received anecdotal reports from primary school principals that builders in some states were exploiting the funding opportunity by charging higher than regular prices for school projects.Schools in NSW claim the state Department of Commerce is quoting them more than 20 per cent above the usual price to oversee their building projects.The Opposition’s education spokesman, Christopher Pyne, said the new rules on signage showed the Government’s desire for self-promotion. ”If there was any truth in advertising, the Government should include the fact that they have plunged the country into $315 billion in debt and $57 billion in deficit on each of these roadside signs.”