Phil Bull was a professional gambler, magazine publisher, and racing horse owner. He was born in 1910 and passed away in 1989.
Because of his prowess as a bettor and the development of the Timeform handicapping method, he is revered across the racing industry as a legend.
Since 1948, Timeform has provided performance ratings on every racing horse in the United Kingdom, and in more recent years, on many horses from other countries as well.
In addition to being recognized with the establishment of Timeform, he is also credited with the formulation of aphorisms such as “at the racecourse, keep your eyes open and your ears closed.”
Let’s continue our conversation on Bull’s contributions to horse racing by taking a look at his childhood, early gambling achievements, the Timeform system, Portway Press Ltd., his history in horse breeding, and his administrative tenure.
The Beginnings of Phil Bull’s Life
Bull was born in the unremarkable town of Hemsworth, which is located in West Yorkshire, close to Leeds. He is the son of a miner and a teacher, and he received his diploma from what is now known as Hemsworth Arts and Community Academy but was originally known as Hemsworth Grammar School.
The mathematical education that Bull received at Leeds University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1931, laid the groundwork for his eventual success in the world of horse racing.
However, his original career choice was to become a math instructor at a school in London. Bull’s career in this field didn’t continue long since he eventually left to pursue his actual passion, which was gambling.
Becoming a Gambler on a Professional Level
Because he placed bets on horses when he was just 18 years old, Bull was quickly bitten by the gambling bug. His early success may be attributed to the fact that he won a wager on Caerlon in the Epsom Derby at odds of 25 to 1.
He only spent a short time as a teacher, but during that time he was mostly focused on analyzing the outcomes of several racing seasons. Following his research into dates and racecourses, Bull started to see patterns that he might use to his advantage in gambling.
In the early 1940s, Bull left his position as a teacher and did not take long to transition into a career in professional boxing, where he quickly established himself as one of the sport’s top stars. The mathematical wiz also commercialized, under the brand name Temple Time Test, the time ratings system that he had independently devised.
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In contrast to the majority of betting systems that were being offered for sale at the time, the Temple Time Test had a track record of consistent profitability. As evidence, Bull was able to refer to his own achievements.
According to his betting statistics, he raked in a total of €295,987 in earnings between the years 1943 and 1974.
Due to the fact that this sum has changed over the course of three decades, it is difficult to assign an accurate inflation rate to it.
However, even if you calculate that the total sum of €296k was earned in 1974, that amount would be worth over €3.2 million today – an average of about €100,000 per year. This is based on the fact that inflation has caused the value of money to increase significantly since 1974.
Because of his fame, success, and celebrity, Bull was able to form important connections with prominent personalities like The Crazy Gang and Bud Flanagan, as well as the bookmaker William Hill.
The Development of Timeform and Portway Press
Following the conclusion of World War II, Bull became acquainted with a fellow gambler by the name of Dick Whitford. Whitford had also devised his very own handicapping ratings system. They collaborated to develop a whole new betting method which they named Timeform.
The combination of Bull’s ratings technique, which places an emphasis on the likely pace of a race, and Whitford’s system, which places an emphasis on horses’ form, resulted in the creation of the term.
In addition to this, they established Portway Press Ltd., a publishing firm that would go on to produce a variety of racing guides for them over the years.
The very first Timeform magazine, which was released in 1948 and was titled Race horses of 1948, was the catalyst that began an entire series of guides. In addition to publishing annual books, Portway also distributed daily race cards, some of which are still in use today and can be purchased at racetracks.
Reg Griffin took over as CEO of Portway after Bull, who remained in that role up to the time of his death in 1989.