THE QUADRELLA STORY-Aussieraces.com
The Kid, God and The Quaddie
The Story of Australia’s Favourite Bet Type - the Quadrella. By Mark Hall
At around 4.30 p.m. on Saturday afternoons, at the track, in pubs and clubs, in TABs and tin sheds, in gardens and on bowling greens all over the country, ears are tuned into radios, eyed are fixed on TV screens and you can sense the feeling of expectation. Then following the muffled sound of a race call, you will sometimes hear the triumphant cheer – ‘I got the Quadrella!’.
Australian punters’ affection for the Quadrella is reflected in the fact that it is the only bet type with it’s own nickname – ‘Quaddie’ - and just about everyone is familiar with and uses this nickname in preference to it’s full name - as you tend to do for someone or something that you like - and who wouldn’t like a Quaddie? Winning a big Quaddie is an Australian dream. Some like the winner of the $1.1 million dollar Quadrella on the Flemington races on Emirates day in 2007 live the dream and can say ‘goodbye’ to their bosses and any little outstanding debts they may have like the mortgage.
However, the Quadrella doesn’t usually deliver such life changing fortunes. It's not that big and brash. It’s more subtle - and that’s part of it’s appeal. It will give you a collect of four or five hundred dollars and if you’re lucky a mini wind fall of several thousand - and sometimes more. Such wins come in handy and are always appreciated.
The Victorian TAB introduced the Quadrella on July 1st 1972. As every punter knows the bet type requires you to pick the winners of four races nominated by the TAB at a race meeting. The original Quadrella was a strange bet type. It bracketed runners together – i.e. horse numbers 9 &10 were bracketed together as a single selection as were numbers 8 & 11, 7 & 12 etc. This odd format evolved only because of the limitations of the TAB’s computing systems.
Back then, the TAB’s master computer was housed in a sealed off, glass walled, air conditioned environment as big as a tennis court. On race days it whirred and whizzed and operating lights flashed as it carried out all manner of complicated maths. If something went amiss and the computer failed to function, it was no problem, because on the floor above there was an exact replica of the computer that would take the baton and crank up and carry on all the whirring and whizzing and mathematical calculations. The computer and its back up were state of the art and could do just about anything – except provide a Quadrella without bracketed numbers. So the bracketed Quadrella, despite being a strange and somewhat ugly baby, became accepted and was eventually embraced by punters.
The bracketed Quadrella continued to provide punters with nice collects and tales of ‘the one that got away’ until 1986 when ‘The Kid’ arrived at the TAB. The Kid came from the land of advertising on St. Kilda Rd. which was just a stone’s throw away from the TAB’s headquarters. He was taken on by the TAB’s Marketing Department as Product Development Manager – his mission – to create new and attractive bet types for punters.
From his fourth floor office with picture windows overlooking the beautiful Albert Park lake, The Kid went to work. He’d turn his office chair to get inspiration from the view, and then swing back 180 degrees and put his ideas to paper. In the same department was a TAB stalwart by the name of Bob Bourke. Bourke was a large man who moved slowly but he had a mind as quick as a bear trap. He knew everything there was to know about the TAB and bet types. The Kid and Big Bob collaborated and were to develop ideas that would herald the start of a whole new era of racing and sports betting.
With the new ideas there was always a stumbling block - new bet types at the TAB usually took years to get to the market place because of all the computer software that needed to be developed and tested. The response The Kid got to his ideas from the computer department was invariably along the lines of “That’ll take three years, that’ll take six years, that’ll take ten years”. The Kid thought computers were supposed to speed things up. In this case they were slowing them down.
The TAB’s Marketing Director Maurice Sheehan called The Kid into his office. Normally a jovial man, Sheehan had his serious face on. Sheehan told him that TAB turnover was flat, the chiefs were unhappy and the natives (punters) were restless for something new. Sheehan said there was an urgent need to fast track a new bet type – to get it to the market sooner rather than later.
The Kid was originally from South Australia where they had an interesting bet type called the Fourtrella. It was basically a Quadrella without the brackets. Each runner stood alone and could be selected on it’s own merits. In his Uni days in Adelaide, The Kid punted to help pay his way through his studies. His dad took him to the races and introduced him to acquaintances like Bart Cummings - and to the Fourtrella. Soon he developed a fascination for Fourtrellas – and a happy knack of winning them. In fact, he became such a regular in the collect queues at his local TAB that the operators there christened him the ‘Fourtrella Kid’.
The Kid told Big Bob about his idea for a new bet type based on the Fourtrella. Bob thought about it for while, and then like Caesar to his gladiator gave the ‘thumbs up’. The battle to get the new bet type to the market place had only just begun. The concept was soon presented to senior management in the board room. All the head of the department fat cats sat around the board room table and lapped up the idea. The question was asked of the head of the computing department “How long would it take to get the new bet type up and running?”. The bearded computer boffin thought and pondered. The audience of Tabbys held their collective breaths and awaited his answer. He said “We couldn’t do it in any less than six”. “What - six years!” uttered The Kid. “No – six months” was the reply. The relief around the table was audible. A recent upgrade to the TAB’s computers meant that the unbracketed Quadrella was now a possibility. Punters would have their first new bet type to play with in over a decade.
On getting the all clear from the computer people, the TAB marketing department including advertising man Harry Leggett, The Kid, Big Bob and others planned the massive marketing launch and TAB agents all over the state were trained to handle the new bet type. Management factions within the TAB had differing ideas about what to do with the bracketed Quadrella. Some wanted to keep it whilst others believed the old Quadrella format was antiquated and that new bet type would be more attractive to punters and would suck up its pool. If the bracketed Quadrella’s pool was low, it couldn’t swim. After much debate, some a little heated and some white hot, the TAB’s senior brass including General Manager Jim Carroll made a decision – the bracketed Quadrella would remain and the new bet type would be known as the Quadxtra and would operate on different races.
Eventually everything was in place for the launch. Amongst much hoopla and publicity, the Quadxtra was introduced to punters on the MooneeValley races on a grey, overcast day, on May 16th 1987. The hope of the TAB was that the first Quadxtra would pay a large dividend to give the new bet type a real boost from day one.
Oddly enough, the majority of the people employed at the TAB were not interested in having a bet. The Kid was an exception. His work getting the Quadxtra to the market place done, he began work on the form for the MooneeValley meeting. Early on the Saturday afternoon, at his local TAB in Port Melbourne, The Kid filled in his Quadxtra ticket and waited. The first leg was run and won by an 8/1 pop. The second leg began the realization of the TAB’s hope of a hefty dividend. A distance event for plodding stayers, it was taken out by a hurdler at odds of over 55/1. The third leg went to a 6/1 chance. The Kid looked at his ticket – he was alive in the last leg.
In the final leg of the Quadxtra The Kid’s hopes rested upon a single horse named ‘The Prizefighter’. The approximate dividend was announced over the radio – it was a small fortune - $15,500 – equal to about $30,000 in today’s money. The Kid quickly headed home and told his missus about the unfolding events. His other half, a born and bred Catholic said she would pray to God for the right result. The Kid welcomed any help he could get at that late stage. The horses lined up at the starting gates for the 1000 metre scamper. In just over sixty seconds The Kid would know if he still retained his magic touch with the bet type. The field charged out of the barriers at the 1000 metre chute and thundered towards the home turn. Like big Joe Bugner fighting Muhamad Ali, The Prizefighter was soon in trouble. He looked beaten, boxed in between runners with nowhere to go as the field entered the short MooneeValley home stretch. The Kid looked solemnly at his missus. All hope seemed gone. Then in a flash, jockey Rod Griffiths seemed to size up the situation and got The Prizefighter up from the canvas. He forced the horse through a gap that was barely there and urged him on to hit the front within the shadows of the post to score an unlikely victory.
That night The Kid booked a limousine and then invited family and friends on a sightseeing tour around Melbourne whilst they sipped French champagne. Over the Westgate bridge they took in splendid views of the city lights before arriving outside Maxim’s restaurant in South Yarra for a night of French cuisine and celebration. They began with an entree of escargot – The Kid hadn’t eaten snails since he was a 4 year old playing in his garden in Adelaide. More rich French food followed and the Veuve Clicquot flowed. The Kid was living every Australian punter’s dream of the big Quaddie win.
The following Monday morning The Kid went back to work. The mood was very upbeat at the TAB. The Quadxtra had been launched successfully and the dividend was a large one ensuring plenty of punter interest and publicity. Big Bob jokingly asked The Kid if he got the Quadxtra on the weekend. “Sure did” The Kid replied. In most cultures “Sure did” would be taken to mean just that. However, his answer was interpreted as a humourous response - simply because the likelyhood of The Kid of actually winning such a large amount, on THAT bet type, on the very first day it was launched into the marketplace was well - so unlikely. Consequently, no one at the TAB knew that The Kid, who was the main driving force behind the new bet type, also won a large part of the pool that day.
Predictions that the bracketed Quadrella would fall out of favour with punters soon proved to be correct. Their preference was with the Quadxtra. The decision was made. The bracketed Quadrella would be discontinued and the Quadxtra would take its place and its name. It would no longer be an extra but the star of the show.Since then the Quadrella’s popularity has grown. Rather than only operating on the main race meeting in Melbourne, it now operates on every meeting, every day of the week at the gallops, trots and dogs. It’s popularity saw it spread into N.S.W. in 2004 and into Queensland in 2007, whilst in South Australia, where it all began, the Fourtrella is now also known as the Quadrella, and its still ‘got legs’ - four of them in fact, and punters there and all around the country still try to pick out four winners in the hope of one day achieving an Australian dream.