Phil Bull (1910-1989) was an expert speculator, magazine publisher, and racehorse proprietor.
Due to his wagering success and development of the Timeform handicapping system, he became a legend in the racing community.
Since 1948, Timeform has offered performance ratings on every British race horse and, in recent years, many international horses.
In addition to founding Timeform, he is attributed with sayings such as “on the racetrack, keep your eyes open and your ears shut.”
Let’s continue our discussion of Bull’s contributions to horse racing by examining his upbringing, early wagering successes, Timeform system, Portway Press Ltd., horse breeding heritage, and administrative experience.
Phil Bull’s Childhood
Bull was born in the West Yorkshire village of Hemsworth, not far from Leeds. He graduated from Hemsworth Arts and Community Academy (formerly Hemsworth Grammar School) as the son of a miner and a teacher.
Bull earned a degree in mathematics from Leeds University in 1931, which later served as a foundation for his horse racing expertise.
However, his first endeavor was teaching mathematics at a London school. Bull left this career to pursue his genuine passion – wagering.
Developing a Profession in Gambling
Bull was bitten by the wagering itch early on, as he placed bets on horses as an 18-year-old student. In the Epsom Derby, he placed a wager on Caerlon at 25-to-1 odds and triumphed.
His fleeting teaching position was more of a side gig as he mulled over horse racing results from multiple seasons. After researching dates and racetracks, Bull began to recognize gambling-profitable patterns.
Soon after leaving his teaching position in the early 1940s, Bull was able to support himself through sports. The math genius also sold his self-developed time ratings system under the name the Temple Time Test.
A Massive Gambling Victory
Unlike many wagering systems being promoted at the time, the Temple Time Test had a track record of success. Bull could point to his own accomplishments as evidence.
His wagering records reveal a profit of €295 987 between 1943 and 1974.
Because inflation occurred over a span of three decades, it is difficult to determine an exact inflation rate for this sum.
Even if the entire sum of €296k was earned in 1974, it would be worth more than €3.2 million today, or an average of nearly €100,000 per year.
Bull formed notable friendships with William Hill, The Crazy Gang, and Bud Flanagan because of his reputation, success, and notoriety.
Developing Timeform and the Portway Press
After World War II, Bull met Dick Whitford, a fellow bookmaker who had also created his own handicapping ratings system. Together, they developed the Timeform wagering system.
The name was derived from the combination of Bull’s ratings approach, which emphasized the likely pace of a race, and Whitford’s system, which emphasized horses’ form.
In addition, they founded Portway Press Ltd., the publishing entity that would produce their numerous race guides over the decadesoară.
The first Timeform publication, titled Race horses of 1948, launched a series of publications. In addition to publishing annual records, Portway issued daily race cards, which are still in use at racetracks today.
Bull served as CEO of Portway until his demise in 1989; Reg Griffin succeeded him.