Thursday, March 30, 2023
Home Blog

Study finds babies’ gut microbiome not influenced by mothers’ vaginal microbiome composition

Credit: Unsplash/CC0 Public Domain

It has been a longstanding assumption that birth mode and associated exposure of newborns to their mothers’ vaginal microbiome during delivery greatly affects the development of babies’ gut microbiome.

To test the scientific validity of this assumption, a team of Canadian researchers has now published a study in Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology in which they examined the effect of maternal vaginal microbiome composition on the development of infants’ stool microbiome at 10 days and three months after birth.

“We show that the composition of the maternal vaginal microbiome does not substantially influence the infant stool microbiome in early life,” said Dr. Deborah Money, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of British Columbia and corresponding author of the study. “It does not appear that exposure to maternal vaginal microbiota at the time of vaginal birth establishes the infant stool microbiome.”

Unpredictable baby gut microbiome

For their study, which is one of the largest mother-infant cohort studies to date, the researchers recruited more than 600 Canadian women who planned to deliver both vaginally and via C-section.

Maternal vaginal swabs were collected prior to delivery. Stool samples from the babies were collected within 72 hours of delivery, as well as at 10 days and three months after birth.

The scientists found that regardless of birth mode and concomitant exposure to maternal microbiome, mothers’ vaginal microbiome composition does not predict the composition of babies’ stool microbiome at 10 days or three months after birth.

“From this study and other follow-up work, we were able to show that transfer of vaginal bacteria to the infant gut is limited, and that the maternal vaginal microbiome is not a large contributor to the bacterial community that develops in a baby’s gut after birth,” said Scott Dos Santos, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Saskatchewan who conducted the lab work and data analysis. “On the contrary, other maternal sources like breast milk and exposure to the environment likely play a much larger role.”

The research team is conducting further work to analyze the breast milk microbiome and better understand its relationship with infants’ gut microbiome.

Antibiotic use may explain microbiome discrepancies

Yet, at both 10 days and three months, the scientists found statistically significant differences in microbiome composition by mode of delivery. To investigate how these might be explained, they looked at clinical factors.

“The differences we found between infants stool microbiome composition by mode of delivery in early life seemed to be primarily influenced by exposure to antibiotics around the time of birth,” explained Money.

The researchers’ assessment of antibiotic use did not disprove the finding that the maternal vaginal microbiome is not predictive of infant stool microbiome composition.

Large dataset for robust results

Study participants were recruited from three hospitals across British Columbia to ensure a large, sociodemographically diverse and multi-ethnic study population. It was also vital to recruit enough individuals who planned to deliver vaginally or by C-section to secure appropriate participants for both groups of interest.

“This study underscores the need for robust methods with large enough sample sizes to ensure clinical conclusions drawn from human microbiome studies allow one to control for factors affecting natural variability in human microbiomes across individuals,” Money stressed.

The researchers also pointed to the study’s limitations: “We did not plan to, nor did we collect maternal stool microbiome samples, so we cannot draw any conclusions on this as an influence,” Money pointed out.

More information:
Maternal vaginal microbiome composition does not affect development of the infant gut microbiome in early life, Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology (2023). DOI: 10.3389/fcimb.2023.1144254

Study finds babies’ gut microbiome not influenced by mothers’ vaginal microbiome composition (2023, March 30)
retrieved 30 March 2023

This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no
part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Google Denies It Copied ChatGPT To Train Its Own AI Chatbot Bard: Report

Bard is not trained on any data from ShareGPT or ChatGP

Bard is not trained on any data from ShareGPT or ChatGP

Google has announced it is opening up access to its ChatGPT competitor “Bard” as an early experiment for users to collaborate with generative AI.

Google has denied the reports that it is copying Microsoft-owned OpenAI’s ChatGPT to train its AI chatbot called Bard.

A report in The Information claimed that OpenAI’s success “has forced the two AI research teams within Google’s parent, Alphabet, to overcome years of intense rivalry to work together”.

According to the report, citing sources, software engineers at Google’s Brain AI group are working with employees at DeepMind, which is a sibling company within Alphabet to develop software to compete with OpenAI.

“Known internally as Gemini, the joint effort began in recent weeks, after Google stumbled with Bard, its first attempt to compete with OpenAI’s chatbot,” the report claimed.

However, a Google spokesperson told The Verge that “Bard is not trained on any data from ShareGPT or ChatGPT”.

Meanwhile, Google has announced it is opening up access to its ChatGPT competitor “Bard” as an early experiment for users to collaborate with generative AI.

Early access to Bard has rolled out in the US and the UK, and the company said it will expand the access over time to more countries and languages.

Bard, like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Microsoft’s Bing chatbot, is based on a large language model (LLM), specifically a lightweight and optimised version of LaMDA, which the tech giant said will be updated with newer, more capable models in the future.

Users can interact with Bard by asking questions and refining their responses with follow-up questions.

Read all the Latest Tech News here

(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)

11 Lakh Diyas To Be Lit Along River Mandakini On Celebrate Ram Navami

Lord Rama spent a significant part of his 14-year exile in Chitrakoot.

Lord Rama spent a significant part of his 14-year exile in Chitrakoot.

Ramghat is considered sacred because this is where Lord Ram used to take a dip in river Mandakini during his stay at Chitrakoot.

Ram Navami, one of the most auspicious festivals celebrated by Hindus every year, falls on March 30 this year. A special cultural programme will be organised in Madhya Pradesh’s Chitrakoot to celebrate Ram Navami. According to mythology, Chitrakoot is the place where Lord Ram spent a significant part of his 14-year exile. Apart from the cultural programme, the locals have also prepared to organise a Deepotsav. Mahant Munna Shastri has revealed more about this to News18.

Mahant Munna Shastri shared that a Deepotsav will be organised in Chitrakoot’s Ramghat to celebrate Ram Navami. Ramghat is considered sacred because this is where Lord Rama used to take a dip in river Mandakini during his stay at Chitrakoot. According to reports, the Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh governments will provide resources for lighting 11 lakh earthen lamps (diyas) alongside river Mandakini.

Apart from Mahant Munna Shastri, other Mahants also described more about Ram Navami celebrations in Chitrakoot. They told News18 that diyas will be lit in every home in Chitrakoot. According to them, people have already started gathering in large numbers to commemorate this occasion.

Ram Navami celebrates the birth of Lord Rama who is worshipped for his righteousness, compassion and wisdom. Lord Ram’s life is considered an example of the ideal human being. Ram Navami is celebrated with enthusiasm by Hindus across the world with special prayers, pujas and processions. Many devotees also observe a fast on this occasion as a devotion to Lord Rama.

According to the Drik Panchang, the most auspicious time to perform Ram Navami puja rituals is during the Madhyahna period. This time period prevails for about 2 hrs and 29 minutes.

Ram Navami Madhyanha Muhurat: 11:11 am to 13:40 pm

Ram Navami Madhyanha Yoga: 12:26 pm

Navami Tithi begins: 21: 07 pm on March 29

Navami Tithi ends: 11:30 pm on March 30

Read all the Latest Lifestyle News here

Molly-Mae Hague talks post-baby body after ‘nothing fits’ out shopping

The TV personality hit the shops for the first time after welcoming her little girl (Picture: Instagram/mollymae)

Molly-Mae continues to be frank about the realities of life as a new mum after revealing that ‘nothing fitted’ her from items she brought on a recent shopping trip.

The 23-year-old former Love Island star welcomed baby daughter Bambi with partner Tommy Fury also 23, in January, and has since kept her followers up to date on her journey into parenthood.

She enjoyed a quick stop off at Manchester’s Trafford Centre on Wednesday with her sister Zoe, uploading a photo of them enjoying a quick burrito bowl for lunch to her stories on Instagram.

Her next picture revealed that they had popped into a clothing store, where Molly had picked up some bits, only to return home and find that she couldn’t keep any of it.

Sharing a photo from her enviable walk-in wardrobe, the PrettyLittleThing creative director revealed a big bag of clothes on the floor under her dresser, while she was sat against the wall in comfy grey pyjamas.

‘Just tried everything that I got in Zara but nothing fitted…’ she wrote in the caption, next to a melting smiley face emoji.

Molly headed out for a quick trip to buy clothes with her sister (Picture: Instagram/mollymae)
Unfortunately, it proved a little frustrating for the new mum (Picture: Instagram/mollymae)

She candidly added: ‘The struggle of not knowing what size to buy after you have a baba is real.’

Molly was keen to get moving as soon as she could again after Bambi’s birth, hitting the gym for her first session just over three weeks postpartum.

The self-tan entrepreneur filmed herself as she walked on the stair climber alongside the caption: ‘First day back moving!’.

At the bottom of the clip, she also pointed out how her body had changed while she was carrying her little one: ‘These videos made me realise how much my bum [peach emoji] has tripled in size from having Bambi… some serious toning needed but I’ll get there in time!’.

To view this video please enable JavaScript, and consider upgrading to a web
browser that
supports HTML5

Molly recently returned to YouTube, getting honest about her thoughts on the challenges of motherhood (Picture: Instagram/mollymae)

The influencer also made an emotional return to YouTube earlier this week, where she admitted that she has been ‘overwhelmed’ every day since becoming a mum.

Revealing that she had been struggling to film the video, Molly explained: ‘I feel like I’m questioning everything I’m saying, I’m thinking, “Oh my God, what are people going to think if I say that?” because I’m trying to be so transparent and so real about the last two months of my life – but I’m also really scared to do that.’

She also said that being a parent had ‘come easy’ to her and that she was ‘proud of the mum I am to [Bambi]’ – but revealed her physical health had been challenged with ‘severe constipation’ that she called ‘harder than labour’ and left her begging her sister to call an ambulance.

Having overcome that struggle, Molly recently celebrated her first Mother’s Day as a parent, finding an entire room in their house decorated floor to ceiling with balloons and pictures.

She was also greeted with vase upon vase of roses and a huge sign reading: ‘Happy Mother’s Day Mama’ – all pretty impressive work for a newborn baby.

Got a story?

If you’ve got a celebrity story, video or pictures get in touch with the entertainment team by emailing us, calling 020 3615 2145 or by visiting our Submit Stuff page – we’d love to hear from you.

MORE : Selling Sunset star Christine Quinn reveals hidden talent as she’s unmasked as Scorpio on The Masked Singer US

MORE : ‘Minute of applause’ observed for Paul O’Grady at famous London drag show venue where he found fame as Lily Savage

INMA to host Annual World Congress of News Media

The week-long congress is set to take place from Monday, 22 May to Friday, 26 May in New York.

More than 300 delegates from nearly 50 countries have already pre-registered for the World Congress, while more than 100 speakers have been booked across the week. 

The theme is ‘The Midnight Moment,’ which aims to be an ode to Times Square and a spotlight on how to maintain focus on a digital embrace amid short-term distractions. 

The event will feature:

  • a conference
  • five workshops
  • two Manhattan media study tours, and
  • the unveiling of the Global Media Awards.

The event includes the following:

‘The state of the news industry’
Fireside chats with News Corp CEO Robert Thomson on what journalism needs from generative AI, and New York Times chairperson and publisher A.G. Sulzberger on the state of the news industry.

‘What’s next in news media’
What will happen next with news media is the focus of an international panel featuring the chief executives:

  • Sinead Boucher of Stuff (New Zealand)
  • Julia Becker of Funke Media (Germany)
  • Frederic Kachar of Infoglobo (Brazil)
  • Catherine So of South China Morning Post (Hong Kong)
  • Praveen Someshwar of HT Media (India), and
  • Gert Ysebaert of Mediahuis (Belgium).

‘Generative AI’s impact on media’
The impact of generative AI and tech trends will be addressed by Karen Silverman of the Cantellus Group and World Economic Forums’ AI global council and Atlantic CEO Nick Thompson, punctuated by case studies from Schibsted and KsTA Media.

‘New and old power’
How winning organisations understand how to deploy new and old power — and the impact on legacy news media companies — is the focus of author Jeremy Heimans’ keynote.

‘Newsrooms and the business of news’
How newsrooms are being brought into the business of news will be spotlighted in a panel featuring chief editors:

  • Nicole Carole of Gannett from USA Today Network
  • Alexandra Beverfjord of Dagbladet
  • Lotta Edling of Bonnier News, and
  • Martha Ramos Sosa of Organización Editorial Mexicana (OEM).

‘Trust and media’
Trust as a cornerstone of news media strategy will be addressed by Sally Lehrman of The Trust Project plus case studies from Jennie Baird of the BBC and Claudia Mann of Styria.

‘Reaching Gen Z’
How news media can reach Gen Z will be addressed by Lucy Blakiston, founder of Shit You Should Care About, and Rachel Richardson, former head of editorial for Snapchat.

‘Growth and subscriptions’
INMA researcher-in-residence Greg Piechota will update members on the latest in digital subscription, punctuated with an interview with New York Times chief growth Officer Hannah Yang.

“The INMA World Congress in New York is an agenda-setting event for the news industry,” says Earl J. Wilkinson, executive director and CEO of INMA. “We aim to develop across five days a playbook for revenue and engagement that will better sustain journalism. It is an amazing mix of New York and international players on a single stage.”

The event says that practical half-day workshops will be hosted to offer opportunities to engage with the hottest communities in media today. They will look into:

  • digital subscriptions
  • product
  • smart data
  • newsroom innovation, and
  • digital advertising.

The event concludes that INMA New York delegates will have several opportunities to reconnect after more than three years of the pandemic with an opening reception at Tavern On the Green in Central Park and the Global Media Awards dinner at the Harvard Club.

For more information, visit You can also follow INMA on Facebook and Twitter.

Annual World Congress of News Media News media companies Journalism Bolster journalism International News Media Association INMA Media news News media Media update

Carl Frampton column: Anthony Joshua needs to knock out Jermaine Franklin then call out Tyson Fury

Anthony Joshua winces at a jab thrown by Oleksandr Usyk in their Saudi Arabia fight in August
Joshua (left) lost to Oleksandr Usyk in August, the Briton’s third defeat in his past five fights
Venue: O2 Arena, London Date: Saturday, 1 April
Coverage: Radio commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live from 22:00 BST; live text coverage on the BBC Sport website & app.

Boxing analyst and former two-weight world champion Carl Frampton writes for BBC Sport about Briton Anthony Joshua’s fight against Jermaine Franklin at London’s O2 Arena on Saturday.

Former world champion Joshua makes his return after losing his rematch with Ukraine’s Oleksandr Usyk in August.

Can Joshua go back to winning ways or will American Franklin cause a huge upset?

Anthony Joshua has to not only beat Jermaine Franklin at the O2 Arena on Saturday, he has to win in style.

A points win is not good enough. I want to see him get rid of Franklin early, stand in the ring and call out Tyson Fury.

Fury-Joshua is still huge. A massive fight not just for British boxing but also on a global stage.

A loss, and I think that’s the end for Joshua. Where does he go from there?

But I don’t think that will happen. This is a fight where Joshua can get the confidence back a bit. After consecutive losses to Oleksandr Usyk, that’s what the big man desperately needs.

The perfect comeback opponent for Joshua

This is the perfect type of fight for Joshua to come back to – an opponent who is credible enough. I actually thought Franklin beat Dillian Whyte in his last fight, although he didn’t get the decision.

But in terms of a heavyweight boxer, he’s got 22 fights with 14 knockouts. It’s a nice ratio for a featherweight, but not necessarily for a heavyweight.

Linking up with Derrick James and basing his training camp in Texas is a good move for Joshua, and perhaps one he should have done before now.

Get away from the UK and from home comforts – have that camp mentality and not so many yes men around you.

Joshua is also in a gym full of good champions, with the Charlo brothers, Jermell and Jermall, and Errol Spence Jr. It’s probably the first time in AJ’s career he’s not been the top dog in the gym.

He’s got world champions there and it’ll be good for him. He can feed off that.

If you look at the style of the Charlos and Spence, they’re quite aggressive fighters. That’s the coaching style that Derrick James has and that’s what we need to see from AJ again.

AJ can turn back the clock

We want him to go back to the old AJ that we used to know. I’m not saying it was brute force and ignorance, but it was close to that.

He’s a big, big man and he just went and took people out. Dominated fights from the centre of the ring, going forward and being aggressive.

AJ’s not a boxer. He’s not fleet-footed, he’s a wrecking machine and he needs to get back to that.

Can he turn back the clock? It’s not going to be easy, but it’s definitely possible.

We’ve seen fighters suffer defeats in the heavyweight division that they weren’t expected to lose and come back.

Wladimir Klitschko – look how long he dominated the division after being knocked out by lesser opponents in Ross Puritty and Corrie Sanders.

Even the great Lennox Lewis lost to Hasim Rahman and came back in the next fight.

Fury and AJ can win back fans

The Fury-Usyk undisputed fight falling through could actually work out favourably for Joshua

Fury’s in a position now where a lot of people are blaming him for that fight not happening.

A few months ago he was being lauded and is now facing a lot of criticism because of the antics and things he said around the proposed Usyk fight, and even previous to that.

Imagine if Fury now faces another Dillian Whyte or Derek Chisora-type opponent, nobody want’s to see that.

I’m not saying a win against Franklin will automatically set up the Fury fight, but I would love to see a stern, clear call-out – ‘I want Tyson Fury next’.

Fury might also be in a position now where he feels like he has to take that fight. He may feel AJ is an easier fight than the Usyk fight, which quite possibly it is.

I think it could all work in AJ’s favour. It could also be a chance for both Britons to get people back on side as well.

A loss will leave AJ with regrets

We all saw Joshua’s outburst in the ring after his loss to Usyk in Saudi Arabia last year. I’d say as soon as he did it he would have regretted it. He understands it wasn’t a good look for him.

But the amount of pressure that has been on that man’s shoulders was insane. It’s been there from the very start, from turning professional as an Olympic champion.

People have their own opinion on Joshua but I have to say every time I’ve been around him he’s always been so nice.

I was doing a podcast and was in New York for the first Joshua v Andy Ruiz fight. There was press everywhere trying to get him.

I approached the stage where I was hoping to get a few words with him and he pointed at me out of maybe 30 press that were around and told me to come round.

He spoke to me for about 10 minutes, probably to the annoyance of the other press there. But that is something I will always appreciate.

He’s a great guy. He’s someone who has taken criticism but when you are this superstar, people do like to see you knocked off the top perch.

There’s a different type of pressure on him now in that his career is over if he can’t beat Franklin.

A loss will leave him with many regrets. He will be thinking about those big fights – against the likes of Fury or Deontay Wilder – which never happened.

Carl Frampton was talking to BBC Sport’s boxing reporter Kal Sajad

Across the BBC bannerAcross the BBC footer

Heartache and hard breaks in the algorithmic betting pool

Scotty “Pick Six” McKeever and I drove at illegal speed along a wide Florida highway in his black pick-up truck, talking about horses. We were running late. We’d gotten lost on our way to the racetrack, which was odd, given that the entrance is marked by a 110ft-tall statue of Pegasus fighting a dragon. On special occasions, it breathes fire. We arrived at Gulfstream Park, a sprawling compound in the shadow of downtown Miami, just in time for the first race.

Inside, McKeever and I frequently stopped to let sleek thoroughbreds, followed closely by the human entourage tending to them, pass. We wound past gamblers, in various states of anticipation, and the tellers who take their bets. We took an elevator and a long hallway to an empty luxury suite overlooking the track, an enormous oval of grass and dirt, with a shimmering pond in the centre.

McKeever took a seat and hurriedly pulled a laptop from his bag. He booted it up and the algorithms within flickered to life. They displayed a colourful array of metrics and diagrams, rating each horse’s pace, genealogy, experience and probability of winning the race. McKeever fiddled with some virtual knobs, digested the output and, after a few minutes, logged into a livestream to tout his computer’s pick to the world.

The horses worked into the starting gate at the other end of the field, and a bell rang from across the mile-long track. Dozens of hooves slammed the dirt in syncopated rhythm, quiet at first, then louder, until they sounded like an approaching cavalry. The rolling thunder passed beneath us, and the dust settled. McKeever’s horse had won.

It was otherwise quiet on that September Friday at Gulfstream. From the suite’s balcony, I could see a dozen racegoers milling about on the track apron. They sipped beers, smoked cigars and watched the majestic animals walk back to the paddock. They waited around for another equine battalion to emerge for the next race. The patrons repeated this cycle all day, placing bets in between.

Because horses are data-generating creatures, the racegoers also pored over the small print in a thick periodical. Nearly everyone at a racetrack walks around clutching the reams of data in the Daily Racing Form newspaper or the track’s own programme. Each is jam-packed with figures that can, in theory, inform a day’s wagering.

But there are as many horse-betting strategies as there are potential bettors. One old-timer, who’d been coming to Gulfstream for 20 years, told me he knew all the local trainers and jockeys personally and, thus, who is hot and who is cold. A group of French-Canadian tourists said they favoured the most expensive horses. Another regular explained that he picked his horse because she was wagging her tail. “She’s ready to run,” he said, slapping his programme on his knee. Then he cut our conversation short to go place his bet.

Scotty ‘Pick Six’ McKeever, EquinEdge app founder
Scotty ‘Pick Six’ McKeever, EquinEdge app founder © Rose Marie Cromwell

McKeever, 57, favours a more empirical approach. He is tall and well-built, with the clean-cut carriage of an ageing college basketball star, and endlessly charming. He earned his nickname, “Pick Six”, for a type of bet in which you pick a track’s winners in six consecutive races — an exotic wager that can pay well into six figures. He’s hit hundreds of them in his life, including one in 2011 that paid out $1.1mn.

As he accompanied me around the Gulfstream grounds, McKeever hawked his artificially intelligent app, called EquinEdge, to the old-timers, the tourists, me and anyone else who would listen. His new venture is a recent arrival to an ancient sport now awash in AI-assisted technology.

Some $12bn was bet on horse races in the US in 2021, according to the Jockey Club, a thoroughbred industry group. Some of it came from people like me and the tourists, $2 at a time. Some came from people like McKeever, a few hundred a pop. And perhaps thousands per bet came from high-net-worth interlopers partying in the corporate box. But the most powerful figures in horse betting weren’t at Gulfstream with McKeever and me. They may not have even been in the country.

Collectively known as computer-assisted wagerers, or CAWs, they are largely anonymous. These sophisticated bettors use horseracing data to the extreme, employing algorithms, research staff and sweetheart deals to enrich themselves. In recent years, they have increased their capital and their wagering to unprecedented heights, accounting for as much as one-third of the money bet nationwide.

Horseracing in the US operates on a pari-mutuel system: all the money bet on a given race is put into a digital pool, the track takes a large cut (typically around 20 per cent) and the rest of the money is distributed to the winners. They’re playing against each other, not the house. A racetrack therefore is an enormous, faceless poker table. Bettors wager on horses, sure, but they’re really wagering that their opinion is better than everyone else’s. Lately the best opinions are coming from the machines.

I was raised on horse races at Prairie Meadows, outside Des Moines, Iowa, where I grew up. Despite its pastoral name, ecologically the place would be more accurately called Parking Lots. But it was the site of great childhood love and fascination. It was where I learnt the indelible smells of cigarettes and beer and paper currency. I often went with my grandfather, a cattle farmer and cardplayer. The racetrack grandstand, unlike the casino floor, was a place where he could both gamble and spend time with his small grandchildren. He’d lift me up so I could see over the counter at the betting window, and I’d hand over the notes he’d given me. “Two dollars to win on the No 4, please,” I’d whisper. Whatever I won, I could keep.

These were romantic trips but also analytical ones. Ever-present in the crook of my grandfather’s arm was the Daily Racing Form, the urtext of horseracing, with the data and the small print. There are, by my reckoning, a couple of thousand data points for an average race contained within. The pages list a horse’s name; owner, trainer and jockey; mother (dam) and father (sire); age; weight; sale price; dates and locations of all past races; times in those races at various points of call; relative position in the field at various points of call; the owner’s silk colours; a short qualitative note on each performance; and much else.

Grandpa taught me to read the Form, to turn its inscrutable figures into language, a dialect that could be understood and turned into a vision of the race that was about to be run. It was an exercise equal parts empirical and literary. At the track, I like to think, you are competing to tell the most compelling story.

The first horseplayer to popularise the modern empirics of the track was Andrew Beyer. The longtime horseracing columnist for the Washington Post, Beyer wrote a trilogy of classic texts on racing: Picking Winners (1975), The Winning Horseplayer (1983) and Beyer on Speed (1993). If the Daily Racing Form is horseracing scripture, these are the exegesis. It’s the last of these volumes that I remember most vividly, both for its evocative title and the dog-eared condition of the first copy I read, in my grandpa’s den.

The son of a professor, Beyer attended Harvard in the 1960s but never graduated. There were four racetracks near campus, and a final exam on Chaucer conflicted with the Belmont Stakes. In any case, he found that horse-race betting offered “more mental challenge and stimulation than any subject in the formal academic world”.

Beyer’s central hypothesis was that horses’ speed matters and can be quantified. It is a race, after all. The challenge was to create a metric to accurately gauge that speed. This is much easier said than done, and a stopwatch is not enough. Horses race on dirt of varying quality and depth and moisture, or on grass, or on artificial turf. They run many different distances, typically somewhere between five and twelve furlongs. (A furlong is an eighth of a mile.) They run through cold rain and hot sunshine. They run as members of small fields and large ones, rich fields and cheap ones. No two races are created equal.

The Pegasus statue at the entrance of Gulfstream Park
The Pegasus statue at the entrance of Gulfstream Park © Rose Marie Cromwell/Claxton Projects

Horses being exhibited in the parade ring
Horses being exhibited in the parade ring © Rose Marie Cromwell/Claxton Projects

In the early 1970s — armed with sharpened pencils, a mini calculator, large sheets of paper, tall stacks of the Daily Racing Form and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s — Beyer performed his painstaking work. By carefully and thoroughly accounting for the biases of tracks and adjusting horses’ clocked times accordingly, he collapsed the complications down into a single number: a speed figure. Speed figures allowed for reliable comparisons between California horses and Florida horses, between five furlongs and six, between a lowly claiming race and a big-money graded stakes. “Speed figures clarified mysteries, subtleties and apparent contradictions of the sport that I had always thought were beyond human understanding,” Beyer wrote in 1975.

By then, Beyer was already a successful gambler, in large part because his private calculations gave him a healthy edge. His books’ publication educated the market and eroded his advantage. Beyer accepted this trade-off because he wanted to be a published author. I sympathised. “In terms of mathematical sophistication, it was at best high school algebra,” Beyer told me of his arrival at the speed figure. “But it changed my life and, over time, it changed the game.” The approach became so ingrained that Beyer Speed Figures now appear in bold type in the Daily Racing Form, alongside every horse’s every race. The CAW syndicates, McKeever’s EquinEdge and many other recent projects are direct descendants of Beyer’s pencil-and-paper calculations.

In addition to their trenchant analyses, Beyer’s horse books pulsate with religious metaphor. He writes of the “gods who oversee horseracing”, “the discipline of a Calvinist”, “messianic fervour” and “winning streaks that make him think he is God”. The Daily Racing Form, he writes, “occupies the place in the existence of a horseplayer that a Bible does in the life of a fundamentalist”. I mentioned this theme to him and he seemed surprised. “I’m a very irreligious person,” Beyer said. He paused. “But when I discovered speed figures, they were the way, the truth, the light.”

Irreligious or not, there is a certain amount of faith to this game. Part of that is a physical fact. In person at Gulfstream, for example, the horses begin running out of a gate at the far end of the track, hidden, at first, by the tote board and an enormous video screen. They are back there somewhere, you know it, and it is by faith alone that they are running. Then they emerge and belief — and data — transform into muscular reality.

Beyer marvels at the CAWs’ sophistication and icy devotion to the science of the sport. He recalled meeting one player who had a university professor on a three-year retainer just to study the “distance factor” in horse races. With this sort of opponent, what chance does the public have? What chance does the student have of falling in love with the track? New horse bettors may just be happier betting on football these days, Beyer said. He created a monster, in other words. “The syndicates have contributed, in my view, to a total rip-off of the average player,” he said.

The most prolific of the computer syndicates are members of the Elite Turf Club, a company based in Curaçao, the island tax haven in the Dutch Caribbean. Only about 20 people in the world have active accounts with Elite. On a single day at Gulfstream Park last year, more than a quarter of the betting total — nearly $4.5mn — was placed electronically by Elite members. The club facilitates its mega-bettor members’ activities by connecting them at high speeds to various betting pools and by providing tailored reporting of their wagers and results.

The bulk of this Elite money is wagered from two accounts, called “Elite Turf Club 17” and “Elite Turf Club 2”. These two people alone, and whomever they employ, may account for nearly 20 per cent of all horse-race betting in the US, according to a Financial Times analysis of wagering data.

A spectator at Gulfstream Park
A spectator at Gulfstream Park © Rose Marie Cromwell/Claxton Projects

A horse valet at Gulfstream Park
A horse valet at Gulfstream Park © Rose Marie Cromwell/Claxton Projects

When I spoke with Scott Daruty, the president of Elite Turf Club, he told me that he wouldn’t answer any questions about wagering amounts or individual Elite members. “All of those are going to be met with a no-comment,” he said, citing confidentiality agreements. “Elite Turf Club is a wagering platform that services some of the largest bettors in the world,” he continued. “We’re servicing a limited number of customers, and it’s a bespoke, hands-on service that we provide.” The largest Elite accounts, the people who hold extreme power over the sport, guard their privacy closely; repeated attempts to arrange interviews with several of them were unsuccessful.

As it happens, Elite and Gulfstream Park are owned by the same company, the Stronach Group. Stronach owns a number of other racetracks across the US. (Frank Stronach, its founder, sketched the first plans for the gigantic Pegasus statue that greeted McKeever and me.) The computer syndicates are successful in large part because of deals they cut with tracks. These large bettors receive volume discounts known as rebates, and typically about 10 per cent of whatever they bet is returned to them to ensure their continued business. “We felt it important not to have a third party standing in between us and these customers,” Daruty told me, when I asked about the arrangement between Elite and the tracks.

“We wager lots of money, and on the other end of the spectrum is the general public,” David Bernsen told me. Bernsen is the manager of GWG Group, a collective of CAW players, specialising “in the development and management of high-capacity connectivity software and business solutions”, according to its website. There aren’t many major CAWs. Bernsen estimated there are four “very large” CAW bettors active in the US and perhaps half a dozen in a tier below them.

“The larger ones are sophisticated operations, like a stock-trading team,” Bernsen said. “They’re a proper business structure. You have your modelling side, your business side, you have your research and development side — a lot of money is spent.” He was quick to defend their role in the sport. “All we’re doing is balancing out the pool to make it more efficient. It’s not unlike flash trading in the stock markets or the crypto markets.”

This moneyed invasion into the sport of kings has goaded some people to devote their professional lives to investigating its impact. Patrick Cummings runs the Thoroughbred Idea Foundation, a think-tank founded in 2018 on the belief that horseracing was riddled with conflicts of interest and heading in the wrong direction. “These [CAW] entities bet big because that is what the math dictates. This is Wall Street meeting horseracing,” reads a report the foundation published in 2020. “They don’t lose, and if you try to reduce their rebates, they will turn to another source for betting.”

According to Cummings’s research, in the past two decades, adjusting for inflation, total betting on US horseracing from the general public decreased 63 per cent. Betting from CAWs, meanwhile, increased 150 per cent. Cummings called Gulfstream Park, the track I went to with McKeever, “ground zero” for the computer groups. “Horseracing is not in a position to reject customers. Yet we have accepted and embraced these whales, with little to no consideration of the damage that they do if left unchecked,” Cummings told me. “It’s not a good thing to be losing Joe Q Horseplayer, and we’ve lost a lot of them.”

McKeever, for his part, sees himself on Joe Q Horseplayer’s side. His team of 13 full-time employees and contractors at EquinEdge wanted to do its own CAW wagering. But McKeever refused. “I am for the small guy, that’s what I’m pushing for,” he told me. “I give them every bit of information that I have, everything we develop, all of our technology. Everything I do is for the little guy. The big guy thinks he knows it already. It’s the little guy I want to take care of.”

The Daily Racing Form, that august periodical in the crook of the racegoer’s arm, has itself entered the technological age. The publication is owned by Affinity Interactive, a Las Vegas-based company described on its website as “an omni-channel gaming industry leader with an expanded suite of casino and online gaming offerings”. The Racing Form offers a “Bloomberg terminal of racing” called Formulator and TimeformUS, which uses algorithmic prediction and data visualisation to aid handicappers. Marc Attenberg, the company’s senior vice-president for handicapping and data, was quick to note that there is still room for human reasoning and intuition. “There’s some shit going on that just doesn’t show up in the algorithm,” he told me. “That’s why people still love it. There’s still so much upside attached to coming up with those clever opinions.”

Attenberg reckoned that a computer betting by itself could break even at the track. But consistently making enormous profits requires the rebates the big CAWs have negotiated for with the tracks. (No one I spoke to, including the CAWs’ critics, suggested there was anything illegal about this arrangement.) The best players, he said, find ways to layer human expertise on top of the machine. “Racing thrusts you into these miniature dramas that you can turn into huge scores.”

I appreciated this description, and told Attenberg how I’d cut my teeth as a kid at Prairie Meadows. At one point during our conversation, I became frustrated with the modern state of empirical horse betting, missing bygone childhood evenings, telling tales about the race to come. “They’re goddamn animals running around in circles,” I said.

“There’s more to this than just a bunch of horses,” Attenberg said. “You handicap; you do the work; you watch the replays; you see the subtleties. You use the best possible tools and you leverage them.”

Detailed horse-betting data is hard to come by, but the annual reports of the California Horse Racing Board (CHRB) provide a good snapshot. For each track in the state, a major centre of the sport, the CHRB reports the total money handled from every registered location. These include the track itself, off-track betting facilities, websites, local betting parlours — and Elite Turf Club 17 and 2. According to these reports, over the past 15 years in California, members of Elite Turf Club have increased their wagering from 3 per cent to 30 per cent of all horse-betting dollars. A simple extrapolation from the California data suggests that Elite 17 and Elite 2 each wager on the order of $1bn a year on horses in the US.

Horse race at Gulfstream Park
Horse race at Gulfstream Park © Rose Marie Cromwell/Claxton Projects

“How did you get information about different Elite players in California?” Bernsen, the manager of the CAW collective, asked me, when I mentioned this. He sounded surprised. I also asked Bernsen for more detail on who was behind these mega-accounts. “I don’t discuss it with people,” he said. “Why is that important?”

Sophisticated, well-capitalised horseplayers aren’t brand new. A bettor named Bill Benter and his team made close to a billion dollars betting on horses in Hong Kong in the 1990s, and references to mysterious Australian whales occasionally punctuate the horseracing press. But their outsize prominence in the US is a relatively recent phenomenon. Bernsen attributed this in part to recent changes in the American tax code that made gambling more profitable.

While the exact strategies used by the current whales are closely guarded, like trading strategies at a quant firm, I spoke to some adjacent experts to get a sense of how they operate and how they bet. Chris Larmey, 62, is a horseplayer with a day job at a US national laboratory doing risk management and strategic planning. He has been involved with CAW teams, though he said he’s felt left behind by the “young guys” and their “black-box AI modelling”. Larmey started in the game as a maths major in university, manually entering race results on to punch cards and cadging time on the university’s mainframe computer to analyse them. This painstaking work equipped him to pick the first two runners at the 1982 Kentucky Derby, the 21-1 and 18-1 longshots Gato Del Sol and Laser Light. It was his senior-year project. He no longer remembers how much money he won.

Larmey described two broad strategies employed by CAWs. One is pure arbitrage. By closely monitoring the betting pools, one can sometimes spot naked inefficiencies — between the win and exacta pools, for example — and exploit them. The other is amassing gobs of data via existing databases and web-scraping, then analysing it to calculate a horse’s true odds and comparing that to its pari-mutuel price. For example, if a horse is expected to win 50 per cent of the time and it’s 2-1, that’s a great bet. If it’s 3-5, that’s a terrible bet. In other words, one wants to zig when the rest of the money zags. Price matters, and price is a reflection of the will of the people.

The CAWs’ machines bundle an attractive pile of bets together, sometimes thousands at a time, and ship them into the pool. “There are people that write the programs and babysit the computer systems, but it’s really automated wagering,” Larmey said. CAW players are also infamous for placing their bets at the last possible second, just before the horses dash out of the gate, to learn as much information as they can about the opinions of the general public and, therefore, the price of their bets. The technical ability to do this at speed and scale is what a group like Elite Turf Club offers its members. As a result, the public often swallows large, last-second odds changes as the big money comes flooding in.

“We’re just using an enormous amount of information, that’s what we do in the pari-mutuel business,” said Bernsen. “Construct our wagers and use technology to submit a large number of wagers as late as possible. That’s because we need the public’s input. The best predictor of the win pool is the general public — just wisdom of the crowds.”

CAWs have no quarter for the romantic notions of bygone childhood evenings at the track. “That’s one of the nice things about computers: they don’t have any emotions,” Larmey said. “You don’t have any of that regret or fear; it just executes according to the algorithms.”

I exchanged messages with a current computer player, one from the modern school, who agreed to talk anonymously. He was described to me by an industry insider as a “fucking genius guy”. He studied applied maths and finance and worked as a hedge fund quant. He learnt how to gamble by studying poker bots and “reading obscure machine-learning papers” and, to his credit, by spending time at the racetrack. He said he left Wall Street recently “to bet my personal capital full-time, split between horseracing and systematic trading of financial securities”. He’s not alone. Horseracing and the quantitative puzzles it presents are “really seductive for people who like that kind of thing,” Larmey said. “But it’s not marketed that way at all. Currently, in racing, it’s all about being hip and cool and going to the races in your fancy hat and your suit and making stupid bets.”

Still, if the general public consistently gets creamed at the track, they’ll stop coming to the track, and there’ll be no tracks. “It comes up a lot in our private conversations with racing organisations, horsemen’s groups, track operators, like, ‘What are you doing about this?’” Cummings, the think-tank director, said. There are levers the industry can pull to rein in the syndicates. Tracks can, and some have, cut off CAWs’ bets a few minutes before the beginning of the race, for example. Others have limited the size of CAW rebates.

There is another limit: the CAWs themselves. If they get too big, the sport will be just algorithms betting against algorithms. “Everybody realises we’ve got to have equilibrium here,” said Daruty, the Elite Turf Club president. “It’s got to be good for everyone to make sure this succeeds in the long run.”

A horse valet talks on the phone
A horse valet talks on the phone atop a horse © Rose Marie Cromwell/Claxton Projects

Racehorse being hosed down after a race
Racehorse being hosed down after a race © Rose Marie Cromwell/Claxton Projects

McKeever gave me access to EquinEdge, and I fired it up one night in my apartment. I also deposited $100 on a betting site and pulled up a multicast of live races around the country. I intended to follow EquinEdge’s suggestions to make my wagers. I began in Charles Town, West Virginia, where a chestnut filly named Change The World led me to a trifecta. That was easy! I hopped north to Canterbury Park, in Minnesota, where a gelding called Ruby’s Red Devil won me an exacta. Back over in Charles Town, Full Moon Lover paid off handsomely at the top of my ticket. And just before the day’s racing was done, I sped down to Retama Park, in Texas, where Electric Cartel did the same.

I’d cashed four juicy tickets in a row and, within less than half an hour, doubled my money. I remained very quiet and still; it felt like I had discovered The Secret Truth. It felt like what I imagine an epiphanic religious experience feels like.

The next night was different. Longshot after longshot, none of them on my radar or the algorithm’s, pulled away down the stretch. At one point, I lost three consecutive races on photo finishes. My winnings evaporated and I went bust. God is dead.

It wouldn’t be the only time I’d faced a crisis of faith. A few days later, down in Florida at Gulfstream, my pockets were becoming lighter still. I wasn’t sure whether to blame the tech or my storytelling. McKeever and I took a break and sat down for a cheeseburger lunch. We were within sight of the parade ring, where the horses are exhibited before each race. I asked McKeever what he thought of the CAW players, the Goliaths to his customers’ Davids. “These big ones, they’re printing money, printing,” McKeever said. “But the CAW players aren’t going anywhere because they’re putting so much money into the pools. If it wasn’t for that, horseracing would be done. So how does the little guy have a chance? Well, he needs these algorithms. He needs the metrics to have a half a chance to win against these sophisticated systems.”

McKeever’s fascination with the game began much as mine had, as a young man at his local track, the now defunct Fairplex in Pomona, California. His friend worked for a famous horse trainer named Melvin Stute, who dominated Fairplex. McKeever bet an exacta on two Stute horses and won $200. “That was a crapload of money,” he told me. “I just remember feeling this overwhelming sensation, like excitement, like it was fun. I was kind of shy. I wasn’t as outgoing as I am now. And I just remember feeling a sensation and energy that I had never felt before.”

McKeever’s other professional life is running a company that supplies metals to the aerospace industry, but horseracing is what animates him. He eventually got a gig on camera at TVG, a horseracing network, in 2015. He is now an outspoken advocate and evangelist of the sport. He launched EquinEdge, which offers monthly subscriptions starting at $50 or day passes for $6, in 2018. McKeever is solidly in the teach-a-man-to-fish school. He teaches handicapping classes and hosts a horse-betting livestream each weekend, free to watch on YouTube. “I’m trying to teach you how to read a foreign language, essentially,” he said. And he doesn’t expect or want his acolytes to follow the AI blindly.

I spent a recent afternoon at McKeever’s penthouse condo in Fort Lauderdale during his broadcast. He broadcasts from a spare bedroom beneath a poster of the champion 1970s horse Secretariat. Between the racing, he fiddles with his algorithms and mixes in his own human wisdom. And to McKeever’s credit, he puts his money where his mouth is, placing real bets alongside his and his system’s picks. His viewers often follow along, a club of humans gathering around a machine-learning algorithm the way our ancestors gathered around a fire.

His viewers’ esprit de corps was contagious. A chorus of “BOOM” filled the chat whenever McKeever won a bet. The scene reminded me of burgeoning streaming-meets-education communities in chess, which is undergoing a remarkable boom of its own. “What EquinEdge is supposed to do is help people have a life,” McKeever said, “help them enjoy horseracing handicapping more and get new people to the game.”

This show, however, did not start well. Bet after bet came up short, the detailed empirical cases that had been made for them all for nought. After each loss, McKeever quickly deposited another $1,000 on a betting site and tried again. I worried that I was witnessing a meltdown. But at the very end of the day, a rich exacta came home. McKeever, and presumably many of his viewers, turned a small profit. McKeever, seemingly no worse for wear, took me to his favourite cigar bar where we had a few Scotches.

As we walked out, McKeever stopped and grabbed my arm. “I’m totally fucking crazy,” he said. “Do you think I’m crazy?” What ensued was a 20-minute conversation on a muggy Florida sidewalk, mostly consisting of McKeever worrying about the amount of time that EquinEdge took him away from his family, and what did I think of that, and would it work, and did I think he was crazy? I eventually assured him that I didn’t think he was crazy. Quixotic, perhaps.

I went back to Gulfstream alone the next day. It was raining, and a wet track makes handicapping even more difficult. Horseracing is a fickle game at the best of times. It was at this track that Beyer once punched a hole in a wall in anger following an unjust ruling that disqualified his favoured filly.

As I stared at the rain pelting puddles in the dirt, I imagined the CAW teams on their high-tech trading floors, staring at equine Bloomberg terminals, their algorithmic millions flowing into Gulfstream as the horses loaded into the gate. I sat down at a bar with cheap drinks and a view of the finish line. I closed the AI app, put away my phone and cracked open the Daily Racing Form. I took careful notes in the margins. I was trying to picture each race, to tell its story, to find the poetry on every page of the programme, as my grandfather had taught me.

An old man sat down next to me and gave me an enormous grin. “You really look like you know what you’re doing,” he said.

I apologised: “I’m afraid I have no idea.”

Oliver Roeder is the FT’s US senior data journalist. Sam Learner is a graphics journalist on the FT’s visual storytelling team

Follow @FTMag on Twitter to find out about our latest stories first

Navigating sex and romance when your date is in an open relationship

Remember to be kind to yourself (Picture: Getty Images)

‘It became apparent I was being recruited for a throuple,’ says Laura, 29*, when she tried dating both parties in an open relationship.

After connecting with a guy, he shared that his girlfriend wanted to date Laura too. At first it was fun – but things soon started to turn sour.

‘I couldn’t meet up with either of them on their own,’ she explains. ‘It had to be together – which was a problem for me.’

Getting involved with someone in an open relationship can be tricky.

Anecdotally, those who choose to go down that path do so with no expectations, but with the genuine hope of having fun and exploring have a good time.

But there’s also the risk of catching feelings for someone who isn’t available in the way you’d like them to be.

Not to mention the added complexity of a non-monogamous partner who isn’t clear about what they can offer you.

That was the issue Laura faced. When she had the opportunity to date both the guy and girl in a relationship, she decided to go for it. Single and carefree, she saw no reason not to.

Laura recalls: ‘He told me I could meet up with them both at the same time, or on their own.

‘I went on a date with both of them. I was so nervous, but it was so much fun and we ended up hooking up at a hotel, and I continued meeting up with them a couple more times.’

But things changed when Laura was told they could only meet up as a trio.

Laura was already unhappy with this arrangement, but was then asked if she would be comfortable with other single women joining – which she wasn’t. She felt she had no choice but to call it quits.

‘We were all so wrapped up in maintaining the fun for as long as possible that it was hard to communicate honestly on all sides,’ she adds.

‘Because I never got them alone, the power dynamic was off – I didn’t have any power in those interactions.’

It’s not always a horror story though, as Daisy* proves. She found the no-strings attached nature of dating someone in a relationship liberating. She had a great time engaging with one half of an open couple solo, enjoying the dates and sex for what they were.

‘I didn’t want more from the situation – I got on really well with the guy, but it was more of a friendship vibe so I was able to keep level headed about it and be in the moment, enjoying the sex and company,’ she says.

‘It just meant I didn’t get my head in the clouds and knew firmly it was casual fun. It was quite freeing in that sense, and it’s something I would explore again with other people.’

Dating app Bumble found that ‘ethical sex-ploration’ is on the rise, with 42% of us approaching sex, intimacy and dating in an open and exploratory way.

It works best for people when wants are discussed early on – to avoid the experience Laura had – and 53% rate this as being important.

Since 2022, one in five people have been more open to trying new things sexually, suggesting a new air of playfulness.

However, when we talk about open relationships, often the focus is on the couple opening up, rather than on the single people they may be engaging with – but they deserve a look in too.

Set boundaries (Picture: Getty Images)

Georgina Vass, relationship and sex therapist, says ‘educating yourself’ is the first step for a single person looking to explore.

‘Figure out some of the various relationship structures available through reading books, blogs, and podcasts,’ she says.

Some open relationships might just have sex as the open channel, while for others dating and emotional romance may be on the cards too.

Think about which of these dynamics work best for you.

‘Know your personal goals for this experience and how you would know if you were successful or not,’ Georgina adds.

‘Keep in mind that your support network may not encourage these desires, so finding a sex-positive therapist may also be helpful.

‘You could also benefit from setting boundaries and having open communication about them, to ensure everyone is on the same page.’

Knowing your boundaries will help you determine when it’s time to draw the line too, should they be crossed.

According to Georgina, the boundaries that often come with these situations can make romance more enjoyable for single people, when compared with engaging with another single person, as it can negate the confusion around whether you might ‘end up together’.

Georgina recommends: ‘When setting boundaries, it would be helpful to ask questions related to the frequency of meet-ups, modes of communication, the types of sexual activities you consent to, and who you want to participate and when.

‘The single person would also benefit from discussing mutual goals with the couple and have a clear understanding of what they are looking for through this arrangement.

‘It may also be useful to consider with them what some of their unique obstacles may be with doing it and how would they all know if it had failed?

‘Open, direct, and honest communication from the beginning is critical.

‘No one can read your mind so avoid making assumptions that the couple (or anyone) knows what you’re going through.’

She also says to keep being kind to yourself during the process, and what you want may shift as you get to know works for you.

‘New experiences can be rich in self-reflection and self-growth,’ Georgina says.

‘It’s useful to identify your thoughts, feelings and behaviors over time and notice when they’re becoming more unhelpful than helpful.’

There are no right or wrong answers, so trust your instinct and enjoy the romantic connections.

*Names have been changed.

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch by emailing

MORE : ‘Blue sky dating’: Singles more optimistic about dating as spring arrives – so here’s how to cash in on the energy

MORE : ‘We were playing at being married’: Whatever happened to the Covid couples?

Rush Hour Crush – love (well, lust) is all around us

Visit Metro’s Rush Hour Crush online every weekday at 4:30pm.

Tell us about your Rush Hour Crush by submitting them here, and you could see your message published on the site.

‘Minute of applause’ for Paul O’Grady at famous London drag show venue

O’Grady was one of the UK’s first mainstream drag artists (Picture: JMEnternational/Getty Images)

Paul O’Grady has been remembered as ‘one of the greatest drag artists the UK has ever seen’ at a south London venue where he found mainstream success.

Wednesday night’s show at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern (RVT), in Vauxhall, saw a minute of raucous applause for the TV star, instead of a typical minute of silence.

O’Grady died ‘unexpectedly but peacefully’ on Tuesday evening at the age of 67, his partner, Andre Portasio, said in a statement.

He rose to fame on the nightclub circuit as the acerbic, platinum wig-wearing Lily Savage – a name believed to have been inspired by his late mother.

After touring the north of England with the character, he settled into a solo residency at the RVT, before transitioning to broadcasting and going on to host a number of popular television programmes.

On Wednesday, RVT host Michael Twaits, told a packed out audience that O’Grady had been ‘an absolute legend of the community’.

To view this video please enable JavaScript, and consider upgrading to a web
browser that
supports HTML5

‘Today we lost one of the greatest drag artists the UK has ever seen, and it is this building, this building was where it happened,’ he said.

‘Eight years of doing solo shows… and also doing shows like tonight, introducing new talent to the LGBT+ scene. Paul O’Grady was an absolute legend of the community.’

He added: ‘It was around raising up the community, and when you move from a stage like this into the mainstream, when you move into breakfast f**king television… and still stay true to yourself, stay true to your queer self, and stay true to your working class roots.’

Twaits told the audience ‘a trailblazer and a legend has left us’ before leading them in a round of applause for O’Grady.

‘Obviously a moment of silence is polite… but I don’t think a moment of silence is right. I think this is a moment to applaud, a moment to love, a moment to cheer,’ he said.

The TV star on Blankety Blank as Lily Savage (Picture: Ltd/Rex Shutterstock)
With fellow comic Mark Thomas in Soho in 1993 (Picture: Martyn Goodacre/Getty Images)

Reference to O’Grady’s time at the RVT was made earlier on Wednesday in the House of Commons, with MPs highlighting the impact of his work on the LGBT community.

Sir Chris Bryant told the House: ‘I don’t know whether the Deputy Prime Minister ever met Lily Savage or has ever spent a night out at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, but… I can take him some time if he wants to go?’

As MPs erupted in laughter, the Labour MP added: ‘Her alter ego, Paul O’Grady, campaigned acerbically and hilariously for elderly people, for care workers, against oppression of every kind.

‘Isn’t it time we in this country celebrated our naughty, hilarious drag queens and comics of every kind who inspire us to be a better and more generous nation?’

Dominic Raab, who was filling in for Rishi Sunak during Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s Questions, accidently referred to O’Grady as ‘Paul Grayson’, before correcting himself and describing him as an ‘incredible comic’.

The Royal Vauxhall Tavern gave O’Grady an eight-year residency as Savage (Picture: Jamie Thistlethwaite/Getty Images)
The LGBT icon broke through into breakfast and teatime TV (Picture: Ken McKay/ITV/Shutterstock)

Tributes also came from friends, fans, charity organisations, and fellow celebrities, as well as the Queen Consort.

Fellow comedian Suzy Eddie Izzard told the PA news agency that O’Grady had made life ‘easier’ for the LGBT community and his impact on ‘culture, existence and humanity’ resonated across the UK and world.

The stand-up comedian, who has come out as gender fluid and recently added new moniker ‘Suzy’ to her name, stated to PA: ‘The fact he was out and openly gay, was cool and everyone, everyone began to calm down, because, obviously, other people who are LGBTQ came out over the years, but he was a good part of that.

‘He was just very human … It’s great that he added so much to culture and existence and humanity in the United Kingdom, and that resonates around the world.’

O’Grady was also known to be a great animal lover, thanks to his work for Battersea Dogs and Cats Home (Picture: Fremantle Media/Shutterstock)

Dog treats and flowers were placed outside the TV star’s farmhouse in Kent, with residents describing the well-known animal-lover as an ‘inspiring gentleman’ and a ‘wonderful man’.

O’Grady’s life-long love of animals shone through his charity work and as the presenter of ITV’s award winning show For The Love Of Dogs.

The broadcaster changed its schedule on Wednesday evening to re-air a special one-off episode of the show For The Love Of Dogs where he was joined by Camilla, during which they had marked the 160th anniversary of Battersea Dogs and Cats Home.

The royal family’s official Twitter account posted an image of O’Grady with Camilla, captioned: ‘Deeply saddened to hear of the death of Paul O’Grady, who worked closely with Her Majesty in support of @battersea_, providing lots of laughter and many waggy-tailed memories.’

In the village of Adlington where he lived, personal messages were left outside his home, one of which read: ‘Farewell Paul… and thanks for all the #PogDogs’, in reference to the show.

In a statement shared with PA, Battersea Dogs and Cats Home paid tribute to O’Grady as a ‘devoted animal lover’ and a ‘champion for the underdog’.

The organisation’s chief executive, Peter Laurie, said: ‘Battersea will forever remember Paul as a devoted animal lover with the biggest heart, who fell head over heels in love with every dog he met at our centres.

‘Paul will always be associated with Battersea and we are truly saddened to have lost such a true friend and huge part of our charity.’

O’Grady was made an MBE in the 2008 Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to entertainment.

He attended the ceremony with his daughter, Sharyn Mousley, his child from a brief relationship he had when he was 17.

Got a story?

If you’ve got a celebrity story, video or pictures get in touch with the entertainment team by emailing us, calling 020 3615 2145 or by visiting our Submit Stuff page – we’d love to hear from you.

MORE : Terry Sanderson ‘not sure’ if he called Gwyneth Paltrow ‘King Kong’ and ‘Godzilla’, court hears

MORE : Florence Pugh defends her hatred of drinking ‘boring’ water: ‘I prefer to wee as little as often’