Over £111,000 up for grabs over seven races and a huge crowd to witness it, it really was a super-Sunday up at Haldon. 15 went to post for the Champions League Betting At 188Bet ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle. One firm weren’t betting on the race despite the plethora of punters. Dave Hazell and family had a stake in the favourite Mr Clarkson so decided to enjoy being owners rather than bet on the race. The rest of the ring had to trim David Pipe’s charge from 7/4 into 6/4 after sustained support. Another one for money was Tom George’s Minella For Me supported from an early 16/1 into 7/1. Sadly for the Hazells and the latter’s backers neither troubled the judge. The jolly was pulled up and the latter fell. The race went to 3/1 second-in Fly Camp who won very cosily under Nico de Boinville.
The second race of the day, the Free Bet At 188Bet Novices’ Hurdle (Listed) was a non-event betting wise with Finian’s Oscar going off the 1-16 favourite and winning accordingly. In the old days you’d have had a punter or two lump it on at those prices but since the exchanges the odds-on chisellers appear to be staying at home which is a shame. It did give me a chance to speak to Jane Hazell, wife of Dave who informed me all that had been wrong with Mr Clarkson had been headgear trouble which is good news.
By contrast to the previous race the 13 runner Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (Qualifier) was a competitive heat with plenty of action down in the ring. There was money for the two market leaders Impulsive Star 7/2 into 11/4 and Ballymalin 9/2 into 7/2. There was also good cash for Nick Williams’ (the genius of George Nympton) Reve De Sivloa, 20/1 into 12/1. My great mate Andrew Mount has a leg in Reve but wasn’t here so I don’t think it was his professional money scaring the bookies but obviously someone was having it on. From where I watched the race I could see Reve’s trainer pacing up and down like an expectant father as Lizzy Kelly tried to make all. Sadly it was not to be, the 12 year old gelding giving way as the principles in the betting swamped him. Impulsive Star went to win the race nicely, another bad result for the bookies.
I was tipped Harry Topper in the 188Bet Veterans’ Handicap Chase, he was a 5/1 chance, eventually the second favourite. The info was from a good source so decided I’d play is safe and bet it each-way, and there was me calling the long odds-on punters chisellers earlier. Bookie Simon James snapped my hand off. For much of the race my bet looked a million to even finish let alone place but give David Bass his due he worked and worked to keep his mount going and earned his fee. Harry Topper flew after the last and looked to me like he ran on to snatch 2nd in a three way photo to justify my cautious wager. These varifocals have been putting me away since I had them, fourth behind 12/1 shot Perfect Candidate which was a decent result for the bookies.
The 188bet.co.uk Graduation Chase only attracted four runners for the £12.512 up for grabs but was a case of quality over quantity with Nick Williams’ Tea For Two ridden by Lizzy Kelly sent off the 8/11 jolly having been 10/11. The combination looked to have just got the best of the tussle with market-rival Alary when the latter had a terrible looking fall three out. As Lizzy Kelly coasted home on Tea For Two from the only other finisher Henri Parry Morgan hearts sank all over the racecourse when the dreaded green screens went up around the the prone Alary. A few hushed minutes passed then everyone’s favourite MC ‘Leglock’ Luke Harvey broke the news to clapping racegoers that the horse was back on his feet and walking back to the stables. News which left the Williams team to celebrate without the shadow of fatality in the race.
Armaloft Alex tipped me up Charmix in the penultimate Mobile Betting At 188Bet Novices’ Chase. After the reversal I’d suffered in the photo earlier I decided to not to heed his advice. Approaching two out it seemed as if the 4/1 shot was going to oblige, going well from the under pressure jolly Gala Ball, then disaster when Charmix fell unshipping Noel Fehily. That mishap left the 10/11 favourite to win in its own time. I have revisited the replay several times but can’t spot a premature arm up prior to the tumble. Alex’s misfortune was also another blow to the ring with the short one winning, winning by default is always harder to take.
Even harder to take for one Press Room regular was a comment overheard between races. The much-loved character described scribe Andrew King (who can’t be described so) as a ‘donkey’. Quick as a flash an ex-partner of said regular quipped ‘Nobody could describe you as that’ before adding ‘more like hamster’. Ouch, King roared with laughter at what he called comedy gold, I was left baffled as to the animal references, anyone who could enlighten me, please do.
Down in the ring it seemed Simon James was doing his money, even given my each-way punt that stayed in his hod. Paul Metcalfe wasn’t much happier with no lumps being traded but both conceded business had been good. They really needed a result in the last
The lucky last being the Free Spins At 188Bet Casino Intermediate Open NH Flat Race, run in dimpsey (it’s a Devon colloquial for getting a bit dark) conditions. It didn’t look good for the books needing a turn-up as Irish raider Quick Grabim had been touted in some quarters today as a potential Champion Bumper horse. That given even money might have looked a bargain price after the race though that price might have been propped up by support for Sir Egbert and Linen Hall. Tom George’s Air Navigator may not have been considered a Cheltenham horse but the 12/1 shot was good enough to see today’s field off under Adrian Heskin, the jolly unsighted, and save the bacon of a few on-course bookmakers to boot, their smiles illuminated by their light-boards. Proper Job.
I’m off to Jack Lynn’s funeral tomorrow to say so long to one of the ring’s real characters, it’ll be a sad day.
(c) Simon Nott