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It was great to be back at Exeter after the summer close season. I obviously wasn’t the only one to think so with plenty of runners, punters and bookies in attendance to make and bet on the action. I spotted Luke Harvey before racing, he was looking well turned out, but kindly commented that I’d been getting a lot of wear out of my waistcoat. Hang on, he was taking the Michael wasn’t he, cheeky bugger I’ve only had it three years….
Male bonding aside it was time for the punters and bookies to lock horns for the opening race of the new season, the Hague Print Management Handicap Hurdle. A well-respected and often bang right tipping service had put up Walter White as a strong bet in the morning. It was a worry for those that followed the advice when the gelding appeared to be less than keen before the race. That probably helped his walk in the market along, 5/1 out to 9/1 is never a good sign; it’s not often bookmakers are made to pay for their ‘BOG’ offers, even though they are keen to withdraw the concession as soon as you start looking warm. They weren’t this time either, the beast was beaten when falling three out. In stark contrast to Walter, Mystifiable was backed from an early 7/1 into 7/2 and landed the gamble under a positive ride from Conor Shoemark who appeared great value for his claim. Welcome back to Exeter, bookies!
‘Leglock’ Luke Harvey managed to stick a microphone under trainer Fergal O’Brien’s nose and mentioned that the gelding had been well backed. Fergal replied that the yard had been plotting the horse up for over a year and that they had left nothing to chance. He added that the boys had been around the betting shops at sparrow’s fart, topped it up on the exchanges, tucked up the Tote then hammered the on-course books firing salvos of readies up and down the line until the layers were begging on their knees.
Ha ha, fooled you, no he didn’t really, it would be great if trainers did say that occasionally when a gamble had been landed but true to ‘trainer form’ he said that he’d no idea where the money had come from. Spoilsport.
The second heat, the Aggregate Industries Help For Heroes Novices’ Handicap Hurdle also featured some serious betting. David Pipe’s A Hairy Koala was backed from early 5/1 into 3/1. One bystander was a little aghast when a cash punter asked a Tatts bookie for a monkey on at 7/2 and was knocked back and offered a measly £100. The punter did get on elsewhere but when decent backers are rare as hen’s teeth compared to a decade ago you’d have thought the bookie would lay the man, even if they had it all back.
As it happens the lily-livered bookie would have copped the cash as 8/1 shot Do We Like Him won the race from 9/4 jolly Our Folly. The winner had been 11/1 so quietly nibbled, a fact seemingly missed by Leglock who wondered out loud if anyone had backed it. He couldn’t ask trainer Chris Gordon who was absent due to being at the dentist. Probably just as well as the Dentist would have more chance of extracting anything of note than Luke would in the Winner’s Enclosure from connections. Being height challanged I couldn’t see what was going on there but apparently John Francome was in evidence. I know that because Luke leapt in with a startled cry over the public address ‘ Don’t let you wife stand next to John Francome Sir!’
‘That’s the pot calling the kettle’ commented a racecourse regular next to me.
I have no idea what either of them were getting at.
If some of the bookies allowed themselves at laugh at Luke’s gags the smiles were wiped from their combined chops when the aptly named ‘Whats Left’ (not my appalling grammar) landed a 6/1 into 4/1 punt in the next. The next being the Great Point Media Investments Handicap Chase. Having said that,the 11/4 jolly Kasbadali was well beaten so it may not have been too bad for the bookmakers after all. They got the even money chance Ballycoe beaten in the next, the Watch On The Racing UK App Beginners’ Chase when Rebecca Curtis’ How About It hosed in at 5/2. There were no reports of any lumps laid, maybe the big punter had his bet on his phone after getting knocked back. Now wouldn’t that be an own-goal, especially if he’s the sort of punter that can still get a monkey on with a firm on his phone.
I’m told there were glum faces in the Nicholls camp after the previous favourite got trounced. They would have been all smiles again after Abidjan won the penultimate Great Point Media Investments Novices’ Hurdle with considerable ease. Luckily for the ring it seems that fears of the bigger punters deserting it were premature. Some got on at 4/6 to lumps, then again at 8/13 to more lumps before hardening to the SP of 4/7. Now it was the layers looking glum, probably glummer.
Connections to the Martin Hill yard were said to have been seen ‘having it on’ Mexican Border in the concluding Bet With Your Racing UK App Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle. The 13/2 soon tumbled into 5/1 no doubt helped by those that spotted said connections and following them in. Those that did probably wished they hadn’t been so eagled-eyed and big-eared when they left it behind as well as ‘connections to the Martin Hill yard’ when the gelding was pulled up when beaten before two out.
Nobody reported the Ken Cunningham-Brown yard having it on Bulletproof but if they did, good luck to them as they copped to the tune of a ‘carpet and a half’ to their cash, that’s 7/2 and old money and 3.5 in new. The winner was joint-favourite with Prince Of Poets who finished third, so no good to the bookies. Still it’s only day one of the new season, plenty of time for the betting ring to bite back and some of them find their bottle!
(c) Simon Nott
My book ‘Skint Mob – Tales From The Betting Ring’ is a book about the bookies, punters and other wonderful characters I have met in my time on racecourses. There have been some nice reviews.
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