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It’s hard to believe that Royal Ascot has rolled around again, it hardly seems a few months ago we were all last here. My old boss Jack Lynn always said that a racing life would see it rush by at speed as we go from landmark meeting to landmark meeting. As usual with Jack he appears to be right, but it is a great way for it to whizz by.
One thing that has changed considerably is where all the bookmakers have decided to bet. They appear to have more and more choices each year. Leading Irish bookmaker John Hughes was betting up at the paddock for the first time and didn’t seem too enamored with his prospects. I tried to cheer him up and told him I’d heard it was good up there, he replied he’d buy me a drink if it was. Well I’m always up for a no lose bet we’ll see how that goes.
Ben Keith’s firm Star Sports have just bolstered their on-course portfolio by acquiring Victor Chandler’s pitches. With Royal Ascot is was a case of adding to their existing one. Ben was going to stand on the main joint on the front row of Tattersalls and said ‘He wouldn’t miss it for the world’. Regular readers may remember last year he won £400k in a day to ‘get out’ on the week. Safe to say it’s going to be a hairy five day ride for him and his team.
Big Jim on the rails was in danger of getting into hot water with the trade descriptions mob, he’s going to have to re-brand as ‘Modestly Proportioned Jim’ as he’s lost a colossal amount of weight since last year. Selfless to the end he was still dishing out free sweets to his punters. Dave Spice had two pitches, one keeping John Hughes company and the other down at the Bandstand. Once again regular readers may remember last year he was tucked up on an almost daily basis by a mystery lady he has down as ‘The Royal Milliner’, betting on the colour of the Queen’s hat. For fear of time in the Tower please note nobody is suggesting she actually is the Royal Milliner. The lady made an impression on young Spice though, who admitted losing sleep all week worrying about her inspired punts and that ‘her face is etched in my brain.’ Maybe that would explain his relocation but he was still going to price up the colour of the Royal head-ware regardless.
The Pickwick-Bevan (est 2015) organization were also betting on the hat deep down on the course surrounded my Royal Enclosure. Of course they were all in Royal Enclosure clobber and in fine form. They asked if I’d seen Joe O’Gorman (est 1925). Joe is the P-B firm’s friendly rival. I replied in the negative (where are you betting Joe?). Rather cheekily Ian of P-B said if I saw him to mention that it’s a little unfair that he starts the week on less expenses as there’s no VAT on child-sized Morning Dress. I’m not sure what they meant by that but I fear it was a little derogatory, on you Joe.
On my way back up to Tatts I spotted two likely lads, Paul and Luke having a whale of a time in an outside bar, see photo, you may recognise them,. It’s a far cry from Exeter in the rain which is more akin to Harvey’s natural terrain but he seemed to have acclimatised well.
By the time the rounds were done the Queen was on her way down the course looking radiant in a cerise hat. At least that’s what Mike Vince told us it was. Assuming that Nicholas Newton Witchell was unavailable Mike was doing a great job of talking the Royal procession along their route and must surely be in the betting for next Royal correspondent. Neither of the boards I saw had cerise in the betting, but both paid out on pink. P-B (2015) copped on the race. Dave Spice reported being tucked up again, not by the mystery milliner but by a well-known Irish bookmaker who backed pink and ensured it was the worst in his book. Before you cheer too hard ‘worst’ may have still not been a loser, he’s a shrewd cookie.
As is decorum betting halted as the Queen passed the ring then kicked on again with gusto for the opening Queen Anne Stakes (British Champions Series) (Group 1). It couldn’t have started worse for the books when 11/8 jolly Solow won the race having been backed from 13/8 one layer hit with a £13,000 – £8000. To make things worse the each-way punt Cougar Mountain was third having been a huge price in the morning and backed from 20/1 to 16/1 on course. Shortly after the race Dr Chris Steele of ‘This Morning’ TV fame appeared at the rails though rumours he was there to tend to already battered bookies proved just that, rumours.
If betting was lively in the opener it really got going in the Coventry Stakes. Round Two was sent off favourite having been backed from 5/2 including a £10,000 – £4000 then more lumps at its starting price of 9/4 including a bet £36,000 – £16,000. Air Force Blue was backed from 4/1 into 7/2 but those that latched on to the winner Buratino 15/2 into 6/1 got the money. One firm laid a £10,000 – £1400 each-way – that’s 7/1 with the fractions – don’t understand them? Check fractions out here. www.simonnott.co.uk/?p=1079
Sole Power was the one they wanted to be on in the King’s Stand Stakes with some chunks at 3/1 including a £12,000 – £4000 before going off at 5/2 jolly. Muthmir was another well-backed from 4/1 (£12,000 – £3000) into 3/1. It must have been some relief to the layers when 20/1 winner Goldream provided them with their first proper result of the day. 50/1 short-headed runner-up Medicean Man would have been better mind but as Muthmir was only a neck away in third nobody was grumbling, too much.
Bookie Ben Johnson wasn’t just relying on good pitches and good books to win in his prime front row pitch. His joint was sporting a lucky mascot. I fear for the poor little fellow, the mascot, not Ben, I can envisage him being ‘converted’ across the home straight around 5pm on Saturday should things not go Ben’s way. But so far it was so good and all smiles! Please note that is a smile for Ben, really.
The St James’s Palace Stakes featured the first real short-one of the meeting. Ben Keith at Star Sports was screaming 4/7 Gleneagles when the majority of the ring were 8/15. It was trimmed to fall in line after he appeared to have takers. He wasn’t the only one to lay the top prices with a £4000-£6500 and £8000-£14000 just a few of the decent bets noted and going to the winning punters after its impressive victory.
The bookies had been quietened a bit after one of the bankers hit them right between the eyes. They would have fancied their chances in the 19-runner Ascot Stakes but did their money again when Clondaw Warrior landed a 7/1 into 5/1 Willie Mullins gamble. One firm laid a £5000-£700 each-way the winner (fractions again) but as you’d expect in big handicaps the bets were smaller than the previous race. Having said all that the book that laid the £37,500 – £5000 each-way the Mullins other runner Digeanta would have been pleased to see it finish seventh.
The books did get the well-backed 4/1 jolly Steady Pace beaten into third in the concluding Windsor Palace Stakes but 5/1 winner Washington DC wouldn’t have been any good for many layers, especially as it provided Ryan Moore with a treble. Spare a thought for the firm that laid a £10,000 – £2000 the last winner. Still it’s only the first day. I was going to ask John Hughes if I was on course for a drink, he didn’t look all that happy as he stared out over the parade ring so didn’t risk it. Maybe tomorrow.
(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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