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Eight races in glorious sunshine but a deceptively cold wind kicked off with the Francis Clark British Stallion Studs EBF Maiden Stakes where betting revolved around three runners, two of which came in for some support. Stargazer attracted a couple of decent bets on the rails, £4000-£2000 and £1875-£1000 while a chap was seen lumping on Past Master. Some books kept tight-lipped about what they laid but others stood for £2750-£1000 and £2500-£1000 while one hapless layer in Tatts got sorted out with a £900-£300. I say sorted out because the gamble was landed on the latter in some style with Stargazer nearly three lengths back in second. In other words the bookies had no chance.
There was a tiny whisper for the unlikely looking 100/1 shot Love In The Dark in the Wilkins Kennedy British Stallion Studs EBF Maiden Stakes (Div 1). The news was greeted with some laughter in the Press Room, one wag saying that the filly would be more suited to 2 miles over hurdles. Some bookies on course appeared to agree with the brave few offering 150/1 near the off. Anyone who followed the tip lost their money but any bookmaker who laid the top prices each-way would have had a twitch or two Love In The Dark ran very decent race, a place not out of the question two furlongs out.
Up at the business end of the betting, the market got it totally wrong when Mootaharer was backed from 7/2 into 5/2 including a bet of £2500-£1000 while Royal Reserve drifted from 7/4 to 9/4 despite a bet of £3000-£1500 struck on the rails before winning by a length. Bookmaker Andrew Wrench gleefully reported that much-maligned and now often redundant floorman of aging years had backed the winner, but taken 13/8. Poor Mossy was in earshot too, sometimes these bookies can be so cruel, especially after doing their money. Not so bad as for the William Dampier pub in Yeovil, apparently when Mossy goes racing the boozer seriously consider laying off staff. Allegedly.
The second division of the maiden saw a stronger favourite in River Echo backed from 2/1 into 7/4 including bets of £800-£400 and £3500-£2000 though it was White Shaheen that got the ring all a jitter supported from 20/1 into 9/1. That would have been even worse for the exchange layers that I’m reliably informed laid as big as 59/1 but it was all academic in the end as it never troubled the judge. As is turned out all the aforementioned layers copped because 4/1 (from 5/1) Tafteesh won the race with the jolly back in fourth. One bookie did lay a bet of £4000-£50 each-way Topology which I assumed he stuffed in his back pocket for dinner on the way home.
The end of the ‘first half’ was the Bathwick Tyres Andover Claiming Stakes in which Derulo was backed from 7/2 into 11/4 and won easily. It would have been another nasty result for the ring but there was a dearth of notable bets after the previous hearty betting action. One bookmaker called me over and told me that ‘One of the grand punters backed the winner in the course betting shop’. I’m sure that went down well with Betfred, not so much the bookies though he’s probably excused, after all he backed the winner and Fred’s pockets are deeper.
Part two’s opener was the Weatherbys Hamilton Handicap which featured nine runners. Raw Impulse was returned the 5/2 favourite with Think Ahead snapping at its heels in the market at 3/1. Unsurprisingly betting revolved around the two, one Tatts layer went 7/2 Think Ahead ‘because the man’s a regular punter’ and got filled in, two other Tatts books laid £1500-£500 then had to watch it win. It wasn’t all bad news though, one rails book laid a £5000-£2000 Raw Impulse so kept that. Another rails layer called out that he had been slaughtered and was losing 6-0. His clerk pointed out that there had only been 5 races to which he replied ‘It feels like six’. His neighbour wasn’t so charitable and spat out through the side of his mouth that you are pretty certain to be ‘slaughtered’ if you go 3/1 just because the machine is 3.1/1. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the value these days is not at home on your computer but on course, come racing, no commission and (almost) exchange prices.
It didn’t get any better for the bookies in the race before the penultimate, the Bathwick Tyres Conditions Stakes. The 5/2 favourite Projection won the race under Ryan Moore. It wasn’t all one way traffic in the betting though, Tabarrak was backed from 7/2 into 3/1 and finished second. There had also been money for Elronao with a punter having a monkey with two books simultaneously at 10/3 but left it behind, with both of them. ‘I had that race by the bollocks’ declared a beaming Armaloft Alex, ‘I backed them both so put both arms up, and also had the forecast.’ Luckily for the rails books the bigger punters ‘Left us out’ with nothing of note reported for the winner. Bo Brown is one to stick his neck out when he doesn’t fancy one and admitted; ‘I stood the rag for £7000 and still lost on the race, that’s not clever!’
The penultimate Vanarama Challenge Handicap was a competitive 14-runner affair and went to Little Palaver. The winner was backed from 7/1 into 6/1 but not to lumpy money. There were a couple of chunks reported in the ring including a £4000-£500 Extrasolar and £5250-£1500 Memories Galore but the general consensus was business had dropped off markedly, the eight-race factor.
That eighth race was the flip-started Bathwick Tyres Bournemouth Handicap. Rails bookie Joe Oliver moaned that he was losing so much that if the last favourite won he wouldn’t be able to pay. His clerk ‘Q’ Cumber (geddit?) rolled his eyes and probably thought what I said, ‘Oh well you’ll just have to sell one of your houses’. Joe gave that pained look. Probably not as pained as when Fitzwilly the 11/4 jolly won the race I’d imagine, I couldn’t bring myself to go and check. Although he was exaggerating you’d not want to have been a bookie trying to earn a crust this afternoon, plenty of money fielded but plenty more in addition given back.
(c) Simon Nott
A sad footnote to the day’s action. We were greeted with terrible news on our arrival at Salisbury today. The recently retired and much loved and respected SP validator of several decades Jim Dimmock has died. Thoughts go out to his family and many friends on the racecourse he will be sadly missed. R.I.P Jim.