I had the pleasure of interviewing professional gambler and also now racecourse bookmaker Anthony...
Dublin Racing Festival Leopardstown Saturday 4th Feb 2023 AK Bets.
I was picked up from the airport by Dave two hours before the first race and even though we got to the racecourse in plenty of time there was still a job to park the car. Veteran in the game Dave O’Reilly has never seen anything like it. The place was buzzing, the first people I bumped into were Linda and Dodgy Bob regulars in the UK betting rings, already tucking into their cups of tea. The press reported at around 20% of the advance tickets sold were to people across the Irish Sea, there were certainly plenty of familiar faces here from the UK. Lofty, Andy The Lodge, Andrew from Sweden, Tony Amato, David Harris, Telf, Al from Aberdeen and Tony Calvin came over to say hello, too many others to mention. Jessica Smith, working rushed in later than planned due to the traffic it was that busy.
Something that I really appreciate when coming racing in Ireland is the friendly welcome you get, I got a big hello from top Irish bookie Ray Mulvaney who it's always excellent to see. This meeting was already feeling like Cheltenham in reverse, the guys couldn't believe the atmosphere here, it was hard not to get caught up in the excitement, and why wouldn’t you want to. AK Bets bet in two pitches in Tatts. Dave O’Reilly and Graham on one pitch and myself and ex professional footballer Dave Tyrrell on the other with AK in the control centre. Everyone was hard at work with well over an hour to the first, the punters streaming in.
The first race, was the Nathaniel Lacy & Partners Solicitors '50,000 Cheltenham Bonus For Stable Staff' Novice Hurdle and betting was busy, very busy, the book took over €10,000 in steady bets, the biggest a monkey on the 3/1 jolly and bogie Good Land. The other popular bet and loser in the book was Weveallbeencaught. There were a few punters asking for prices bigger than on the board, don’t take it personally if you don’t get laid, with AK it’s all about the figures and he's generally not for budging. The Leopardstown Roar could well have eclipsed Cheltenham’s for the opener. They were off and the book looked in trouble for most of the race. Turning for home the two losers were in front and the worst one in the book stayed there. Good Land won to a huge roar which drowned out the groan from behind the pitch, a loser for around €5000. John Carthy came to the joint after the race and advised that it’s hard to win at these Irish meetings, now he tells us.
Next up the Donohue Marquees Spring Juvenile Hurdle and a banker in Lossiemouth which opened at 1/3 and promptly attracted a €1500 bet at the price. It was a bit of a shame that this race boasted a long odds-on shot as it took the momentum out of the market a bit. The book fielded €7500 despite AK not wanting to go the 4/11 the jolly. In hindsight that wasn’t the best decision. 9/2 chance Gala Marceau won the race with the unlucky hotpot back in second, the book lost €1500. The rest of the ring were celebrating while AK sank deeper into the doing his money mire, yes he's at it again guys, losing when odds-on shots get beaten. The firm put the jolly getting beaten down to a well known racing celebrity backing it, not with AK though, it was 1/3 not the 4/11 asked for.
The third race was the Goffs Irish Arkle Novice Chase where Appreciate It opened at 15/8 and was smashed in the betting ring. Punters waded in with wads of readies, no matter how the price tumbled they still wanted to be on. Betting was punctuated by the 2.20 at Sandown, the crowd here paused to watch it on the big screen and roar the 10/11 winner Gerri Colombe home, then got stuck in again. The guys from West Cork asked for a mention, they were on the jolly too as was nearly everyone else. Then, just when it was all about the huge public plunge on the jolly, right in the hole a bet changed the complexion of the book the very last bet was £9000 - £1000 Saint Roy, should have asked for £1100 with the fractions really if he wanted top value but hey ho, they were off. AK who had been under the cosh, slapped me on the back and said that this was the busiest meeting they’d worked at. The book took €16,500, Willie’s won by 10 lengths. Not the right one of Willie’s for most of the punters though, 9/2 El Fabio bolted up and the booked copped €12,000. I got a bigger slap on the back, I guess that meant AK was chuffed, especially as Saint Roy was unplaced. The firm were back in the game and Dave had a cushy time on the pay-outs. Back home they'd have been shouting 'Pay Pay' and giving the losing punters the rub down. I asked AK if the huge cop on the relatively short priced winner was an inspired ‘go for’ or the just way it came in. He said it was the way it came in, but smirked a bit. It's always hard to tell. One punter that wasn’t laughing was the nice chap who introduced himself as Stephen with a ‘P’ who rather miserably predicted his bet would lose, at least he was right in that respect so some consolation.
We had another long odds-on shot in Galopin Des Champs a 1/3 chance for the Paddy Power Irish Gold Cup AK’s team offered betting without the favourite too. It’s a popular bet but fraught with the worry for punters that go for it that if the one you bet without actually wins the race, you’ll be a bit gutted about winning. It didn’t deter the backers who were keen on Stattler and Kemboy. Betting on the two markets compensated for people not wanting to take short odds. 'Betting Without' fielded almost double what the win book did. Galopin De Champs only put it to bed after the last but was a cop in the straight book. Stattler was second so the winner in the 'Without' book so no good at all, but the book still copped small.
Barney who reminded me that he gave me a ‘gentle bollocking’ at York last year was here today, though I can't remember what he bollocked me for. He didn't give me a coating today, just came to say hello. He didn’t bet with the firm though, come on Barney, they need to take money to keep bringing me over. Barney did reiterate what a few UK racegoers here today said, this was a better option than Cheltenham and proceeded to tell me why, it's all about value. Meanwhile, the punters had a race to get stuck into, the Race And Stay At Leopardstown Handicap Hurdle. The book fielded €8500 and took it fairly nicely. At the off the bogie in the book was 5/1 chance Grozni, losing a couple of grand, most of it each-way too. It was hairy for a while but the bogie didn't win, the race went to 4/1 chance Perceval Legollis which was a modest cop in the book but was wiped out by the place money on Grozni which finished runner-up. The book won €3..
The penultimate Paddy Power Cheltenham Fanzone Handicap Chase was another good heat for punters to get stuck into betting 3/1 or bigger the field. They did too though stakes were smaller they still amounted to over €6500 with 4/1 chance Get My Drift and 9/2 chance Final Orders the two losers in the book. Final Order won impressively despite clobbering the last and cost the firm €1600 in the win book but scrabbled a grand back on the places. As the field swept past us the rain swept in sending the crowd running for cover which threatened to put a dampener on what had been a cracking day so far.
Going into the lucky last the Shabra Charity Oliver Brady Memorial Future Stars (C & G) I.N.H. Flat Race AK was about €5000 to the good. The weather did its best to hinder things but the Leopardstown crowd are a hardy bunch, a drop of rain wasn’t going to stop them having it on. Business was thick and fast albeit a bit moist. Willie had four in the bumper, all but two runner’s trainers had the surname Mullins. It was confusing enough but they thought they knew. One backer told me that Willie Mullins' auntie had tipped him the right one as he came on course today, I doubted it but who am I to cast doubt on the man's information. The punters piled in for one last time. The book held €7500 from loads of bets but not many of them were on John Kiely’s 12/1 winner A Dream To Share. Sadly, for the firm one punter that did find AK and had €250 each-way at 16/1 which knocked a dent in what was still a winning race to conclude on. AK had already legged it when a straggler, no less that bright new star in racing journalism Ash Symonds came to draw over the winner too, and delighted in telling me it was the only bet he'd had with AK Bets all day. That's the rub-down, but water off the firms back after enjoying such a good winning day after a clobbering in the first couple of races.
What a fantastic opening day of the meeting, busy as you like, punters from all over the place betting like they meant it. Oh, not to mention a winning one for the firm which is always a nice way to end the day, if you are working not punting that is. We’re back tomorrow, come and have a bet.