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Exeter - Christmas Raceday 21st December 2023



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There was a definite party atmosphere at Exeter today, the boxes were full and by the look of it there was very little building going on in the area, the tradesman had taken the day off to enjoy a day at the races, quite right too. There were only three runners in the first where Harry Fry's Valadon was sent off 1/3 to win the three-runner Exeter Junior 'National Hunt' Hurdle. He did so under Jonathan Burke, but only by half a length from Harry Derham's 3/1 second favourite Push to Pass but did win a shade easier than the winning margin might suggest. 

Nigel Hawke's Sindabella, a winner here last meeting was reportedly the best-backed horse of the morning for the Merry Christmas Amateur Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle supported from 11/2 into 11/4. On course it was a different story, the two bets reported to me were £3900 - £300 and £6500 - £1000 both on Shuil Ceoil, nothing of note for anything else. You have to feel, or maybe you don't, for the bookies that laid those two lumps. The gamble was landed for the Neil Mulholland yard by a last stride short-head under an inspired ride by Tommie O'Brien from 11/2 chance No Rematch. Sindabella ran a good race back in fourth. Sadly, for her backers the late withdrawal of I Look How I Look meant no fourth place pay-out from the layers. OK don't feel too sorry for them after all.

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Chris Honour's Mayhem Mya won the EBF Mares' Novices' Chase by just under a length under Bryan Carver from 12/1 chance Inspiratrice. The latter had been big prices overnight so apparently expected to bounce back not having won since springing a 200/1 surprise at Taunton last year. Bets over the winner included £1250 - £1000, £1200 - £1000 and £600 - £400. Armaloft Alex who is a man of independent means but still likes to help the bookies out told me he laid the last bet noted for the firm he was working for today. He grimaced as he told me, 'I wouldn't mind, but I tipped it to the bloke that had the bet!' Favourite supporters were less fortunate in the NAF Metazone Handicap Hurdle when those that backed Harry Derham's Joker De Mai left it behind. Bets on course included an even £500 and £700 that stayed in the bookmaker's hods. It wasn't all great for the layers either though. The winner, 3/1 chance Issam, trained by Tom Symonds and ridden by Daryl Jacob had been well-backed in the morning though that money didn't find its way on course to any volume. It was amusing to see the drone appear from the other side of the stands, is there still that much money sloshing around betting in running, it appears that there must be. 

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The race before the penultimate Join Us On New Year's Day At Exeter Handicap Chase didn't generate as many big bets or as much business as previous heats had. One bookmaker did report laying a bet of £620 at 13/8 Enjoy Your Life. The mathematically gifted among you will work that out to win £1007.50, I had to use a ready reckoner. 'It was a bunch of lads all clubbed together' the bookmaker informed me. That's the way to go guys, have it on in a group lump and make the bookie jump. Sadly, for them at least, they didn't get to experience the extreme pleasure of coming up to draw and each giving the bookie the rubdown. The jolly was beaten out of the frame by Nigel Twiston-Davies' 6/1 winner Top Of the Bill whole bolted up under Jordan Nailor which won unchallenged, the on-course money, albeit modest was for Victor Dartnall's distant runner up Run To Milan. 

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The penultimate Get Daily Tips At Maiden Hurdle was an interesting race with some nice looking individuals on display that will come on for the experience. In a race where stakes were generally modest there was a bet which would make many a bookie jump at Royal Ascot let alone a midweek Exeter meeting. A punter bet £10,000 - £250 each-way Jeremy Scott's Elusiveness with a front row firm. His confidence never really looked like being mirrored by his selection's ability on course, not today anyway, maybe one to note. On the other hand, that may have been small change for the punter. I remember a on-course rep always asking the question 'What does it mean' when given a mark from their office if someone had a bet, and if he didn't already know, closely followed by, 'Is he a winner on balance?' unless you can put bets into the context of the punter that sort of information is not worth a lot. Of course 'A winner on balance' would be a rarity these days. 

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The 3.55 start for the getting out stakes or rather the Merry Exeter Handicap Chase appeared to be a a little late given it's the shortest day today. Luckily the bookmakers signs are illuminated these days so the punters can find them. and find them they did. Bets recorded by yours truly included £2750 - £1000 Divine Inspiration, £3000 - £300 Tribesmans Glory, and £5400 - £600 Flash Gorcombe. The race card suggested that Time To Bite was 'proving expensive to follow'. Let's hope fans of Chris Honour's gelding gave him one last chance. He won easily today rewarding his backers resilience at odds of 10/1 under Bryan Carver. Let's also hope that the bookmakers could feel the correct notes to pay out the winners and of course the Christmas bonuses to the staff as it was pretty much dark as they pulled it up. Those who worry about our poor layers at Christmas, fear not I'm sure they did OK today, I'm back on Saturday, reporting from Ascot with Star Sports. 

Simon Nott