Exeter on a Monday, rain to start, sunshine before the first, where would you rather be? Actually,...
Exeter - Devon Air Ambulance Raceday 26/11/23
It was a bit misty when I arrived up at Haldon Hill way before racing, luckily it had at least cleared enough to see the last before the first. I had a chat with a few bookmakers before racing. Dave Hazell hadn't done any good at Ascot yesterday but was still enjoying the Star Sports sweets given to him to stave off the cold by Ed and Ricky there. I also had a word with my old mate Armaloft Alex, over the phone as he was a non-runner here today. He'd had a bit of a traumatic Saturday, the double bump. He had backed Jane Williams' Saint Segal at Ascot, but decided to go and watch Swindon versus Mansfield instead of venturing to the turf, yes I know, what was he thinking.
Needless to say he still wanted to see how his fancy did so watched the race on his phone from the terraces. Having the cup snatched from his and great friend Jane Williams' lips by the last fence fall, he did as a disappointed man might well do and let out an audible expletive as a Saint Segal crumpled on landing when looking all over the winner. No sooner had his chagrin set in at the misfortune on the turf he was collared by the extremely zealous Swindon security. Our heartbroken hero was told that they don't tolerate such foul language at their venue and that his option was to leave of his own accord or be carried out. Armaloft, being a gentlemen of the turf, took to his well-heeled feet and did as they requested politely declining the offer of haulage, ultimately missing out on witnessing Swindon's 2-1 victory. All funny stories aside though, make no mistake, losing a race like that in such a manner is devastating for a yard like the Williams, it must have been gutting. It's worth mentioning that had Armaloft backed with BetGoodwin, he'd have got up to £100 of his money bank thanks to their falling at the last in a chase offer. Click on the banner to open an account.
I also talked to Richard 'Tall Boy' Watson before racing, but his 15 minute diatribe of negativity doesn't bear repeating. It must take work to be that down in the dumps. Pray for Tall Boy. Or at least bet your losers with him! He's not that miserable really, OK his is but he's a nice chap, just needs cheering up or trip to Vegas. While going into full on moan mode Tall Boy's poor oppo Steve just stands at the back of the joint silently shaking his head staring into his computer.
The first race of the day was the Devon Air Ambulance & Marley Communications Juvenile Hurdle in which Gary Moore's Salver drifted from 5/4 to 9/4 in the ring before being supported into 7/4 at the off. That initial drift was no doubt partially initiated by the market move for Harry Fry's Valadon backed from 13/2 into 7/2 in the morning, then down to 2/1 in the live market. The market knew nothing, well the money for Valadon was sort of right, he ran very well to be second but couldn't match Salver which bolted up, Jane Williams' Authoceltic finished back in third and is one to take from the race.
The next race on the card, the You Flutter, We Fly Mares' Novices' Hurdle was aptly named. Polly Gundry's charge Don't Rightly Know was backed from 28/1 into an SP of 7/1 before winning from the front under a wonderful ride from Chole Emsley, landing what appeared to be quite a touch for connections in the process. The winner hadn't run for 700 odd days but the trainer said afterwards that the mare had been fit last season but missed her opportunity to run so had been turned out again adding that she was delighted for the mare's patient owner. Polly didn't mention the plunge but let's hope it was the connections that had it spark off. The bookmakers on course didn't see any action over the winner. Business down in the betting ring was described as small but there were a couple of three-figure bets, the largest a carpet, at even money the eventual 8/11 runner-up Getaway Theatre.
The third race on the card, the Devonshire Novices' Limited Handicap Chase went to Jane Williams' 11/1 chance Moriko De Vassy under a confident ride from David Noonan. It was another welcome result for the bookmakers huddled under their drizzle festooned mushes. Jane Williams said after the race that it was a very welcome winner which have been hard to come by. She said that she thought this was strong race, they were going to go for another hurdle race before chasing but due to lack of opportunities decided to go chasing. She added that she had been slightly worried about being up in trip and down in ground but he clearly stays. The winner was a popular one among racegoers, they are a popular yard and deserved a change of luck after yesterday's at Ascot*. Between races I got a few bits and bobs from the Injured Jockeys' Fund stall and had a look around the Christmas market where my old point-to-point live streaming pal Rita Heard was also selling her quality wares. I didn't buy anything this time but will be at her regular pitch at South Molton market for some goodies before long.
* I am informed that the winner was found to have picked up 'a leg' after the race, let's hope it's nothing too serious.
The market got the the Plymouth Handicap Hurdle wrong. Jo down on the Ivor Perry joint told me that they hadn't been able to give away Nicky Henderson's very easy winner King Alexander. I've no idea what rumours had been flying around to help ease last night's top of the head, 9/4 favourite out to 7/2 but whatever they were they can't have been accurate. The only bet in heard of in the ring was £2100 - £300 Lucy Gardner's 5/1 runner-up Astronomic View.
It was excellent to see between races that Nigel Hawke's The Imposter won again under Tom Buckley over at Uttoxeter, it was a tenacious performance by both horse and jockey.
The fog was beginning to descend again for the race before the penultimate, the DAA Racing To Save Lives Handicap Hurdle, making life hard for commentator Mike Cattermole. When the field disappeared into the gloom Interne De Sivola was in the lead, when they emerged from it, jumping the last the flip-flopping in the market, at least in the betting ring, favourites Asian Spice and Ito Ditto were battling it out. The former won the race by a head under Harry Cobden for Jimmy Frost returning the 11/4 favourite, the runner-up 3/1. Down in the betting ring the bookies had only seen one decent bet worth mentioning, £1100 - £400 over the winner.
There weren't any heroics going on down in the ring for the penultimate the Gerald George Lacey Memorial Handicap Chase but the bookies told me that the one the machine wanted was Venetia Williams' Enjoy Your Life. The machine knew, Enjoy Your Life won the race by three and a quarter lengths under Charlie Deutsch from 11/4 market rival Atlanta Brave. It was a harder fought battle than the winning distance suggests but the gelding did land the spoils nicely in the end. The winner returned 7/4 favourite having been a top of the head 9/4 chance this morning. The winning trainer said 'She'd been thrilled to win here today as the owner was able to travel to watch her horse win. She added that she wants any going softer than good so today's good to soft was fine but that her charge Hermes Du Gouet had gotten a bit outpaced on it earlier.
The lucky last, the Watch On Racing TV Handicap Hurdle treated racegoers to the best finish of the day, the fog stopped even Mike Cattermole seeing much out in the country. The money on course had been for Harry Fry's Danton, one bookmaker laid a £600 - £300 the eventual 6/4 favourite, but as with the rest of the day, whilst business had been brisk it had been very modest. We all waited for the horses to come out of the fog, when they came into view Danton was in front and looked to be about to win with some ease. Never put your arm up, so much so that Mike Cattermole pretty much called him the winner just as both Call Me Arthur and Malago Rose found turbo mode and bore down on him at some pace. The line came just in time for the jolly with Call Me Arthur a neck away with Malago Rose a shorthead behind him pleasing favourite backers and denting any profit the on-course layers might have scrambled together. The thrilling finish appeared to see off the fog which miraculously cleared just as racing ended and darkness descended bring to a close an excellent Sunday of sport on the Haldon turf. Thanks fro reading.
I'll be writing a betting ring report for Star Sports from Newbury next Saturday.