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Exeter - Heavitree Brewery Season Finale 19/04/24


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The last meeting at Exeter for the 2023-2024 season landed a little too soon for my liking, where did that time go. They were going out in style though with an eight race card and a very decent sized crowd. Sadly, there was an inexplicable clash with Fontwell and both Bath and Newbury, admittedly those meetings were flat, but it still seemed a bit daft, but there you go. The first two races on the card, the opening Clifton Inn Newtown Exeter 'National Hunt' Maiden Hurdle and the second division of the same race had long odds-on favourites at the heads of their markets. The first leg went to Sam Thomas' 3/10 favourite Vincenzo under Sam Twiston-Davies as expected, but there was a turn-up in the second leg when Jane Williams' Saint Cyr De Pail under David Noonan beat Nicky Henderson's 1/6 hotpot Johnny Blue by a short-head in a rough and tumble finish. The crowd didn't look the type to stick on odds-on shots and they weren't, though one bookmaker did lay a £200 double the pair. 

The third race on the card, the Bell Inn Bovey Tracey Novices' Handicap Hurdle was more competitive in the betting where Paul Nicholls' Soir De Gala was an uneasy favourite drifting from 6/4 to 7/4 on course. Meanwhile the crowd was growing as time when on, I assume that 4.25 was a bit early for leaving work. The market nerves were correct about the favourite, he never really looked like winning though did manage to scramble home third behind runaway 6/1 winner Captain Wallace which bolted up by 10 lengths under 5lb claimer Dylan Johnston from 12/1 chance Hillsin. The winner provided Sam Thomas with a double on the evening, the winner had flopped when favourite on its handicap debut but made no mistake today

image4 (24)                                                                                             'No Trouble'  'A Bit Of Trouble' 'Big Trouble!'

There was plenty going on down in the ring, the punters were betting, they just weren't betting big. They bet 9/4 Bullets Hill in the second division of the Bell Inn Bovey Tracey Novices' Handicap Hurdle. I was down in the ring trying to garner something to write about but was failing apart from the fact it was busy but very recreational. I was chatting to Steve Copplestone and Tall Boy Watson about the 'good old days'. It's very sterile compared to then bemoaned the tall boy. He was right, but there was rumour abound that might make today very interesting. Emanating from the Cheltenham betting ring yesterday. The word was that we could expect a helicopter to drop in from the East which would contain a confident owner and punters ready to have it on. If the story panned out as told they would disembark, have as much as they could in the ring, they'd be asking for plenty, watch it win, collect and leave as quickly as they'd arrived, loaded with readies. I for one was hoping it would happen, we'd have to wait and see. Meanwhile, the favourite Ella Pickard's 5/2 jolly Bullets Hill won the race under Charlie Deutsch from Elusiveness and Star Of Affinity back in third. The latter was the first of three mounts for Freddie Gingell tonight who I'm told was hightailing it up to Ayr straight after racing. 

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Freddie was on Joe Tizzard's Moonlight Artist in the Henry's Bar Mount Pleasant Road Exeter Handicap Hurdle, was that a tip in itself? A bookmaker had pulled me over earlier in the day and said that he'd had a few requests for early prices about Mel Rowley's Just In A Bit in this race. He'd not laid them, but thought it might prove interesting. Given that the horse is owned by a racing club it could have just been overenthusiastic owners but it would be interesting to see what happened in the live betting. Well, it opened 16/1 and was steadily supported into 10/1. The horse was reported to have had a wind operation and the booking of Charlie Deutsch was eye-catching. It was good to see all these pubs  in the race names, I often been waiting at traffic lights outside Henry's Bar but never been in, let's hope some Exeter locals spend some of their winnings in there tonight. Neither the Freddie Gingell angle or the early money requests came to anything. The good news for followers of Paul Nicholls  was that they copped nicely if they'd gone for 11/1 winner Kick Up A Storm. My good mate Andrew Mount pointed out that Nicholls has a very good record with horses running for the first time in cheekpieces, add to that first time in a handicap and up in trip and he looked a bet. Did I follow his good advice? Answers on a postcard....

There was still no sign of that helicopter when betting got underway for the race before the penultimate the Heavitree Brewery Novices' Handicap  Chase. The feature of that market was the money that came for Linda Blackford's Poet's Reflection backed in from 8/1 this morning into half that price in places by the off. Linda trains locally so was popular with the cash betting punters but not to huge sums. The bookmakers told me that business was generally still very good, big bets really are the exception to the rule pretty much everywhere. Those that backed Poet's Reflection did their money, the gamble failed to place, the race went to Warren Greatrex's Hidalogo Des Bordes which won nicely on it's chase debut. The winner had been weak in the market, returning 9/2 having been 11/4 favourite this morning. Still no helicopter. Gutted. 

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The penultimate Heart Of Oak Pinhoe Exeter Open NH Flat Race featured a £200,000 Irish point to point purchase, Nicky Henderson's Kingston Pride which looked the banker of the day to many. So many in fact that 1/4 was the best price on offer when betting opened on course but that had drifted to 2/5 at the off. There were very few takers on course, for anything much, it just wasn't that type of crowd. Freddie Gingell was on Paul Nicholls' Wicked Thoughts before heading off to Scotland. He had to make do with a distant runner-up spot behind Kingston Pride which proved to be the rocket that he was touted to be zipping home under James Bowen. No doubt the bookmakers breathed a sigh of relief that one hadn't been the helicopter horse, there had been very few jolly backers at any price, mind you, the 2/5 looked value the way he won.  

It's doubtful that there'd be any airborne backers flying in to bet in the concluding Swan Inn D&C Intermediate Series Final Hunters' Chase. Neither of my point to point men, Armaloft Alex or Harvey Instance fancied the shade of odds-on favourite, Josh Newman's Heart's Corner. The trouble was, neither could agree which one which beat the jolly if they proved correct that the gelding was an unworthy one. Much of the crowd had already retired to watch and no doubt dance to the band playing beneath the stand as they field set off to conclude the season. 

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The real action wasn't watching the band or out in the betting ring, which was markedly quieter than it had been, the seven runners had three miles to negotiate before bring our season to a close. As they lined up, the market agreed with Armaloft and Harv, the jolly had drifted to 5/4. As it turned out the market knew nothing, Heart's Corner shut up all his doubters by making short work of his rivals, though Harbour Queen did give him a run for his money, just for a bit. Wow, hold on a minute, they were 5/4 as they set off but the SP was 10/11, the real money must have left it late eh. Come Racing. 

As the band played on and young Freddie headed north, that brought our season at Exeter to a close, thanks to everyone that's read my blogs when I've written them. I very lucky to have such an excellent racecourse almost on my doorstep. See you all here in the 2024/25 season. 

Simon Nott 

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