It’s been five years since I was last racing at Lingfield, I didn’t even mind driving past a couple...
Ffos Las - Welsh Champion Hurdle Day - Sponsored by DragonBet 09/10/22
It's a big day for me, my first visit to Ffos Las, but a much bigger day for DragonBet who sponsor the Welsh Champion Hurdle after offically launching on-line this week. The firm hosted a box packed with punters and faces from the Welsh sporting world. Following James Lovell, joint owner of Dragon bet with his brother David, around before the first was enough to keep me fit especially puffing around in tweed. He was marking cards, greeting guests and handing out tipping competition winners. The latter went to Margaret Elliot who'd managed to pick a 100/1 winner on the first day and sort of took the wind out of everyone's sails before it started. She kept up the pace though adding to her total and copped £100 in readies for her trouble. Great tipping that lady, the added bonus is that I'm told James is still going to still open an account for her. Proper bookie!
The opening race of the day, the 3A's Carmarthen Conditional Jockeys' Mares' Handicap Chase saw an apparent right old touch. Alexandra Dunn's mare Ho Que Oui was backed from 7/1 last night into 3/1 today before bolting up. The off-course firms probably came off worse than the on-course layers but even they did 6/1, though the only bet of note I got from the ring was £1000 - £200 the winner. Runsami River attracted a £2000 - £400 whilst Astra Via was weak and hard to lay. Business had been brisk though James Lovell told me that they'd been left out of the winner, on course they took £1100 and kept £800 of it.
There was drama in the Sytner BMW Swansea Junior 'National Hunt' Hurdle but before the action on the turf there were some fair exchanges in the packed betting ring. Bets included £1100 - £400 Zoeman and more modest amounts down to 9/4, plenty of money for Tintintin including £800- £400 and readies in smaller denominations starting at £300 there was a bet £4000 - £500 each-way Karavomylos noted. Bets struck, the race itself was developing into a cracker, coming to the last Jane Williams' Despereaux was challenging Tintintin and to many observers looked to be coming to win the race. His jockey, Peter Summers gave his mount a reminder, one that he appeared to badly resent and ran down the hurdle from the centre of the course to run out and unceremoniously unship his pilot in the process. That left Fergal O'Brien's 9/4 chance Tintintin clear and ran on to win as it liked from 2/1 favourite Zoeman.
There weren't any huge bets in the ring prior to DragonBet Norton's Coin Trophy Novices' Limited Handicap Steeplechase (Class 3). However, there was a huge result for the Welsh-centric sponsors. Brecon trainer Sheila Lewis' Straw Fan Jack won by seven and a half lengths at 3/1 to huge applause from the locals. To make things even more special, the trophy was presented by Martin Griffiths, son of Gold Cup winning Norton Coin's trainer Sirrell, something that was really appreciated by the winning trainer. Back down in the ring, the bookies told me that the winner had been supported, but only to modest stakes so not a terrible result in what was a modest staking race.
The feature race of the day was of course the DragonBet Welsh Champion Hurdle. From a betting ring point of view there was very little to write about. It appeared that the bigger punters and bag men had given the meeting the swerve. The race didn't disappoint, despite the field being reduced to just five runners. Irish raider Cian Collin's charge Effernock Fizz set out to make all under rising star Sam Ewing, turning for home 9/2 chance appeared to be bait for the better fancied horses in the market biding their time to collar her. However, the lady wasn't for turning it in and kept on strongly to win by a couple of lengths from 3/1 second-in Milkwood. Triumphant jockey, 18-year-old Sam Ewing collected the trophy from the Lovell brothers on behalf of connections. Photo opportunity over he was on his toes running to the Weighing Room, 'Plane to catch' he explained breathlessly when asked for an interview. There was a strange postscript to the race, on weighing in it was found that Keilan Woods, rider of third placed favourite Severance had weighed at 10-8 when he'd weighed out at 10-6. He was suspended for three days. How does that even happen?
12 runners went to post for the Phil Bessant Ltd - Roy Stephens Handicap Hurdle but there was only one that attracted a bet of note in the ring. A punter bet £3000 - £500 Richard Hawker's Farceur De Maulne. He got the value, eventually going off the 9/2 favourite, maybe he should have been less bullish and backed each-way though, the gelding finished a credible third behind market rival 5/1 winner, Tom Lacey's Camembert Electric which won by a couple of lengths landing a bet of £1100 - £200 in the process. 'Biggest bet we took all day' bemoaned the bookie who laid it. Weirdly, there was another heavy weigh in when Richard Patrick, rider of runner-up Robbie Dazzler also weighed in 2lb heavy and was also suspended for three days.
The biggest field of the day was for the 'Best Dressed Man' held in the paddock between races. I have no idea how you got to enter because I'd have chucked my hat into the ring. Sadly, I was a non-runner. Mind you, I'd have been a big price, even resplendent in my wedding suit. The competition was strong, and the winner looked a million dollars. Terry Lang, racecourse and press room regular said I would have had no chance anyway, which eased the blow.
I was told prior to racing that a big run was expected of Jane Williams' Folly Gate for the penultimate 3A's Carmarthen Handicap Chase Jane's horses had come from South Molton, even further than me and had no luck so far so was hoping for the best for them. Armaloft Alex is well connected to the yard and was here, so omens were good. Down in the ring however all the money was for Evan Williams' Court Royale. A bookmaker told me that he'd laid a bet of £2000 - £400 as well as a couple of bottles at the price. It's funny how luck goes, Mr Peter Summers on Folly Gate had the misfortune to be unseated after his mount ran out earlier. He did nothing wrong in this race, he came with a rattling run from off the pace, jumped the last bravely and hit the front in the shadow of the post. The combination looked so likely to win that £3000 was done at 1.01 on the exchanges only to get chinned a shorthead on the line, by Court Royale under the Adam Wedge drive. Gamble landed on the winner and a long drive home to Devon on the runner-up. I know people won't feel sorry for the bookies, but one in the ring lost £8000 on the race and it was a £2500 turnaround for DragonBet down there too.
The bookmakers' pain was compounded in the not so lucky last the Cazoo Open Maiden NH Flat Race when well-backed 6/4 favourite Rock On Harry obliged for Tom Lacey under Stan Sheppard. Once again bets were modest, but they all added up to what was a losing day for the bookies on my first visit to West Wales. I'd recommend it though, Ffos Las is a beautiful track with very friendly locals. Despite the bookmakers doing their dough I met a brand new one, Harry Speller [pictured above with James Lovell], he got into racing three years ago, thought he'd give bookmaking go, battled through all the red tape and has now achieved his ambition to be a racecourse bookie. New blood in the ring, great to hear. Aye Aye
That's it from Ffos Las, the Champion Hurdle sponsors, DragonBet commissioned me to write for them today. They are now live online, click through the banners either above or below to open an account.