The race card for today's meeting featured a terrific photo of our late Queen, loving her racing....
Gowran Park - Goffs Thyestes Chase Day with AK Bets
I’ve been reading about the Gowran Park Thyestes meeting this week, the kids even get the day off school for the races. Tremendous. AK and his team, Graham and Dave were betting here for the first time last year and were amazed how busy it was. I was chuffed to be asked to come over for the meeting. AK picked me up from the airport before racing which was cutting it a bit fine but thanks to a second row seat on one of Ryanair’s finest and some just nudging the speed limit driving from AK we still arrived at a buzzing Gowran Park an hour before the first. The place was packed, the bookies looked set for a busy day.
The opening race, the Langtons Kilkenny Handicap Hurdle was a tricky one to start with, 19 runners and 13/2 the field. Business wasn’t as brisk as last year I’m told, but maybe last year’s race wasn’t as hard. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know a few ‘faces’ from the Irish betting rings over the last couple of years and they all appeared to be here. Once again the atmosphere in the ring here is something special, warm but you also know no prisoners are taken when the betting hots up.
I was chatting to Ronan from Matchbook when AK, came over, not to bollock me for chatting, but to suggest the book was odds-on to lose on the first, uncharacteristically pessimistic for him. Business appeared to have been tempered by the race being too hard for the punters. It seemed as if they were keeping their readies warm for the hotpots later on. That was the hope anyway. Field money was €1700 with three losers in the book, Derridae was one of them losing €1400. She made a valiant effort to make all but was collared close home by Listentomejack backed from 12/1 into 11/1 but copped €4.80 in the book. Not losing on the race, albeit only just, was the first odds-on shot of the day beaten. I pointed this out to AK who with a shrug of the shoulders said it would be boring to win all the time!
Next up and the Connolly’s Red Mills Irish EBF Ladies Auction Maiden Hurdle and another tight betting race with eight runners and a low margin for the layers. That’s right, low margin, come racing. Betting 3/1 the field, a punter who reads the blogs came to say hello, Andrew Fitzpatrick comes here every year and asked how I was enjoying it. Very much, was my answer, thanks for reading them Andrew and everyone else. People had decided to get stuck into this race, a good spread of business too according to AK. Graham and Dave were calling them in when they weren’t fielding money. Grafters. The one the punters wanted to be on early was Gordon Elliot’s Purse Price, 5/1 into 7/2 but drifted again when the money dried up but was the still bogie at the off. Ellis Boyd Redding was also a small loser to keep it company. Phrases you rarely hear, it was 'the green and gold to the rescue' when confidently ridden 10/3 chance Hands Of Gold won the race with Purse Price back in second.
The first of the day’s hotpots Teahupoo headed the market for the The John Mulhern Galmoy Hurdle. I hopped up onto the joint with Graham for this one, great fun having banter with the punters. Gordon Elliott’s gelding was a prohibitive price to many, a 2/5 chance so AK offered betting without the favourite as well, for which Longhouse Poet was a popular 5/4 into 11/10 selection. There were very few takers for the jolly in the straight betting which wasn’t altogether surprising given it was ‘top of the head on’ elsewhere. It’s probably facile winners like Teahupoo that makes Davy Russell happy he’s no longer retired. The jolly first, the rest nowhere and a carpet copped in the win book. The ‘Betting Without’ figure was a grand cop with Summerville Boy finishing runner up.
Next up, the feature The Goffs Thyestes Handicap Steeplechase. What a betting feast for the punters to get stuck into. The books bet 7/1 the field but people had warmed up by now and weren’t as so shy having it on as they were in the opener. My brief stint on the stool was over as the A-team of Dave and Graham got to work fielding bets taken in Euros, Pounds and on card from the bustling crowd in front of them. AK looked up and nodded to the dynamic duo on the front and smiled, ‘They can’t take the money quick enough’. Sure enough the guys were fielding money hand over fist. The biggest mover on course and losers, at least with AK was Darren’s Hope backed from 10/1 into 7/1, Carefully Selected 7/1 into 9/2 and Frontal Assault a steady 10/1 chance. Between races, another Irish punter Donal Cahill came to say hello, I’ve only ever seen him at Aintree before, he’s from Cork, a top man but with an accent it’s challenging to understand!
The race lived up to its star billing. With two to jump the jolly Carefully Selected was trading odds-on then 25/1 shot Dunboyne came to spoil the party for favourite backers at the last. Gordon Elliott’s gelding took it up on the run-in to cheers from the bookmakers only for them to choke on them as the jolly appeared to get back up. They bet 1/10 in the photo on the exchanges until the slow motion replay was shown on the big screen, as gasp went up, it was desperate, had Dunboyne gotten back up on the line? Evens was offered on the machine, but only briefly. The result was soon called, the jolly had held on by a whisker and cost the betting ring a fortune. It was an €8000 turnaround the wrong way in AK’s book which lost four-figures. Nasty, but fun for those of you fed reading about the firm winning I’m sure. Yes, there are plenty of you out there!
The race before the penultimate the Daly Farrell Chartered Accountants Beginners Steeplechase which boasted just three runners and a long odds-on favourite in Sir Gerhard which opened at 2/11. There wasn’t much the team could do apart from stick the prices up and see what came in. It gave them a breather after being under the cosh and having the cup snatched from their lips in the feature. As expected the race was a non event as a betting heat, just €137 fielded and €69 copped when the jolly won as expected.
Going into the penultimate AK informed me that they were €1400 down on the day. Disappointing for a busy meeting, but of course that music we could hear over the public address was certainly not the fat lady singing.
The penultimate was the Adare Manor Opportunity Handicap Hurdle featuring 15 runners and the real possibility of a turn-up to get back in the game. The punters still appeared keen to help fill the hod with Dave and Graham happy to help. Looking around the racecourse, it’s a proper community event, everywhere you see people engaged in little conversations. Sadly, news from the pitch early was that business had slowed, AK feared they’d not be getting their money back today. That wasn’t good to hear as I’d heard tell he’d booked a table at a steak house tonight, it’s always harder to swallow when the firm has lost. Poor old AK still hadn’t gotten over the photo that cost €8000 either, what was needed was a good winning race to put springs back in steps. After a slow start, things picked up markedly. At the off the book was holding €3000 with three losers. Lady Rita the absolute bogie for over €2000 in what turned out to be the busiest race of the day.
Bluebell Diva won the race despite clobbering the last. She was the overnight mover having been 6/1 but hard to lay on course drifting from 3/1 to 9/2 and a winner for €1100 in the book. She returned 7/2 favourite off course, 9/2 hawking on course, come racing. Winning €1100 over a jolly put a smile back on AK’s face as he celebrated with a Mars Bar. The day was not lost yet.
There was hope as Willie didn’t have one in the bumper, the concluding PJ Foley Memorial Flat Race. Gordon had two though, including the even money favourite Ankud. It wasn’t that one that attracted the biggest bet of the day so far, but D Art D Art €3000 - €500 each-way. The punter laughed, ‘Make sure it’s all there, I don’t want you tweeting about me if it's not’. I’m sure nobody would dream of that sir, but you’re in the blog. Ever industrious, the team were also betting without the favourite where D Art D Art and Jerisk Star headed the market.
At the off, the bogie in the book was unsurprisingly D Art D Art for €3500. AK had stuck his neck out. Kilbarry Coreli was also a loser for a couple of hundred euros, the rest winners. Jerisk Star went 1/10 in running, him winning would have been a terrific result. D Art D Art had other plans running on strongly close home to win and break the hearts of the AK Bets team. The winner returned 8/1 off course, don't tell the punter, AK was 10/1. To make things worse, yes dear reader, worse, it transpired that AK had bet €400 each way at 5/1 the collared close home runner up, that’s the double bump.
‘Just one of those days’ was AK’s summing up, adding ‘There’s always Dundalk tomorrow and Fairyhouse on Saturday.’ Quite stoic after an including his personal punting €10,000 losing day, and there’s still the steakhouse….
I’m back with AK and Co at Leopardstown next Saturday and Sunday.