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Irish Grand National with AK Bets - Fairyhouse 1st April 2024


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There’s something bracing about a 3.30am alarm, but when it’s to get you up for a flying visit to Fairyhouse for the Irish Grand National it’s a welcome one. It was morning coffee time when I got to the AK Bets office on the trendier side of Dublin. Although today’s a big racing day the conversation was darts. There was a steward’s enquiry to explain Head of Strategy & Performance Joe’s sudden improvement at the office oche. The guys weren’t actually calling for an objection but were dubious that the application of solitude enabled an improvement in all known form and an unwitnessed 180, an office first. There was photographic evidence and the man’s integrity is said to be impeccable, but a 180 on a nightshift, let’s just say the lads had their doubts and those darts do look to be at differing angles, you decide.
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The team betting in the main ring at Fairyhouse today were Dave Tyrrell and Celebrant ‘Gogglebox’ Dave O’Reilly at front of house and AK refreshed and rejuvenated after a sunshine break at the helm.  The racegoers were treated to the tricky looking Farmhouse Foods Novice Handicap Hurdle to kick off the eight-race card where they opened 7/2 the field. Business was a little slow to begin the day, stakes were modest, no doubt due to the nature of the race. Things weren’t helped when the power supply to the bookmakers went down, luckily AK’s team had backup batteries so were able to kick on while most of their neighbours were unable to work for a few minutes. With 20 minutes still to go before the first and the drizzle persisting I was beginning to realise I’d underdressed by at least a layer which I mentioned it to a nice chap that had come over for a chat, he’d been here since Saturday and travelled from Leeds. He just smiled and told me not to be such a soft southerner. Quite right too. Sadly, the punters weren’t having it on. By the off the biggest bet taken was €240 each-way with the fractions on Cave Court in a book that held €2000.
The race was an action packed heat. Willie Mullins won the race with his 9/2 second-in Implicit under Paul Townend which just got the nod in a desperate photo from 14/1 Ossie’s Lodge. The book actually copped €400, sadly AK’s punting was a tale of woe, a couple of each-way bets at the right prices both looked like winning in their turn but ultimately neither were placed, which is just the way the mop flops at times.
Next up and the O’Driscoll’s Irish Whiskey Juvenile Hurdle which boasted only eight runners but where they bet 7/2 the field. I must admit, looking around I did feel a bit sorry for the multitude of young ladies that had come dressed for a mid-summer ball. One of them tried to have a bet with Dave O’Reilly but her card declined, our silver-tongued hero chivalrously offered to exchange numbers with her so she could send the promised €10 via Revolut. That was all well and good though telling her that his wife had died four weeks previously was one step beyond!
All this jollity is all well and good but the fact there was time for it highlighted the relative lack of turnover. Business was a bit disappointing in the second too, nowhere near what you’d hope for from a crowd this size. Mind you, if you can’t take it you can’t lose it, Bottler’secret the 4/1 second favourite won the race nicely but the book only lost a round of drinks. 
The third heat, the Fairyhouse Steel handicap hurdle attracted an intrepid punter who wanted a win double. He had €400 O’Moore Park in this race with the instruction that if it should win, spin the lot up on Intense Raffles in the Irish Grand National. Meanwhile, I was sent on a tea run. It was a young crowd today, many of whom were getting quite excitable and lolloping around somewhat impervious to the perils of balancing the beverages. I’m happy to report I made it back to the joint not a drop spilled, more luck than judgement I hasten to add. Since I’d been gone, business had perked up, they’d laid a grand at 13/8 O’Moore Park and €2200 - €200 each-way Western Fold. The race was delayed when Mighty Jeremy unshipped his jockey and set off around the course eluding capture. When the field did eventually set off the book held €4200 and had three losers. 14/1 winner Whatcouldhavebeen wasn’t one of them and copped €3667 which made standing around in the drizzle suddenly seem a whole lot warmer.
Next up and the four-runner Rathbarry & Glenview Stud’s hurdle. It got interesting very quickly when the firm laid €5000 - €300 outsider of the field Maxxum. That’s 16/1 plus the fractions, the bet was placed by an ex bookmaker whose opinion AK respected so immediately cut the price. He was right to do so, before long the price in the ring came crashing down to 9/1. Meanwhile a younger race goer came to the joint asked the Daves O & T if they took cash, they were delighted to reply that they did. Which was just as well as shortly afterwards a punter wielding readies had an even €600 on the jolly Zarak The Brave. The general lack of bigger bets aside, despite the drizzle business was steady. Once the race was underway it looked for much of it like the shrewd money might have been well-placed. The gamble, Maxxum was still going well when he fell two out, that left Brewin’upastorm to grab the initiative and run on strongly to a 5/1 victory depriving the jolly and ensuring another healthy cop in the book.
There was another short one in the shape of Saint Sam which opened at even money for the Mcinerney Properties Fairyhouse Steeplechase, but there was no rush to back him. To be perfectly honest there was no rush to back anything in the race to any volume. A wide spread of bets was AK’s summing up, nothing lumpy, just a steady steam, a bit like the drizzle which was slowly becoming rain. 4/1 chance Journey With Me won the race, was the worst in the book and lost €900.
Next up, the big one, the Irish National. There was a drone up for this race, was it for the viewers at home or those ingenious in-running punters, who knows? My business was the AK business which included Yeah Man, €200 and €300 at 9/1 and 8/1 €400 each-way and €250 each-way Good Time Jonny at 11/1 and 10/1 plus Where’s Frankie €500 each-way at 12/1. The connections of Yeah Man watched the race stood on the joint alongside Dave O’Reilly but sadly their vantage point and excellent company didn’t bring them luck. The race went to 13/2 chance Intense Raffles. The book held €7200 and won €5000, AK just let the punters come at him and got lucky this time. It would have been a different story if the first leg of the earlier double had come in mind you, we’ve already mentioned the mop and the way it flops.
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AK feared the worst for the last two races, with the big one over the business might dry up. He was right, turnover on the penultimate Envirogreen Building Services Handicap Chase was lighter than previous races bets of €800 - €200 Read To Return and another bottle on St Denis’s Well at 7/1 were the highlights. On the plus side, the rain dried up too. Macdermott won the race at 5/1, ‘Another great result’ beamed AK, before adding ‘shame we weren’t holding any money’ he then had a think and conceded ‘well, we copped a grand and it beats working!’
Going into the eighth heat, the Leinster Reinforcements & Brazil Piling (Pro/Am) flat race the firm were €11,000 in front and now coasting. There was the little matter of €350 laid at 15/2 Patter Merchant followed by a €3000 - €420 the same horse from a bookmaker right in the hole. I had a flight to catch so AK and I were rushing to the carpark when when 2/1 joint favourite Redemption Day was called winning the race. Despite being one of the short ones, it was winner for €2700 from a book that held only a monkey more than that. For what ever reason, the punters left AK out topping off what had been a winning day.
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That's Fairyhouse done, next stop for AK and I, the first two days of Punchestown at the end of the month. Aye Aye, see you there. 
Simon Nott


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