A cloudy but dry day in half term, ideal weather for a Newton Abbot mid-week meeting. It wasn't...
Laytown with AK Bets 08/09/22
Laytown has long been one of those meetings that I fancied visiting, so jumped at the chance of a day’s work with AK Bets at this year’s meeting. Having no press accreditation in Ireland meant that I was able to work on the pitch taking bets as well as writing this, another flashback to the good old days, except typing in the bets and scanning cards for debit bets was going to be a new one. Pitching up was nice and early, and bathed in sunshine, not drenched as per the Weather App’s miserable prediction. Advance tickets had reportedly sold well, and we were told the surrounding pubs were packed. It was looking good for a busy day. There appeared to be plenty of punters coming over from the UK, at least going by the number on the 8.10 from Bristol this morning. Familiar faces included a racecourse bookie from the Southwest on a busman's holiday. I was looking forward to dusting off my cheesy old sayings last used for a day's work on a pitch back at Wincanton in February 2008. The team for the day was AK working his magic on the book, his dad Tony, the two Daves, Graham and me making up the numbers.
AK Bets were operating four pitches at the track, hence the need for me to be tapping bets in for the firm rather than just my usual hovering about earwigging and writing. Luckily to my right there was somebody who knew what they were doing and had certainly kissed the Blarney Stone, calling the punters in, meet Dave O’Reilly. AK told me he is delighted to have secured Dave on the pitch for a lot more days work this coming winter and he’s a massive signing, given his experience in Retail working with Paddy Power.
The first race The Tote Always SP or Better at Laytown Handicap saw several faces from my local betting rings come up for bets, the boot on the other foot and all that. Dave was calling the punters that weren’t already mesmerised by his shirt, in. Things weren’t plain sailing at the business side of the pitch. AK was pulling his hair out, the phone signal was very poor and a punter trying to have a sizeable bet on the weak favourite Elanora was declined because of card machine connection late on. She was beaten into second behind 20/1 winner Pretty Smart. The winner was one of only two losers in the book, a frustrating start, AK didn’t really know how much he'd done as the computers weren't linking properly either, but small four figures was the guess, not knowing how the other three pitches had done.
The next race the Tote Guarantee On All Irish & UK Races Handicap saw Teddy Boy, No Speed Limit and Caesar’s Comet the three losers in the book. Business had really picked with punters queuing to get on. It was great fun having banter with the punters. Even more fun was hearing from AK behind the joint that after 3/1 chance and top weight Samrogue won plenty in the book ‘We are back in the game’. He’d gone for the winner and won nicely, at least on the main pitch. Swings and roundabouts after losing on what most would consider a winning race result in the opener.
Race three Tote Proudly Sponsoring Laytown Claiming Race and the card machine was playing again which was handy because several punters came to the joint wielding the contactless. This time they all wanted to be on the jolly Praying Mantis, backed from 9/4 into 5/4, but the biggest bet was a couple of hundred Euros. There was plenty of smaller money to go with it which mounted up to a nasty loser, ‘Anything but the jolly’ was AK’s summing up as they lined up. There was a big screen on course which was ideal for the bookies as you needed to get an early good vantage point to see anything on the beach. Watching live on sand or on the screen, the result was the same, a satisfied nod from AK as 11/1 Bringsty sprang a surprise to win the race. After going 1/3 in running the bogie fell out the back of the big telly, it was another good result but as is often the case it would have been better for the places had the favourite hung on for third.
The race before the penultimate was the Pride Of Place Maiden and they bet wide open 3/1 the field. The punters were steaming in again with a few €100 bets in the mix. Jinglers Bridge and The Penny were the two AK stuck it both up, the pair of them losing hefty four figures. Both got beat but the winner 6/1 Coeur d’Or still took the book which was disappointing because the gelding had been very easy to back, weak in the market doubling in price. Mind you, with Dave's gift of the gab calling in the punters you're going to lay them all, which is the idea of course.
The penultimate, The O'Neills Sports (Q.R.) Handicap was another busy heat, though some punters appeared to have started flagging after imbibing plenty of the local brew in the pubs way before the first. They were mostly sharp enough to latch on to the 7/4 winner Dream Today though, the first bet in the book was at €150 at 10/3 the gelding, come racing for value. The spread of money on the race meant that the gamble being landed wasn’t the disaster it could have been. AK told me that the €150 was the brother of an ex Paddy Power trader he massively respected, dynamite at pricing a race, called Jamie Smyth adding that that the smarts must run in the family.
Alessandro was a weak favourite in the lucky last, the Gilna's Cottage Inn (Q.R.) Race a heat where business took a significant downturn from the excellent previous four races. It wasn’t all that bad though, the punters who were getting involved appeared to be trying to get out on the day and ignored the shorts ones. That was ultimately very fortunate as the front two in the betting fought to the line, the judge required a photo to split them, 5/2 second-in Cordouan got the verdict by a short head over 6/5 favourite Alessandro Algardi, the book copped a monkey which ever one won, concluding a winning day for AK Bets. Anyone that’s not been to Laytown, it’s highly recommended and a unique racing experience. The venue is friendly, the punters are enthusiastic and as for the bookies, well they are different class, friendly as you like and full of banter. Just try walking past Dave and not having a bet!
Put Layton in your diary for next year.
As a personal heartfelt footnote. Very sad but rumoured news filtered through during the evening that The Queen had passed away. She was one constant in all our lives, a unifying figure in the UK despite your politics and Head of State the country could be proud of. There is no doubt she was the biggest supporter of horseracing in the UK and beyond, horseracing, as well as the country will be much poorer without her. Anyone who witnessed the joy on her face at the races when she had a winner couldn’t doubt her passion and love for the sport. God Save The Queen.