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Taunton - Dave Criddle Travel Festive Fixture 14/12/23



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An 11.45 start for an eight race extravaganza at Taunton, plenty of runners too, what an excellent way to begin a weekend of sport on the turf. I'm at Cheltenham reporting from the Star Sports pitch tomorrow and Saturday. Here at Taunton there was a good Christmas atmosphere with market stalls and carol singers as well as what looked to be early Christmas parties in full swing in the boxes. That spirit would have been enhanced somewhat had revellers been involved with the gamble landed in the opening  Blackdown Motor Company Novices' Handicap Hurdle. Thomas Gallagher's Quian was backed from 12/1 into 13/2 and won nicely under Jack Quinlan. Punters somewhere got the money but they didn't appear to have clobbered the betting ring. One bookmaker laid a £1200 - £100 the winner, but from what I heard that was it. 

There were bigger punters in the ring for the Kings College Taunton Junior 'National Hunt' Hurdle, but they were only interested in the one horse, Jane Williams' Inside Man, bets included £1143 - £2000, £400 - £700 and £286 - £500. The money was well invested, the favourite won easily by eight lengths under David Noonan from Harry Skelton's 14/1 chance Great Valley. Nigel Hawke's yard is in great form at the moment and were no doubt very pleased with 125/1 chance Speiriuil's debut a further seven lengths back in third. Favourite backers were on target again when Ben Pauling's 11/10 jolly Fiercely Proud won the Jetset Tours And Flights Novices' Hurdle ridden by Kielan Woods from Fergal O'Brien's 50/1 chance Ryan's Rocket who gave the favourite a fright under Paddy Brennan. The latter, beaten just three-quarters of a length at the line was roared all the way up the straight by paddock guru Ken Pitterson who almost handed a Christmas bonus to his listeners on William Hill Radio. It was nearly the jackpot for the lady that had £1 on every runner in the race with Norman Barnes. Ultimately, her return of £2.10 might have quelled her enthusiasm to try the same system again.

There was drama after the race when the Hobbs & Johnson White team's 150/1 chance Thurley which after unseating Micheal Nolan after the third then managed to clear the racecourse boundaries and take an impromptu sightseeing tour of the surrounding areas. I'm told that the gelding was eventually reunited with its trainer after being traced to a nearby housing estate care of the sectional timing tracking chip in its saddle cloth. 

The fourth race on the card, the Jetset Tours And Flights Novices' Hurdle saw some decent bets down in the ring, or as it now is, a very long line. Bookmakers reporting taking wagers of £750 - £500,  £563 - £450, £1200 - £800, £1200 - £1000 and £1400 - £1000 Philip Hobbs and Johnson White's Ballee and £1500 - £1000 and £750 - £500 Paul Nicholls' Larchmont Lass. They finished first and second in that order, the winner under Michael Nolan. Poor bookies. It was nice to see that the winner is owned by a syndicate, it's the way forward, let's all get involved and have a leg in one. 

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Next up and the Canadian Affair Holidays And Flights Novices' Handicap Chase, down in the betting ring Ian who's Paul from Jack Bevan (established 1897) right-hand man had dug out his best Christmas jumper, the man likes value and that woollen garment has certain given him that the years he's worn it, even the carrot is still perky. One wag added that it was a shame his wearers own carrot hadn't fared as well, I'm saying nothing. He can afford a new one, jumper that is, the Westcountry bookie's were reported to be still counting what they copped at the Wadebridge point to point on Saturday. Just check out the results where they Copped Plenty. Back to Taunton and Jo from the Ivor Perry firm told me that every face on the track wanted to be on Seamus Mullins' Morfee which opened at 9/2 but wouldn't stop drifting on the machine. The only big bet reported to me in the ring was £2750 - £1000 Game Winner, but the only game winner in the race was 6/1 chance Morfee which hung on from Hardy Boy to win under James Best. The machine didn't know, but the shrewdies on course did. 

The sixth race on the card The Classic Collection Holidays Handicap Hurdle looked very competitive on paper which probably explains why punters didn't pull it up to any lumpy amounts. David Pipe's American Sniper was sent off 10/3 favourite and Paul Nicholls' Individualiste and Nicky Martin's Just Loose Change 4/1 chances. They all filled the places in reverse order behind Ben Pauling's 11/1 chance Samuel Spade winning under Kielan Woods, a double for the combo. Christian Williams invited me to join him in the parade ring before the race which was very nice of him. Venetia Williams' Heros was the strong favourite for the penultimate Dave Criddle Travel Handicap Chase and was backed accordingly to the tune of £2200 - £2000 x 2, £440 - £400 and £600 - £500. The jolly obliged and the bets were landed but only by a hard-fought head after a battle Mel Rowley's 8/1 runner-up Raffle Ticket. Backers of the winner probably got more excitement than they had hoped for while the bookies endured the second best-backed horse of the day getting home for the punters. 

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The concluding Christmas Meeting 30th December Handicap Hurdle appeared to be a race too far for the punters. The bookmakers all agreeing that business was dead. Kayley Woollacott's Gyllen won the race under Harry Cobden and returned 7/2 favourite. From a betting ring point of view that probably ensured most of the bookies lost on the race but only to small amounts and on the day to a bit more. The plus side though Kayley looks to have a nice horse on her hands which is exciting for the yard. I'll be back tomorrow. 

Simon Nott

As a footnote, if you'd like to come racing at Taunton, Newton Abbot or Exeter, stay at a racing yard, watch the horses on the gallops then enjoy a VIP day at one of these beautiful courses you might be interested in Nigel Hawkes Racecourse Experience Days