Exeter’s Opening Meeting of the 2021-2022 Season. 7th October 2021

Glorious weather up at Exeter, phrases you never hear! What a better way to return to Haldon. I was lucky enough to be able to attend during last ‘lockdown’ season, but apart from the privilege of being there, it was pretty soul destroying. In total contrast, today was buzzing a good couple of hours before the first with a healthy contingent of chattering racecourse bookies setting up their gear while bathed in sunshine.

The first race, the NAF Novices’ Hurdle, featured a long odds-on shot, Nigel Hawke’s Diligent. The best price in the ring was Mike Smith who was doing his best to get in it at 1/5. All he managed to take out of it was a fiver, and an old one at that. Bo Brown betting in his prime spot got it in, £275 at 2/11 and Paul Metcalfe betting as Pickwick-Bevan in the front row also laid it, £20-£110. The punter who had that bet was reportedly quite confident and told Paul that the bet was to get his entrance fee back. Oh dear, that’s like Armaloft Alex, also in attendance today, putting his arm up. No surprise to those that take the fickle nature of the Gambling Gods into account that the jolly got turned over. Chris Down’s Battle March, the 13/2 second-in under James Davies outbattled the 2/13 favourite on the run-in to prevail by half a length after a prolonged tussle. At least those did their dough at 1/5 and 2/11 got value, trouble is, you can’t eat it.

Telf at the helm over in the Goodwin told me prior to the race, ‘In the first race Diligent is very a warm favourite with some customers trying to buy a bit of money late on. Any other winner is a good result for the firm and would be a great start to the day.’ A great start to the day it was then.

There was a blast from the past in the Press Room when Terry Allen, ex SP validator and Jockey Club Betting Intelligence officer turned up. It’s always great to share a workspace with Tel. He used to be a mimer on 60’s TV show ‘Ready Steady Go’ and once shared a dressing room with The Kinks, and today he was sharing the Press Room with me, ha.

Back down in the betting ring, the market for the Congratulations To The McCoys Nominees Mares’ Maiden Hurdle was all about Michael Scudamore’s Karlie backed from 7/4 into 5/4, but in reality the cash money was for Oliver Sherwood’s Puffin Bay. Cash was a bit of a talking point today, Exeter was a cash free zone, that is apart from the on-course bookies. Racegoers, all of whom had to book in advance on-line, witnessed a thrilling finish as the two market leaders fought out a hell of a finish. It took the judge Guy Lewis to separate them in a photo, Karlie under Brendan Powell won the race by a nose on the nod. Most of the layers I spoke to had either won on the heat or had to lay the winner on ‘The Machine’. Telf over at Goodwin told me ‘Puffin Bay and Blue Collar Glory were small losers however the business was not as good as the first race’ he added ‘Karlie one of the better results surprisingly! Fantastic start for the good guys’. For people that bet with the sponsors of this blog, the ‘Goodwin nose losers offer’ meant that punters on the second got to up to £100 back as a free bet. If you haven’t opened an account with Goodwin, here’s a link to their website https://goodwinracing.co.uk/

David Pipe’s Paricolor was a late withdrawal from the The Jockey Club Jump Racing Awards Day Handicap Chase, he was 9/1 chance so a 10p Rule 4 was actioned on course for the very early betting. The market was very competitive, Sizing At Midnight the 2/1 favourite having been backed from 3/1 on course. The other feature of the punting was the weakness of Troed Y Melin which drifted to 5/1. In contrast, Telf over in the Goodwin office told me ‘This six runner affair Troed Y Melin and Sizing At Midnight are our biggest losers, Neville’s Cross is a great result and Zoffee is very reasonable’. Telf couldn’t have written the result in better had he been asked. Tom Lacey’s Neville’s Cross won the race under Stan Sheppard from 14/1 chance Carolines Charm. It was an extra special victory for Stan, his 100th winner under rules. Neville’s Cross was returned 16/5, yes I know, what’s all that about. There’s no tic tac for price and I wouldn’t have happened in Tel’s day.

Telf came on to tell me that in the Celebrating Both Equine & Human Heroes Handicap Hurdle ‘Sergeant is very popular especially after the even money winner of the last race at Worcester, customers are weighing into another shorty. Any other result is a good winner for the firm.’ Sadly for Telf, Goodwin and probably all the other bookies, Milton Harris’ charge Sergeant was far too good for these and won with consummate ease under a very confident ride from Mitchell Bastyan. There was some surprise at the SP of 8/11 having been hovering around 5/6 for most of the betting before collapsing late on. The only consolation for those on at SP was that in hindsight it was still probably tremendous value.

Wandering around the betting ring between races, it transpired that Ian from the Pickwick-Bevan joint had spotted the guy that did £110 in the first trying to win his entrance money and had given him the old-fashioned rubdown. He’d suggested that he’d never paid £130 to come racing before. It seems old fashioned rubbing down wasn’t the punter’s thing as he’d not had a bet with the firm since, shame, goading punters used to be a great marketing tool for on-course bookies. Gary Wiltshires’ old right hand man Pete Houghton was ruing his luck. He’d copped £850 laying the first favourite on the machine then since done it back with interest having laid four and a half monkeys Neville’s Cross in the third. Still we were only going into the race before the penultimate so plenty of time for him to do it right again.

The Celebrating Both Equine & Human Heroes Handicap Hurdle was another race that looked competitive. Gerard Mentor and Serjeant Painter were jostling for favouritism at around a carpet each of two on the official show but 7/2 each of two could easily be had in the betting ring. Come racing. But for those that can’t, as they set off Telf over in the Goodwin office told me ‘Very interesting race the next at Exeter- Mi Laddo was well backed at 7/1 and best-priced 15/2 early this morning and that is definitely our worst loser, Serjeant Painter is another bad one.’ At first glance Katy Price’s Rathnure Ranger winning at 10/1 for the Katy Price Racing Club under Ben Poste was a cracking result. However, the winner had been available at 20/1 in the morning. I nipped down to the ring to check that they’d not been unduly tucked up, they hadn’t, despite having been 16/1 early skirmishes. To a man they reported a good winning racing, even Pete Houghton who was now happily back in front. Goodwin escaped unscathed too, confirmed by Telf who told me ‘Good result for the firm, been a great day for Exeter so far!’

Rathnure Ranger 10/1 winner of the 3.40 enjoys a bucket of water and a pat.

Just four went to post for the penultimate, the McCoys Jockey Club Jump Racing Awards Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase. Betting was very tight with all having a chance. Tel told me ‘Rhythm Is A Dancer is all the rage, I think the punters are trying to warm up with Nicholls before his Chepstow raid tomorrow. Storm Home is friendless and despite the price shortening is a good result. Will take anyone but the favourite here’. Telf got his wish. The original big outsider of four, Richard Phillips’ charge Organdi had been available at 12/1 if you were up with the lark this morning, 5/1 was the best price on course before being supported into 7/2 and winning nearly 10 lengths under jockey Daniel Hiskett. The victory ‘went to plan’ according to the winning trainer. He said that the trip and going were in his charges favour and was hopeful despite being 6lb out of the handicap. Gamble landed. The betting ring were largely unscathed as were Goodwin Racing. Telf told me that it had been another good result for the Good (win) guys.

The concluding race on the card was a special one for the betting ring. Peter King Memorial Season Opener Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle. It was run in memory of very popular and extremely well-liked local on-course bookmaker Peter King who bet under his late father’s name Roger. Pete died on 24th November 2020. Before lockdown he was a regular at the local tracks and beyond and will be greatly missed by all his colleagues and punters alike.

Peter King

The feature of the betting for Peter’s memorial race was the money for David Pipe’s Major Robinson which had been available at 25/1 at lunchtime bet into around 7/1. Bo Brown betting as West End Racing reported laying it on course too in what was a lively betting heat. Others backed were the favourite Guinness Affair and Eclair Des Sablons, ‘nibbled’ quipped Jo of the Ivor Perry firm. Telf over at Goodwin Racing told me, ‘Guinness Affair and Get Back Get Back have been well supported here along with Celestial Force being in Nicholls multiples’. He added, ‘Anything outside those three would round this day off very well.’ Despite support, none of those managed to win Philip Hobbs’ 14/1 winner Guernesey had been easy to back but won nicely for owner Terry Warner going away under Sean Houlihan. I’m sure Peter King would have been happy with that, a nice 14/1 drifter to ensure that his bookie colleagues concluded the meeting with a winning race. That concluded an excellent afternoon up on the Haldon turf.

Simon Nott

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