Last Saturday’s ‘Tales’ from Sandown will appear exclusively in the next issue of Racing Ahead Magazine please support the magazine that supports me.
Sorry for sounding like a broken record but once again, it was great to be back on the turf after another enforced holiday from it. People of a certain age will remember this meeting as ‘The Schweppes’ and that it always seemed to be off because of the weather. They’d be right, it was five times out of eight from 1978 to 1986 inclusive but has only be abandoned three times since then. Bit of trivia for you – thanks racecard.
Today’s meeting didn’t need an inspection but was run in very testing conditions which may have accounted from the lack of runners in all but the feature race. It has to be said that the buzz also appeared to be missing from what’s usually a jewel in the run-up to Cheltenham. Betting for the opener, the Read Paul Nicholls Exclusively At Betfair Novices’ Hurdle, was conducted in miserable weather but it didn’t stop a wholesale plunge on Emerging Talent supported from 4/5 to 8/15. That plunge was a great start for the bookies when the support proved ill-judged when the jolly was shown a clean set of hooves by 7/2 shot Meet The Legend and ensured bulging hods.
The layers got it again in the next up, the Betfair Acca Edge Handicap Hurdle when 11/1 Count Guido Deiro was a couple of lengths too good for jolly Sykes at the line. Punters who got on at 4/1 to monkeys (£500) and carpets (£300) got the value, but as a famous trainer’s Westcountry bookie Granddad used to say, ‘You can’t eat value.’ There was also good money seen for Millanisi Boy and Zeroshadesofgrey of course all left behind.
Despite the market leaders flopping in the first two the punters were keen back Rocky Creek in the Betfair Denman Chase (Grade 2) which stayed a steady 2/1 with plenty of three-figure bets struck at the price. The reason the bottle (2/1) held firm was possibly the sustained support for Houblon Des Obeaux backed from 7/2 into as short as 11/4 before easing to 3/1 at the off. Easing is what it did in the race too, coasting home by what could have been known as a distance in old money with the favourite way back in fourth.
If ever there was a horse aptly named on the day it was Top Gamble, Kerry Lee’s charge was as big as 9/4 in the morning, tipped by my old mate Andrew Mount in his free GG.co.uk column for the Betfair Exchange Chase (Registered As The Game Spirit Chase) (Grade 2). That price had been whittled into 15/8 on course but that was smashed to bits. Meanwhile the morning market-leader Dodging Bullets despite bets of £1100-£1000 and an even grand drifted from a shade of odds-on to 6/5 second-in at the off Top Gamble having been punted into 11/10. That punt was landed in some style with Top Gamble a very easy 10 lengths clear from its market rival at the post.
The feature race, the Betfair Hurdle (Grade 3 Handicap) boasted 22 runners so virtually all the bookies betting a quarter the odds a place in the right and proper manner. The Mullins’-trained Blazer was backed from 4/1 into 3/1 favourite including several lumpy bets. There had been a tip about in the week from a well-respected source for Forest Bihan which may have accounted for a bet of £10,000-£500 each-way struck on course. The staff asked for the boss not to be told because he was on holiday. Should it have won it could well have ensured a permanent lay-off for the team, well at least until Cheltenham anyway. They needn’t have worried though, the tip horse reported as ‘goosed’ at the start and never at the races thereafter. The jolly only managed 9th place. Now I know this is after-timing but I don’t profess to be a tipster, but Armaloft Alex said prior to racing that the genius of George Nympton, Nick Williams’ Agrapart would have a chance in a difficult race. That confidence was bolstered when my bookie pals who are mustard with National Hunt speed figures – they put the work in, hours per night – put it 16 points clear on their calculations. As we all know now it won, with 11 lengths to spare. Good old Armaloft had put the word around so plenty of racecourse regulars were on at 20/1 or the SP of 16/1. One of said ilk, a petite blonde well-known on course but on a busman’s had evidently backed Lizzie Kelly’s mount. Can anyone remember the ‘Lassy’ scene from ‘Porkies’? If yes you’ll know what I mean such was her excitement on backing said winner it turned a few heads. If not, this is similar to what was heard from her direction as the gelding strode clear.
The books were in clover too, just not quite so passionate in their celebrations, though of course a few had run into the winner. There were no shortage of takers on the jolly even at the relative short price though so generally happy days in the ring with a least one firm boasting a skinner and another with a member of staff arm in the air. Joyous scenes!
In contrast the Better Odds With Betfair Novices’ Chase had only three runners go to post. Activial was sent off at 8/13 and finished last of three taking a couple of four-figure bets with it. Out Sam the 3/1 second-in won the race at least keeping the betting shop bore ‘outsider of three’ merchants firmly in their boxes.
The lucky last the Tap Tap Boom Bumper (Standard Open NH Flat Race) (Listed) saw Bleu Berry attract a couple of decent bets at 5/2 but it was Ballyandy ‘they’ all wanted to be on. ‘The Welsh won’t hear of defeat’ was the nod from one bookmaker. I don’t know who these collective ‘Welsh’ were but they were certainly right and punted accordingly. They would not be denied backing the gelding from 15/8 all rates down to 11/8f before its nine-length victory.
True it knocked a few quid back out of the bookies’ hods but didn’t bother those who braved the weather too much, they’d already copped their cash on the day. Not exactly money without work but it is better than a proper job I’m sure.
(c) Simon Nott
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