A huge crowd turned up on a glorious winter day for a bumper nine-race card. There wasn’t a great start to the day for bookmakers when Charli Parcs was a late withdrawal from the opening JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 2) (Registered As The Finesse). Priced at 11/10 at the time a 45p in the £ Rule 4 was imposed on early backers of the eventual 1/6 winner Defi Du Seuil. Considering those early on-course punters got on at best I heard 5/4 and plenty of 11/10 the eventual 1/6 winner that wasn’t bad value at all. I expect the front page is being held in the racing press as I type, those poor bookies had their pants taken down with that deduction with punters paid out at around 4/7.
Just proving how dog eat dog it still is down in the ring I heard of a couple of incidents of bookmakers betting the winner with other bookmakers prior to the withdrawal, of course nobody is suggesting they knew in advance that one of the market-leaders wasn’t going to run but their good fortune was at their brethren’s cost.
The second heat, the Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase was more conventional with all 14 going to post and the market wide-open. Colin Tizzard’s Royal Vacation winning at 12/1 wouldn’t have been a bad result for the bookies but with a yard in form by no means a great one either. On the plus side business was reported to be brisk.
The Hugo’s Restaurant Barbados Trophy Handicap Chase (Grade 3) was just as competitive with Aso sent off the 5/1 jolly clipped in from 11/2. Whilst I was in the thick of the action in the betting ring Armaloft Alex was down in the paddock where professionals often lurk. He was talking to one of their ilk that I haven’t seen for some time and one of a couple pro-punters with the handle – the beard, liked the look of one as it was being led around. He was reported to have waxed lyrical about the 12 horse but then after a cursory glance at his notes dismissed it as not having good enough form to win to didn’t back it. The man in question is gentleman so i doubt he swore but he must have been gutted when number 12 Foxtail Hill, a 12/1 shot, went for home at the bend. He would never admit it but I’d bet a couple of quid that he was secretly hoping that the fast-closing Saphir Du Rheu was going to collar him up the hill. It did look likely but it wasn’t to be another Maljimar moment with Nigel Twiston-Davies’ charge holding on by a length under Jamie Bargary at the line.
Had the learned professional read the latest issue of Racing Ahead and more specifically my regular ‘Tales From The Betting Ring feature he’d have noted that Foxtail Hill did well to win at Kempton last time jumping out to the left and would have been better-suited on this left-handed track. It’s easy after the event, I’m not crowing though because I wasn’t on either.
The layers had a short one to get stuck into in the Spectra Cyber Security Solutions Clarence House Chase (Grade 1). That was just as well as the punters were keen to accommodate those that wanted to get Un De Sceaux into their hods. Plenty of three and four-figure bets were seen on the rails forcing the price into an SP of 1/2 after 4/7 and 8/15 was readily available. The bookmakers certainly got the money into their hods but had to pay it back with generous interest a few minutes later when the jolly won without too much ado.
All eyes were on Thistlecrack for the BetBright Trial Cotswold Chase. There was plenty of money for the odds-on favourite but this time the books kept it. The jolly made a couple of errors but was still battling it out up the hill with just Many Clouds between him and victory. The bookmakers were roaring ‘Come on Clouds’ and cheered above the crowd as they got their wish Aye Ayeing the gallant Many Clouds as he got home a head in front of the jolly. Those cheers were still ringing in the ears when tragedy struck. The winner, the heroic Grand National winner collapsed and died just after the race while on the course. A terribly sad end to a terrific race and illustrious career. Racing can be so cruel at times with its brutal highs and lows. The floods of real tears in evidence down at the Winners’ bore testament to how much some racehorses mean to so many people.
No matter how sad, the show rolls on.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase is a race where they go around and around until the favourite wins. The saving grace for the bookies is that it gives them and their staff an chance for an ablution break while they are running. Well maybe I said it once too often because the race threw up what they used to call a ‘right result’. There was a deafening silence in the stands when 50/1 French raider Urgent De Gregaine eased into the lead after the last to win by a cosy 3l from the 11/8 jolly Cantlow. The win was all the more remarkable as Emmanuel Clayeux’s charge put up 3lb overweight under Felix de Giles. The bookmakers would normally cheer one of these home but there was a muted stunned look about the rails as clerks did double checks to ensure the one they thought had won had one. One firm couldn’t resist and called ‘Pay Pay’ down the line in Tatts, that meant they copped the lot and had to have a little boast.
The fun didn’t last long for the betting ring though, they were back down to Earth with a bump when Wholestone won the Neptune Investment Management Classic Novices’ Hurdle backed from 7/2 into 11/4f. The race lost a bit of its shine as a spectacle when the hurdles in the home straight were missing from the home straight. Of course that didn’t bother the winning punters crowing at the bookies as they queued to draw their cash winnings. Then it got worse, Unowhatimeanharry winning the Cleeve Hurdle the 10/11f was a hammer blow to the bookies digging into their cop in the Cross Country much sooner than they would have liked.
By the lucky last plenty of people had started to make their way to their cars, no matter how good the racing by the ninth a lot of racegoers have had enough. It wouldn’t have helped that the last, the Steel Plate And Sections Handicap Hurdle, was another tricky punting race. David Pipe’s Max Do Brazil had been tipped up by an often lethal tipping service in the morning, he was sent off at 9/2 reflecting this but ran inexplicably badly and was pulled up before the last. That cash stayed with with bookies. Wait For Me was another one punted from 5/1 into 7/2 but could only finish fifth so the bookies copped that too. The trouble was for them was that Alan King’s William H Bonney had also been punted, from 6/1 into 5/1 and won the race. To make it nastier 50/1 runner-up Man Of Plenty would have been aptly named had it won. But it didn’t so it was all hypothetical and the layers did their dough. It seems churlish to talk money when the connections of Many Clouds must be devastated this evening. But this is a betting blog on a day of real highs and stomach wrenching lows, to top it off the bookies may have given it all back.
It’s the festival here next, and we all know who comes out on top there.
(c) Simon Nott