It’s always nice to hear about winners and the first story I was told at Exeter on a glorious winter’s morning was just such a tale. One of the regular bookmakers is also the owner/diver of a taxi. He doesn’t have a pitch at Newbury so was busy earning a few quid in has cab rather that taking on the punters on Super Saturday. He told me that he’d fancied four horses so decided on a pony (£25) yankee. I know, I know, you’d imagine that the big three would send around a limo to pick him up every Saturday if he bets like that, but who am I to chastise his betting patterns. Anyway from what I could gather as he gabbled, this story had something to do with AP McCoy retiring.
The cab driving bookie hurriedly explained that his first three (unnamed to me) selections had won. Now call me a pessimist but at this point I never expected that the story was going to have a happy ending. I assumed leg four of the bet was on Goodwood Mirage that came down, along with the champ at the first in the Betfair Hurdle. But no, the final and victorious leg was in fast McCoy’s 200th and retirement announcement preceding winner Mr Mole. ‘How wonderful was that’ he ventured? Well, as he copped a cool £5k very good indeed. Sadly he didn’t want to be named, possibly because he’d be sent begging letters, asked for fraction bets, be un-tipped in his cab or a combination of all three. But very well done, though I doubt that win, handsome as it is, made up for all the bets AP has cost him, but I’d hate to pour cold water on a story.
The first race of the day at a packed Exeter, was the Huge Cheltenham Offer At 32RedSport.com ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle which boasted 16 runners with prices ranging from a couple of 300/1 outsiders to 15/8f The Eaglehaslanded. The race was a dramatic one with three horses falling, including the favourite and one brought down. The eventual winner was Sir Ivan, backed from 9/1 into 8/1 and trained by Harry Fry. ‘Leg Lock’ Luke Harvey interviewed the trainer post-race and was told the win was ‘unexpected’. The price nibble suggested someone must have at least half expected it even if the trainer didn’t but it wasn’t a bad start for the bookies.
It had been a bad start for jockey Hadden Frost who fell on 300/1 shot Grissom. His injuries were such that the Devon Air Ambulance was called resulting in a 40 minute delay before the start of the next. The majority of the bookies bet on the race for all that time. Emerging Talent was backed from 5/6 into 4/5f. The favorite may have been well-backed but the other move in the race was for Colin Tizzard’s Native River, that one saw money from 15/2 all the way down to 9/2. And it sloshed in by just under five lengths from the jolly. Dutifully Luke Harvey interviewed the trainer post race. He was ‘At a loss’ as to why the horse had been backed and gave the impression that he too was quite surprised at the victory. It was turning out to be a lucky afternoon for guessing punters that’s for sure.
11 went to post for the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (Qualifier) with Morito Du Berlais going off at 7/2 market leader. The leader where it mattered, under the nose of the judge was 8/1 Regal Encore under Will Kennedy in the JP McManus colours. If there was shock at the result expressed I didn’t hear it but I expect Luke asked.
It was about this time that tale of another successful punt reached my ears. This time on the football. The punter is reported to be an acquaintance of Bo Brown who bets as West End Racing. The story goes that the punter had placed a rather ambitious 13 team accumulator on Saturday. 12 of the teams had won and all was resting on the result of the Burnley v West Brom game in which the punter had predicted a draw. He asked Bo and his father their advice, which was given, various permutations of lays that would result in a handsome dividend for a £2 stake, win, lose or draw. The punter gave it some thought then decided he’d let go and enjoy a round of golf while the match was being played them come back after his game either £59,000 up or £2 down. For those that don’t know, the game did end in a 2-2 draw (Aye Aye) and he copped £59k but at the time I was being told the story, he’d won but was oblivious to his good fortune still out on the golf course. Talk about cool cookie but I’d imagine that when he eventually reached the 19th hole he was a lively one.
Just before the running of the Willie Or Won’t He At 32RedSport.com Veterans’ Handicap Chase (Qualifier) were we told over the public address that the fantastic news that Hadden Frost was very sore but otherwise OK. That was music to everyone’s ears, speedy recovery. 14 went to post but the only one the punters wanted to be on was David Pipe’s Soll which was backed from 11/4 into 9/4. Give him his due, jockey Tom Scuadamore had to work and work on the gelding but eventually ran out the four length winner, gamble landed for the Pipe team.
Errrm, well no, at least not according to the trainer who when questioned by everyone’s favorite master of ceremonies Luke Harvey. David Pipe was ‘shocked’ that it had won. Given that you’d have to assume that one of the sharpest yards in the land had let a winner slip through their fingers un-backed when it seemed that the guessers had a treble up. Poor Luke must have been exasperated!
The fifth heat was the Cheltenham Day One Madness At 32Red Graduation Chase and saw Fingal Bay sent off at 10/11, though a couple of punters did get their monkeys accommodated at evens. Those bets may have nicked the value but they tell me value is something you can’t eat, the money and that value stayed with the bookies. The race went to 5/2 shot Masters Hill landing trainer Colin Tizzard a double in the process. Luke was back on mike soon after. Maybe he’d given up being given the rub down by trainers but this time he changed tact. He announced that connections had told him prior to the race that the winner was fancied. Thanks Luke, though sharing it with your adoring public after the race is generally frowned upon, you rascal.
My bookie mates who are mustard with speed figures told me, take note Luke, prior to racing that one of their standout bets for the Cheltenham Festival was Southfield Theatre. Paul Nicholls’ charge would be no price but if their calculations were correct should win with the minimum of fuss before going to the Festival glory. The gelding was backed accordingly into 4/6 (one punter got laid a £1000 – £1100, come racing) before winning by just under three lengths. That’s what the bare form will say but 20/1 Val De Law looked to be a huge danger when coming down at the last which could well have saved favourite backers and cost bookies plenty.
The racecourse cut it fine with a proposed 5.08 start to the 10 Free Bet At 32RedSport.com Intermediate Open NH Flat Race originally scheduled for 4.30pm. There was a little ripple among ‘racecourse regulars’, phone calls and hurriedly whispered messages in shell-likes all passing the same message, Doris De Silver. Some bookies had the grey mare priced up at 33/1 so not a tip to be sniffed at. Shrewd people were nipping all around the ring having their little bit of cash on. As post time came the 33/1 had been whittled down to around 25/1. Then disaster, the subject of their punting desire unshipped jockey James Best and had the time of its life evading capture from all and sundry would be captors. Eventually, after several great impressions of the Key Stone Cops by good meaning but hapless folk the beast was captured and reunited with its jockey. The pair seemed unaffected by the caper which was hurtling towards the race being run in darkness and joined the rest of the field to take part. One bookie reported the last bet in his book another £30 each way at 20/1. That must have been only seconds before the beast veered as the flag when down, bucked like a bronco and unshipped James Best again, this time as the rest of the field were heading off into the country. 5/2 shot Drumlee Sunset won the race from 15/8 jolly O O Seven. In the end the bookies had no chance, but at least they had a run. The ‘racecourse regulars’ that saw untold riches in backing Doris De Silver were left ruing getting involved in the ‘worst tip ever’ and were left trying to blame whoever it was that started the initial ripple. It seems that whoever that was ‘didn’t know shit from butter’ but proved elusive.
Maybe just guessing is the best option.
(C) Simon Nott
*FOOTBALL BET UPDATE*
Even better news for the punter came from Bo’s son Lewis with this tweet…….
Then for all you that may doubt the truthfulness of my ‘tales’. The bet!
Proper job I think you’ll all agree.
Next stop for me Kempton, I think I will have to start having a weekly £2 accumulator!
My (Award Nominated but sadly unplaced) book ‘Skint Mob – Tales From The Betting Ring’ is a book about the bookies, punters and other wonderful characters I have met in my time on racecourses. There have been some nice reviews.
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