Tales From The Betting Ring – First March Fixture sponsored by Betfair 02/03/16

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Given that the UK’s media were expected to descend on Wincanton I got there early. Leglock Luke Harvey was there before me diligently going through the card for his pre-race address in the parade ring. ‘I wouldn’t bloody mind but it’s often only the man in red trousers and his wife watching’ he lamented. I did point out that as it’s on the PA everyone is listening and that I for one always do. It didn’t seem to hearten him too much but on the other hand he’s always jovial anyway. Here’s hoping red-strides at least was there, though he’d have to be hardy.

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If the talk hadn’t been about Victoria Pendleton’s participation in the card it would have been the weather, blowing a gale and perishing the best way to describe it. However is was all about Victoria, from here on in this blog known as ‘VP’. The Press Room was packed including some great and good who only usually make the premier meetings so proving that racing was taking the VP’s endeavours seriously. That is despite the howls of derision from some quarters at the very mention of her name. Not from most of those present today I may add, though I do emphasise the ‘most’ barely hidden jealously was veritably bursting from some quarters.

Of course the bookmakers had a vested interest with VP’s mount Pacha Du Polder likely to go off as jolly for the race she was riding in. That wasn’t until the third but even so I had a walk around the ring before the opener to get the gist of what bookies’ plans were. To save blushes I won’t mention names, ‘Lay, Lay Lay’ was a firm from Leicester’s plan on how to get money without work, though followed by ‘But we wish her well’. Not much further up from them the agenda would be to ‘Lay her for a place’ and ‘She’ll do well to complete’. It wasn’t augering well for VP as far as the bookies were concerned. One did voice a different opinion, he said ‘I’m not going down the book with her’ before adding ‘If I do she’ll win’, yes that good old-fashioned not exactly positive bookie outlook. His neighbour was less cautious boldly stating that ‘She’ll be my worst in the book by far’ and so it went on. Only on the rails did I get one layer saying that he was going to ‘go with her’ and ‘hopes she wins’.

Another story that has to be related before we get onto the main event was the uncomfortable consequences one retired bookmaker suffered when he accepted a free scarf emblazoned with the logo of a well-known betting exchange at Ascot recently. ‘I thought I was going to die my lad’ he exclaimed, before explaining that he’d been cold so accepted the scarf which he promptly wore around his neck. In no time at all he was itching, scratching and feeling generally unwell. Being the hardy soul that he is he battled on through the meeting ‘even backing a couple of winners’ but it was on the way home he really started to suffer explaining, ‘My eyes had started to swell up, so much so that my mate looked back and said I’m not being funny but you look as if you’ve got myxomatosis.’ Now of course this would worry a man, especially one of agricultural heritage so it was a very vexed retired bookie that got home, by this point with swollen hands and shortage of breath, gasping to his wife if he should call a doctor? Staying calm in all the excitement his good lady asked him if the smart yellow scarf he was still wearing contained nylon. ‘Lucky she mentioned it I’d never thought of that’ he said with a look of illumination on his face’ I’m allergic to nylon’. Behind every good man….

Before VP’s ride the books had a bit of luck getting an odds-on shot beaten in the opener, the Betfair Acca Edge Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle, Sainte Ladylime made short work of Paul Nicholls’ 4/9 jolly Antartica De Thaix thus ruining the day of the punters who staked £585 and £1000 on the beast to win. Spare a thought for the firm on the end of today’s rather depleted line who laid a £4000-£200 each-way Shanandoa only to see it clamber home in third.

David Pipe’s La Vaticane  may have been a slightly fortunate winner of the  Betfair Authorised Betting Partner Of British Racing Handicap Chase but it stayed on its feet two out when Vic De Touzaine didn’t thus landing bets struck at 2/1 and 15/8 and getting the bookies to give some back.

It was on us before we knew it, the Betfair Switching Saddles Hunters’ Chase (For The Dick Woodhouse Trophy). Despite all the vows to ‘Lay Lay Lay’ VP’s mount Pacha Du Polder was eventually sent off quite a strong 5/4 favourite to win. The nay-sayers were expecting and I hate to say it in some cases hoping for another poor effort from our heroine as the field set off with VP making the running. Those that had stuck their necks out financially on VP’s failure would soon have been ruing their mean-spirited ways. She rode with confidence and with every jump nailed another doubter. Hearts were in mouths as she only had to clear the last to win. She did, she won. The roar that went up from the crowd was no doubt heard down in the town and was genuine appreciation of the achievement of what can only be described as a very brave lady. Some in the minority were almost seething that they’d had to eat their words, probably still chewing in some cases.

Ian interviewed about his elegant dress sense - OK I made that up.

Ian interviewed about his elegant dress sense – OK I made that up.

Down in the ring the books had cheered her home too, just as they had when Frankie hit seven at Ascot. Why wouldn’t they, there’s no bigger plethora of sportsman in racing than down in the betting ring. ‘I didn’t say I was going to lay her, I just said I like her’ said one lecherous old workman born in 1897. The only misery was ‘Mossy’ who told me to go forth and multiply having apparently done money laying on the machine, shame. The footnote from comments before racing was the bookie that said she’d win if he went down the book with her, had. Oh well, there’s always a silver lining.

Well done Victoria Pendleton, many birds with one stone.

Paul Nicholls trained the winner of the next too, the Cash Out With Betfair Handicap Hurdle, this time with Tagrita under Harry Cobden but with similar ease to but to a less ecstatic reception, though I’m sure it meant just as much to Harry as Victoria. The punter who struck a £750-£300 bet the winner was probably chuffed too but the crowd had thinned out a fair bit so business had been light. You could hardly blame them for either legging it or staying in the bar with hail now arming the scything wind. Given the conditions you could hardly blame the bookies in the nether regions of the ring for upping and leaving before the Betfair Exchange Novices’ Hurdle either. Those that did saved their money when Duelling Banjos won easily, some punters helped themselves with bets of £1200-£600 down to £500-£400 noted, 2/1 a 6/5 shot, that’s handy, come racing. There had been word from Roger at @WCountryRacing that FiveFortyFive was fancied, and so it proved finishing second at 10/1 to reward each-way money though bar an act of God was never going to win today.

Surprisingly Paul Nicholls didn’t have a runner in the Read Paul Nicholls Exclusively On Betfair Handicap Hurdle so no hints from that quarter. There was a move for Royal Salute backed from 5/1 into 3/1 but it was Alexandra Dunn’s 7/1 Slidecheck that won the race. There had been precious little business. Poor old Ian on the Pickwick-Bevan joint was almost pleading for punters to come and bet with them, ‘My hands are, cold, my feet are cold….’ Lucky for him there weren’t money to pay out so the trip back to Torquay came just that little bit quicker though I’m guessing a fair bit cash lighter too. A least they were there to witness history. Aye Aye.

Next stop Newbury.

(c) Simon Nott

My  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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http://www.simonnott.co.uk/?page_id=315

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