Tales From The Betting Ring – Higos Insurance Services Somerset National Day – Wincanton 21/01/16

Well It was great to be back on course after what has seemed an age, Wincanton’s meeting passed inspection before the 8am allotted time. As the bookies were getting set up I asked a few what they had been up to with all the racing off. Most just shrugged and said not a lot but a couple replies are worth repeating. Andrew Smith who bets as Festival Racing told me that he’d  and invited some racecourse regulars along to Bristol for late Christmas drinks, at his expense of course. Who says bookies are mean, no not me.

He went on to explain that there were several acceptances and a great time was had by all. When he went to settle the bar tab he wasn’t perturbed by the £380 bill. However he was slightly disturbed by the additional £30 charge for ‘soiling’. It transpired that a certain member of the party had rather overindulged in Andrew’s hospitality and ended up depositing most of what he’d partaken in the toilets. Well not in the toilets but around below and above hence said charge. Tut tut, we were all 21 once I suppose.

All smiles on the rails, this is the best you can hope for, honest!

All smiles on the rails, this is the best you can hope for from this chap, honest!

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The second recollection was from  a regular in these blogs, Paul Metcalfe who until of late was the fourth generation of Jack Bevan and Co (Est 1897) but is now a Goodfellow and part of the Pickwick- Bevan organization. Well Paul being a top man and concerned employer went to long-time firm employee Ian’s home to see how he was bearing up amid all the non-racing action. ‘It was hideous’ warned Paul, before elaborating ‘There he was, sat on his sofa stark-naked drunk on port watching Countdown. Well naked apart from a pair of rubber boots and a note pad to hide his modesty.’ I looked at Ian expecting a protest, but he just grinned, his only conflict with Paul’s story was that it was an A3 pad not a notebook, but we won’t go there. Needless to say everyone was happy to be back on the straight and narrow of racecourse life.

Paul Gold desperately trying to think of an excuse not to join Ian (right) for an afternoon of Countdown!

Paul Gold desperately trying to think of an excuse not to join Ian (right) for an afternoon of Countdown!

Luke Harvey was quite excited that his namesake, Colin Tizzard trained Leg Lock Luke was running today. He mentioned it several times during his stint as MC but would have to wait until the last of the six races to see it in action. The entire meeting was sponsored by Higos Insurance and boasted six races with plenty of runners.

The opener was a nasty to one for the bookies to get back to work in the  Higos Insurance Services Somerton Handicap Hurdle with 16 runners. Paul Nicholls’ Present Man was uneasy in the market sent off the 2/1 favourite though did attract a couple of decent bets below that price in early skirmishes. The weakness proved prophetic the jolly only managed sixth behind 16/1 winner Pilgrims Bay which won by a fast diminishing head. A little bird told me that connections of the David Pipe trained gelding had quietly had it spark off backing him but had their hearts in their mouths in the run-in knowing that their beast wouldn’t react kindly to any use of the persuader.

One of these chaps, and to give you a clue it wasn't the well-respected betting ring manager to the right incurred a 'soiling fee' at Andrew Smiths local. Tut tut.

One of these chaps, and to give you a clue it wasn’t the well-respected betting ring manager to the right, incurred a ‘soiling fee’ at Andrew Smiths local. Tut tut.

Wuff was another losing favourite for the Paul Nicholls yard when unable to fend off Quite By Chance after the last despite being supported from 5/2 into 9/4. The winner had been a steady 8/1 chance in the ring and was a popular local winner for the Tizzard yard. The yard copped again in the feature Higos Insurance Services Somerset National Handicap Chase when Golden Chieftain landed a 14/1 victory from 7/2 jolly Dawson City who blundered his chances away after the fourth last when looking a likely winner. Colin Tizzard was over the moon with the win and quite happily chatted to Luke about his namesake I mentioned earlier. He laughingly said that they’d bought the beast despite the name but that the staff think he’s a very nice horse. Poor Luke, but it takes more than a gentle put down like that to deflate our man.

The race before the penultimate was the  Higos Insurance Services Yeovil Handicap Hurdle and saw a nice gamble landed by top Devon trainer Richard Woollacott’s Floresco. Well-respected tipster Westcounty Racing put the winner up to subscribers in the morning when 8/1 was hawking before being punted into 5/1 by the off. The runner-up Rafafie was putting up 1lb overweight and was beaten just over a length, 9/2 jolly Baby King was back in third. Spare a thought for the punter that had a £3000-£240 each-way Eddiemaurice on the rails on to watch it finished a yes you’ve guessed it, fourth.

On the other hand, Jim is the poster boy of the Martyn firm.

On the other hand, Jim is the poster boy of the Martyn firm.

Colin Tizzard had to settle for second when Marden Court found 10/1 winner Daveron a couple of lengths too good in the Higos Insurance Services Street Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase. Leg Lock interviewed the winning owner, he hadn’t backed his horse and only had once before when finishing out of the frame at 100/1. Come on owners, give the bookies a chance, have a bet! Mind you the results had really gone the bookies way so don’t feel too sorry for them.

The race we, well Luke, had been waiting for, the  Higos Insurance Services Crewkerne ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle saw Philip Hobbs’ Casper King sent off the 6/4 favourite. Tom O’Brien had been due to ride but had been jocked off by Richard Johnson who had re-routed from frozen-off Ludlow. O’Brien then repeated the favour to poor Michael Nolan who had been due to ride 3/1 stable-mate Gala Ball, it’s a tough game this jockey lark. Leg Lock Luke opened 11/2 and drifted slightly to 6/1 one assumes unencumbered by the real Luke’s millions.

After a day of losing favourites some punters appeared to resort to desperate measures!

After a day of losing favourites some punters appeared to resort to desperate measures!

Unencumbered or not, Leg Lock Luke ran well enough before weakening to mid-division at the business end of the race. At said end it was hard to tell if Tom O’Brien was beaming when Gala Ball proved 12 lengths too good for the Johnson straddled jolly back in second. I’d wager the punter who had a £2100 – £700 the winner was though, not so sure about the rails bookie who laid it. It’s great to be back.

(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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