Cheltenham’s season finale is the evening in the sun for the Point To Point community and the highlight of their season for many owners and jockeys alike. The crowd was looked be be an excellent number bursting with enthusiasm. It used to be a bit hairy betting on this meeting when I worked for the bookies. You’d take a load of £2 bets then someone would want £200 each-way on a 20/1 shot. Maybe with that in mind the he bookmakers’ numbers were well down on a normal meeting but you could still get a lump on if you wanted it. Nobody did want it in the opening Racing UK Hunters’ Chase with the biggest bets noted were both on on 5/2 into 15/8 jolly Broken Eagle. That money stayed with the layers when it the punters’ favourite found 9/1 Sam Cavallaro a couple of lengths too good under Rob Jarrett.
12 went to post for the Connolly’s Red Mills Precision Nutrition Intermediate Point-To-Point Championship Final Hunters’ Chase but the one they all wanted to be on was Lilbitluso backed from a smattering of early 7/4 into 11/8 with a couple of £400 bets seen on the rail. Icy rain started to descend as they lined up for the off, it might have seen off a lesser crowd but it takes more than average precipitation to permeate amassed tweed of that density. Those hardy punters were rewarded, favourite-backers at least got it right this time. The jolly came home three lengths clear under John Mathias from 22/1 bookies’ result Doctor Braveheart.
I spotted a face from Devon skulking along the rails ‘Farmer Derrick’ who had come up from Witheridge to see Barton Stacey of which he owns a leg run in the last. I guessed he wouldn’t have come all this way for nothing but he insisted that there was a minibus organised to he thought he might as well hop on it, we’d see.
The sun was sort of back out again before the Hunt Staff Benefit Society Hunters’ Chase (For The United Hunts Challenge Cup) got underway. Business was reported as very modest but that didn’t stop the supporters of Elizabeth Brown’s Cousin Pete screaming the stands down when proving a couple of lengths too good for his rivals. Once again the bookies’ result 25/1 shot High Hatton was runner-up, just to rub their noses in it. Templebraden was the uneasy 9/4 to 3/1 jolly and didn’t make the frame.
Armaloft Alex was at Ascot rather than Cheltenham for some reason but did mark my card for a couple of these tonight before racing, yes you read that right, before racing. The first of those was Gunmoney in the Champions Hunters’ Chase. Followers of Armaloft and Gunmoney would have had a thrill, the gelding made a valiant effort to make all. He looked like doing it turning for home and was only reeled in by Jane Williams’ 3/1 winner Pearlysteps and runner-up and 16/1 ‘result’ Barel Of Laughs on that infamous run-in. Gunmoney’s each-way backers were still rewarded with third place at 8/1. The one ‘they’ all wanted to be on was Current Event hammered in from 15/8 into 5/4 but never looked like getting the money trailing in a distant fifth.
Only seven went to post for the Centaur Party With Greg James Tonight Mares’ Hunters’ Chase, the smallest field of the evening. The Flying Doc and Comedinewithme were sent off the 5/2 joint-favourites but were no match for the Pauline Harkin trained and Immy Robinson ridden 11/2 chance Popaway seven-lengths too good at the line. The evening was turning into Ladies’ night. And so it continued when Josephine Banks rode the Martin Weston trained Vasco Du Mee to a 5/1 victory in the hotly contested 19-runner Cheltenham Challenge Supporting CCP Open Hunters’ Chase. The winner had been trimmed from 11/2 so not a lot of good for the bookies though they did get 7/2 jolly Major Malarkey out of the frame.
The last race of a memorable season at Cheltenham was the Brian Babbage Memorial Open Hunters’ Chase. It looked as if Farmer Derrick was telling the truth about Barton Stacey, at least it seems neither he or anyone else had their millions on it drifting from 16/1 to 25/1. Armaloft’s second tip Foynes Island was running in this heat too and another that looked only to have an outside chance hovering around the 16/1 mark. All the rage was Full Jack, plenty of bets went at 11/10 and 6/5 to send favourite-backers home happy and bookies crying into their fish suppers. I’m going to have to take more notice of Armaloft’s pre-race tips, he certainly knows his onions. We didn’t cop though but were only a neck away in second behind 6/1 winner Big Fella Thanks. Sadly for the mini-bus from Witheridge Barton Stacey fell and was beaten at the time. The jolly was back in a, never really looking like winning, fourth place so bookies should have copped on the last race at Cheltenham so will be on the front foot until their brand new season starts in the autumn.
It may have been the last race but the fun certainly hadn’t finished. The younger element and the young at heart were all heading off to boogie away to Radio 1 DJ Greg James in the Centaur. The bookies probably weren’t though, too busy counting all that shrapnel, all they’d been taking – or so they’d have you believe.
(c) Simon Nott
I have have just published Vol 1 of what I hope will be an annual ‘Simon Nott’s Betting Tales’. This covers the 2013 season in the betting ring. All the blogs I wrote in that period brought together in an e-book for about the cost of a pint of Guinness at the Cheltenham Festival. It is on Kindle only but can be read on pretty much any device if you download their free reader. If you were an avid reader of my blogs (if you were, thank you) in 2013 you will have read them all. However if you only dipped in or missed them altogether I think you might enjoy them in this format. Here’s to link to buy
My book Skint Mob is still available on Kindle and various other e-book formats and also in paperback via Amazon or direct from me on this page. £9.99 plus postage. Many thanks for reading this, and my blogs.