Today’s meeting at Kempton was an additional ‘put-in’ meeting, that is one that’s been added to the calender to make up for meetings lost to the weather, info for the benefit of new readers. Given that, nobody was expecting a huge crowd here today so probably no lumpy bets either. It does highlight the contrast between Saturday at Cheltenham and these bread and butter days that keep the show on the road.
And so it was in the first, the racinguk.com/anywhere Handicap no lumpy bets and a race worth only £1519 to the winner. However, one thing you do know if you watch Kempton Park on a regular basis, the quality of animal on show bears no relevance to the excitement quality of the racing. The crowd was sparse when they set off for the opener but the mixture of annual members, racecourse regulars and if appearances are to be taken at face value, skiving tradesmen*, were treating to a thrilling finish. Lutine Charlie had been backed from 9/2 into 7/2 and was locked in battle with steady 3/1 shot Little Big Man. The machine made the latter 1/3 to win in the photo and so it proved but with only a nose in it you’d have been a brave man to get involved at ‘carpet-on’.
Six went to post for the Racing UK 3 Devices 1 Price Maiden Fillies’ Stakes, Southern Storm was backed without exception from 11/8 into 11/10 and won by six lengths. That’s not nice for the bookies even if the bets were small and they didn’t have to pay a betting badge. Yes it was free entry today, that would explain the larger than expected crowd, but one of the layers did comment that ‘It was a well kept secret’. Seven went to post for the racinguk.com/winterseasonticket Handicap one firm on the rails were made to jump when a punter had £1100-£400 Pour La Victoire which unsurprisingly got clipped to 5/2. At the furlong pole the money looked certain to stay in the hod. No sooner had the bookie worked out that he’d got the days exes the gelding began to fly home only just failing to come from last to first by a rapidly diminishing neck behind 11/2 chance Ziggy’s Star. Bowie fans may have risked a coincidence bet though it didn’t seem the crowd. One racecourse regular was spitting feathers at the ride given to Chelwood Gate which finished third after leading in the shadow of the post. Well it is disheartening to go out of your placepot after only three legs, who to blame but the hapless jockey.
The Racing UK Winter Season Ticket Fillies’ Handicap was another to boast seven runners and a tremendous finish that would have done justice to Royal Ascot albeit in slower motion than you’d witness there. It wasn’t good for the bookies though with 9/4 (from 5/2) favourite Perfect Alchemy scrambling home a short head and a neck in front. ‘It’s small and poor’ said one bookmaker on the rails, ‘Appalling’ went up the cry from the lone bookie in Tatts. Looking on the bright side if you can’t take it you can’t lose it!
The penultimate heat was the Racing UK 3 Devices 1 Price Handicap, another seven-runner event, this time Class 4 worth a not to be sniffed at £4051 to the winner. Saint Pois opened up the 9/4 jolly and so it stayed but the race went to 8/1 shot Doctor Parkes a head in front from Head Space that had been nibbled from 7/2 into 3/1. That result should have at least paid the train fare into town for the Rails Bookmakers’ Association AGM later, at least you’d hope so.
The lucky last, the Racing UK Day Pass Just 10 Handicap was run under the floodlights. Rumour amongst the regular punters in the ring was that the money was here for Epsom Flyer. At least that was the word from ‘Puddle’ who shall remain otherwise anonymous. However, the bookies opened Sonnythenavigator a shade of odds on at 10/11 with the ‘talking horse’ 3/1. Positioned down on the rails I awaited ‘the money’ for Epsom Flyer, but none transpired, in reality the gelding eased to 7/2 while the jolly hardened slightly to 5/6.
The market got it right, Puddle’s ran well to be second but at the line the jolly won a length going away after a confident ride. By the looks on the bookies’ faces they were glad it was all over. Still, as we all know a bad day at the races is better than a good day at the office, racing had been exciting and the expenses minimal. How many weeks to Cheltenham?
* It appears National Sickie Day has some substance, it’s probable some of the bookmakers present had wished they’d joined in too!
(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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