Tales From The Betting Ring – Royal Ascot Wednesday 17/06/15

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Day two dawned with more glorious weather and PR driven stories of bookmakers losing £5m yesterday. With that news, though dubious to my mind, ringing in my ears it was with some trepidation that I did ‘the rounds’ before racing. Bearing in mind this blog champions the fortunes of bookmakers I am glad to report things hadn’t been as bad as they seemed. Generally that is, but we’ll get to that later. Firstly, the Queen’s hat, Dave Spice did have pink the worst in his book, but as predicted yesterday, he didn’t lose on the race, that’s called proper bookmaking.

Bashful Dave Spice hides behind his glamorous team.

Bashful Dave Spice hides behind his glamorous team.

Talking of hats Paul Gold, the polite side of the Pickwick-Bevan (est 2015) partnership, was betting down next to Dave by the bandstand wearing morning dress and a straw hat. I asked if I could have a photo with him, he agreed and then changed headgear for the photo. Apparently the straw one is more comfortable but evidently not as aesthetically pleasing.

A man of letters and a bookie of many titfers.

A man of letters and a bookie of many titfers.

Joe O’Gorman (est 1925) wasn’t angry with the Pickwick-Bevan (est 2015) jibes about his stature and cost of his miniature morning attire clobber in this blog yesterday. In fact the first winner of the day was that betting in Tattersalls he doesn’t need to wear it at all. Take that P-B (2015), he’d actually done OK on day one too, take that again. I did leave him explaining to a couple of ladies that regardless of what they had been told they don’t get refunds if their bets don’t win, only if they do win. We have to remember that gambling might be second nature for us but not to everyone so confusion reigns but it’s weird that they singled out Joe in search of punting utopia. Did that rascal Ian of the Pickwick-Bevan (est 2015) send them in with a tall story? You never can tell.

On my way to have a chat with Joe I bumped into Lynda and Jill. Both lovely ladies are from long-standing and well well respected bookmaking families, Bindon and Pittard respectively, and as always it was a delight to see them looking so radiant and glam as they always do.

Senior ladies of the betting ring scrub up well.

Senior ladies of the betting ring scrub up well.

Yesterday evening I spotted a very despondent looking John Hughes gazing out over the parade ring from behind his pitch which overlooks it. It looked to me like he was wearing that haunted look that comes over punters and bookies alike when they have had a bad day. Not wishing to rub salt into the wounds I approached him gingerly to see if I was in line for the drink he promised me if as predicted his pitch was OK as I told him it was. I need not have worried, he bore the smile of a man that wasn’t exactly cheesed off with how things had gone. He was keeping exactly how it went to himself, I’d wager he won though which was great news, I wonder if a ‘drink’ is a pint or something more exotic. Mind you, there’s plenty of time to go before that goes on ice.

Just up from him young Alex (as opposed to oldish Armaloft) was betting on another joint bearing the Dave Spice moniker. He had a story which had me chuckling. A lady who appeared of some excellent stock came to his pitch and asked if he was taking bets on who was in the Queen’s carriage that day. He replied that she could bet on the colour of the Queen’s hat but sadly not her companions. She looked disappointed. Alex then asked her if she knew in advance who would be in the Queen’s carriage that day. With a cut glass accent she cheerily volunteered the answer, ‘Oh yes’!

Down near the new pitches on the Royal Enclosure Lawn a group of bookmakers were chatting about who bet where, who got what and which pitches were best. It was mentioned that one layer who shall remain nameless said that his pick, which he was stuck with for the week, was ‘useless’. ‘It’s great then’ was the retort from a veteran rails layer of some standing, ‘If he said good morning to me I’d change into my pajamas!’

Star Sports’ Ben Keith reported that he was happy with the brisk business on course but that his firm had lost overall on every race at Royal Ascot yesterday. As always though he was confident he’d be getting it all back plus some and seemingly raring to get stuck into the first.

The Queen was wearing a blue hat when she arrived on course. ‘That was my worst, I laid a late £300-£100’ reported Dave Spice. ‘Yes it was worst for me too’ said Paul Metcalfe on the Pickwick-Bevan (est 2015) joint before adding,  ‘Spice had £60 back with me’. We are not talking big amounts here as you can see.

The rails they bet...

The rails they bet…

That was certainly not the case in opening The Jersey Stakes. Ivawood was backed from 2/1 into 15/8 with several lumps  laid on the rails including a £17500-£10000 as well as several £4000 and £5000 bets. That money must have encumbered the jolly because it tailed in 14th behind 14/1 winner Dutch Connection who was half a length too good for runner-up Fadhayyil. One firm laid a £45,000-£5000 each-way that one. They were probably thanking their lucky stars and ruing their misfortune running into it in equal measure.

The bookies didn’t have a lot of time to count their winnings because all those who backed Acapulco in the Queen Mary Stakes from 3/1 into 5/2 were soon relieving them of it. Not only was the winner backed with good money there were bundles for the third home Besharah with the places too including an £11,000-£2000 each-way.

Next up was the  Duke Of Cambridge Stakes which featured the day’s short-one,Integral. Some firms seemed determined to get her and got filled in at 10/11 and 5/6 before general 4/5 shortened to 8/11. Bets of note included a £16,000-£20,000, £10,000-£12,000 and a plethora of smaller, big, bets. The layers who took the jolly on could hardly have written the result in better when Amazing Maria lived up to her name with a 25/1 surprise. Rumour was that Star Sports had laid a single wager of £80,000 – £100,000 in their office. I asked Ben Keith and he confirmed the bet. I congratulated him and went to leave his joint but was called back. ‘I f**king needed it too, I lost a quarter of a million yesterday’. Hmm that put things back in perspective.

Which one's mine?

Which one’s mine? They are going to the start Rodney.

In hindsight it might have been a high-rolling Armaloft Alex type moment because from then on it went horribly wrong. Free Eagle was supported from 3/1 into 5/2 including several four-figure bets in The Prince Of Wales’s Stakes while The Grey Gatsby was plunged on, a lot of it each-way including a £36,000 – £6000 and £10,000 – £2000 each-way. One firm on the rails admitted that those two had been pretty much backed with the exception of anything else and they be fine if they got them beaten. In reality the result couldn’t have been worse, the jolly beat Gatsby. It did look to some as if the runner-up had actually got up after suffering a less than clear run. He hadn’t, the judge’s photo proved he’d failed by a short-head. One punter was heard to lament that jockey of the runner-up Jamie Spencer ‘hadn’t stayed retired’. Maybe a little churlish that one.

The books were back in it big style with the 30-runner Royal Hunt Cup next up. The betting really was lively on the rails, one firm laid a £120,000 – £10,000 each-way Spark Plug and another £25,000 – £2000 each-way the same horse (the latter punter asked for the fractions). There were also good bets for Temptress including a £9000-£1000 each-way (£9000-£990 if he’d just asked) but at the line it was 8/1 shot GM Hopkins who got the money, sadly for the ring in general it was under Ryan Moore who is now the new ‘when in doubt’ jockey for the general public so a pretty bad result for most. Temptress was second but Spark Plug fell when still in with a chance.

The concluding Sandringham Handicap saw Always Smile plunged on all day sent off at 2/1 with 9/4 done on course including several grand and bigger bets. That gamble was foiled by a nose when Frankie Dettori’s mount Osaila got just got up on the line. The winner had been 10/1 but returned 13/2 after sustained but generally modest support. For once Frankie winning saved the ring, not cost them fortunes, but one firm did take a £7000-£1000 the winner which probably ruined their race. The last result may have saved the betting ring from a catastrophic day but probably wasn’t enough to make it a winning one.

As I left the course I was called to by a smiling John Hughes. He asked how they had done in the main ring. I replied that I’d imagine they’d all done their bollocks. That smile blossomed to a beaming grin. ‘Have they’ he chuckled, ‘Have they really?’.

There’s no need to elaborate I’m sure!

Still three days to go, bring on Ladies’ Day.

(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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