Billed as ‘Super Sunday Raceday’ there must have been a superhuman effort put in to ensure that racing went ahead. It must have been long-odds against when the course was described as ‘Waterlogged in Places’ at the previous day’s 3pm inspection. I certainly thought it was a formality to be off, but only had about 30 miles to drive to get there. Others with more like three hours ahead of them were apparently caught a bit short on seeing the ‘Racing Goes Ahead’ message.
On arrival it was evident quite how much had to be done for racing to take place up at Haldon, all manner of dolling off and obstacles omitted made for a very curious course. As soon as the gates opened it became worth it because a huge crowd turned out to attend. Sadly plenty of horses gave the meeting the swerve ensuring the spectacle they’d come to witness was somewhat diluted in more ways than one.
The bookmakers were out in force too. That good turnout was hardly surprising, I’m sure not many people think of the bookies when meetings are lost to the weather, but when it’s your livelihood things can get a bit ‘ribby’ in the winter months. That is of course unless you can afford to go to Barbados for a month, see previous blog from Wincanton.
There were no problems with field sizes in the opening Bathwick Tyres Barnstaple ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle where all 13 went to post. Philip Hobbs’ Rolling Dylan was backed from 11/10 into 8/11 including some fair bets including a couple of monkeys (£500) at the top price and an even carpet (£300). The books that took the wagers on the jolly my have been taken by surprise because the crowd was predominantly a holiday one, that is not regular racegoers. New blood on course is always great to see but probably meant that when the jolly was well-beaten into second by 6/1 shot Overtown Express the betting ring didn’t get the money they usually would expect. The reason being that the holiday crowds don’t tend to get stuck into the odds-on preferring betting on the bigger prices. Let’s just say the queues of winning punters were lengthy.
Having said that, Politologue 2/9 winner of the Bathwick Tyres Novices’ Hurdle (Listed) probably didn’t do the bookmakers too much harm. It’s possible that the bigger punters in the first knocked themselves out because there was little decent money in evidence for Paul Nicholls’ charge which won by a facile 59 lengths. Hardly a race to the get the blood pumping, except possibly the horses, it looked very testing out there.
The third event, the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (Series Qualifier) only saw two absentees so still boasted 10 runners. There was a lively if small market with Philip Hobbs’ Scoop The Pot being backed to do just that from 5/2 into 13/8. Sadly the horse hadn’t read the script, the writing was on the wall for its supporters a long way out before eventually being pulled up. The well-backed favourite getting beaten in never a bad thing for the bookies but not so great when it’s by the second-in and trained by local standing dish Harry Fry, the aptly named Unowhatimeanharry obliging at 7/2.
After four non-runners only six went to post for the Bathwick Tyres Veterans’ Handicap Chase (Qualifier) (Leg 1 Of The 2016 Veterans’ Chase Series) and of them just the even money favourite Midnight Prayer made it home. Of the others three were pulled up and two fell. One of the fallers was 5/1 Golden Chieftain who was well in command when coming down three out so those making orderly queues to draw their winnings could consider themselves lucky.
As a quick interlude, if anyone fancies a Cheltenham Preview Evening in the Bristol area on March 8th please have a look here Cheltenham Preview It’s just £15 and features, Paul Nicholls, Richard Johnson, Jonathan Powell and organiser bookie Andrew Smith of Festival Racing as well as Skype call with Patrick Mullins, all in aid of Racing Welfare.
The outsider of the four runners that took part won the Bathwick Tyres Bridgwater Graduation Chase, Fergal O’Brien’s 11/1 chance Chase The Spud getting the better of 11/10 favourite Fingal Bay by seven lengths. The outsider of four (or is that three) mob would have copped but the bookies didn’t look too miserable about the result either, though all were sure to have laid the winner to a couple of quid at least.
Three non-runners ensured that the Bathwick Tyres Bideford Novices’ Chase was reduced to a match with Paul Nicholls’ Southfield Vic 1/8 to make short work of sole rival De Bene Esse. As you can imagine there wasn’t exactly spirited betting on the race. Give them their due the bookmakers did use some imagination with various forecast and distance options on offer to punters as well as the straight market. It’s funny what pops up in conversation when there is a lull in proceedings, ‘dogging’ anyone? I had to google it, for anyone that doesn’t know the modern term I suggest you do the same to spare my blushes. What I can tell you is, thanks to racecourse regulars, Phil ‘I just heard about it’, Jack ‘I’m really too young to know about it that’s why I’m blushing’ and Peter ‘I really do know far too much about it than is healthy’ is this. If you are driving around the Bath Racecourse area at night and feel the need to pull over don’t do it at a place called ‘Tog Hill’ or you might get more than you bargained for.
A bit like, but OK not really anything like, the backers of Southfield Vic trying to nick a bit of easy odds-on money – though there seemed to be precious few of them on course – when De Bene Esse defied the odds to win the race at 5/1. I read in the Racing Post that Paul Gold of Pickwick-Bevan said that it was a terrible result, given the crowd he could well have been right, at least of the bookmakers that decided to lay the short-one on the ‘machine’. I was always told get the favourite in the bag then get to work on the others, maybe times have changed.
There was a bit of a whisper going around about the Nick Williams the genius of George Nympton’s charge in the concluding Bathwick Tyres Taunton Intermediate Open NH Flat Race. Now I had been told by a good source that Man From Mars was well thought of and could be worth, and I quote ‘a fiver each way’ but bear in mind that the going was bottomless and it was first time out in public. By the time of the race the ‘word’ was that it was one of the best horses ever to come from the Williams yard and expected to hose up and quoted from the same source! Given that the gelding was an easy to back 7/1 shot at the off I’m guessing my ‘whisper’ was more accurate. Other backers had obviously heard a different whisper altogether. Philip Hobbs’ Westend Story was backed from 4/6 to 8/15 and won by 18 lengths pretty much unchallenged. Lizzie Kelly, lady-rider of the moment, kept Man From Mars up to his work to hold on for second to reward those that did get on each way. Watch this space regarding that one in the future, though be warned, it will be after timing so put it in your notebooks.
(c) Simon Nott
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