It was a tale of two extremes of the betting ring fraternity before racing today. Poor old Mossy has been mentioned affectionately in this blog many times before. He was looking a bit crestfallen today, looking longingly at Armaloft Alex, the reason? Alex was stood where he should have been, on the bag with the Yeovil based firm he’d worked for since Lester was a lad. To be fair Alex did look a bit guilty. ‘It’s no good having Mossy on the firm any more’ explained his (ex) boss before adding, ‘He can’t pull the joint in without oxygen’. He then went on to explain that poor old Mossy had needed help half way up the Cheltenham hill on Saturday and that Alex is a bit strapping lad. So that was that. The story does have a happy ending, our aged hero spent the afternoon working with another bookie in a much better pitch. He no-doubt ‘tried’ for all he was worth on there.
Talking of better pitches, this leads me to how the other half live. One bookmaker who shall remain nameless is well known for let’s say ‘having a moan’. ‘The business is bad, the game is gone, the exes are too high‘ etc, etc. Well the plus side is he’s not going to be moaning for at least a month. Why? Because that’s how long he’s going to Barbados for. Yes a month, and the game’s gone! His staff were keen to add that he’s only just got back from three weeks in the Far East, Malaysia I’m told. One wag suggested that didn’t count because it was a business trip to stock up on shiny suits and plastic shoes. I declined to comment, apart from, ‘the game’s not gone’.
Early birds would have seen racecourse commentator Richard Hoiles walking the course, he certainly is a professional. When asked how it was he replied with a cheery ‘cold and wet’. Nobody could argue with that. The going was Heavy (Soft In Places) for the opener, the Carling European Breeders’ Fund Mares’ ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle, as it was the rest of the meeting. It wasn’t so wet that the first winner’s namesake was needed but Lifeboat Mona certainly came to the rescue of the Nicholls and Twiston-Davies combination who have been regarded as a little out of form lately. The victory wasn’t unexpected in the betting ring having been an early 15/8 before going off 6/4 including a bet of £750-£400 struck on the rails. The 11/10 jolly Brise Vendeenne was back in second, rest nowhere.
5/4 joint favourite Pressurize won the CW Accountancy Services Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase but only after surviving a terrible blunder at the last. Charlie Deutsch did very well to stay on, no doubt much to the relief of the punter that bet a £625-£500 the winner.
The Worthington Novices’ Hurdle saw a very jittery but still hot favourite in Crin Au Vent. The gelding had opened around 1/6 but eventually went off at 2/7 and fully expected to provide the Nicholls-Twiston Davies combination with a facile double. It was not to be, the hot-pot finished only fourth behind 6/1 (from 7/1) shot Unison. Not one bookmaker reported any bets of substance on the favourite. It’s more like the crowd bet other horse’s each-way in the race and with the jolly out of the frame and an SP of 6/1 14/1 and 10/1 the first three home that’s about as bad a result as you can get on-course.
It got worse for the layers in the LatestFreeBetOffers.com Handicap Hurdle when Nicholls and Twiston-Davies got their belated double when 7/4 jolly Baoulet Delaroque obliged for them. There were several monkey (£500) bets for the winner. It could have been even worse for rails layer Richard Pittard. He was using a computer he was not familiar with for the first time. He thought he’d been hedging his liabilities but hadn’t. Luckily for him someone pointed out his error which he managed to correct in-running before doing his absolute cobblers, which of course, nobody likes.
In some quarters, OK these, all eyes had been on how well the Nicholls’ horses had been running because a very shrewd source had tipped the stable’s Stilletto in the feature Dick Hunt Handicap Chase (For The Dick Hunt Trophy) and backed accordingly. With a double in the bag all augured well for the 6/1 shot despite the odds-on disappointment. All looked to be going well with the gelding cruising when coming down at the third last, we al know how that feels. Poor Sam T-D had to walk all the way back, he looked to be in two minds as to take the route back through the gate via the rails bookies but eventually did albeit looking a bit crest-fallen. Those bookies were too busy licking their wounds after 9/4 favourite As De Fer won the race to notice.
The penultimate heat on the card was the Stewart Tory Memorial Open Hunters’ Chase (For The Stewart Tory Memorial Challenge Trophy) won by yet another favourite. This time Rose Loxton’s Join Together. Punters waded into the odds-on from 8/11 into 8/15 with several three-figure bets reported at all rates down. Those backers have the ride of the aftertnoon by jockey Bryony Frost to thank for collecting their winnings. She never gave up on the gelding which looked beaten on several occasions eventually winning by just over a length. Weirdly the bookies didn’t appear to applaud her tenacity.
Chalonnial won the last, the bigcasinobonuses.co.uk Standard Open NH Flat Race for the Harry Fry yard backed from 3/1 into 5/2. It wasn’t quite favourite but yet another bookie-basher. Second home was Crank Em Up which attracted a bet of £2250 – £500 on the rails with Linda Blackford’s (second cousin once removed so always gets a mention) 16/1 shot Steel Express in the money back in third.
At least the Barbadian sun will ease the pain for one bookie. Poor old Mossy on the other hand was last seen trudging to the gym to work on his fitness. Oh hang on, hold the presses, that was the pub to work on his thirstiness, my mistake….
(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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