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It seems everyone missed Wincanton Races during the summer; the bookies turned out in their droves, the rail was full and the front line in Tatts almost full too. They did right to all turn up because the racecourse was heaving with a huge crowd.
The first race of the day, Bruton Novices’ Handicap Hurdle only featured four runners. The Cider Maker was a warm order at even money to get punters off to a flying start to the season. There were plenty of bets but only one that might be described as ‘of note’ that I heard of and that was an even £400. Let’s hope the punter has plenty more where that came from because it stayed with the bookie, as did the majority of punters’ money when East Hill sprang a 20/1 surprise for the Tizzard yard. The bookies allowed themselves a roar for that one which had some of them crowing into their computer screens.
It’s funny what you overhear on racecourses. After the din of the cheering bookies I heard a rather loud London accented voice over my left shoulder. I’d guess it was his first visit to the Somerset track, he had a weird observation; ‘Everyone here has a stick’ he barked, sneering slightly at the sea of tweed, admittedly some of it propped up with walking aids made of wood. Also it is true that the demographic on a week day is leaning to the grey but hardly a negative. He didn’t add to his statement but I was already half hoping it was his £400 dropped in the opener!
Who ever it was dropped the ‘rouf’ they didn’t attempt to chase it up with similar stakes in the next, The Wincanton Handicap Chase. Once again only four went to post, this time Polisky was sent off jolly at 7/4 and once again the Tizzard yard came to ruin the favourite-backers party, this time with Gentleman John though at 4/1 hardly the bookies’ bonanza of the opener.
Regular readers might have read in my previous Exeter Blog that a lilly-livered bookie turned down a monkey bet on a 7/2 chance. Of course I didn’t mention any names. One bookmaker marched up to me and glaring down asked; ‘Who was this ‘lilly-livered’ bookie you wrote about in your blog then?’ I replied that I didn’t know, I just knew of the event, to which amazingly he looked a little miffed then burst into a smile and declared ‘It was me!’. Once again I won’t name him but he showed no shame. Tall Boy, what’s on? That’ all I have to say!
The third heat on the six-race card was the Horsington Handicap Hurdle. It went to Regulation the 9/4 jolly and brought smiles back to the faces of those who kept faith with the market leaders. It won in some style too, I ducked out of the ring sharpish before any tales of woe started on the front row.
The race before the penultimate, the Shepton Mallet Novices’ Handicap Chase saw Philip Hobbs’ He’s A Bully sent off the 5/4. We were informed over the public address that should the gelding win it would provide Richard Johnson his 100th winner of the season. That may well have encouraged some of the money that piled on, including a bet of £1100-£800. The bookmaker that laid it had an opinion, ‘This one won’t win, it won’t go past’ he said with some conviction as he tucked the readies in a safe place.
He’s A Bully won by nine lengths thus providing Richard, or apparently ‘Dickie’ to his ‘mates’ calling him home, with his century. The bookie did his money, but I’m pretty sure you wouldn’t want to be on the winner at short odds next time out in similar company, the others lost their races in my humble opinion.
There was all sorts of drama before the penultimate. Now it’s not that unusual for a loose horse to cause a bit of mayhem prior to a race, but it is when it’s a faller from the previous. Emma Lavelle’s Well Rewarded had parted company with his jockey and remained elusive in attempts to catch it since. Post time loomed and still the gelding was having the time of its life making his would be captors look more like the Keystone Cops than horsemen. Such was the guile of the beast that post time for the 4.45 came and went. It was not until the genius idea for Demographic, a runner in the next and the fugitive’s stable-mate, to be brought to where Well Rewarded had been corralled that he was captured, and with some ease too.
Racecourse commentator Richard Hoiles suggested that we might have seen a future Grand National winner in Well Rewarded, I assume as such was his stamina and resilience, prices please bookies. In the meantime betting had been quite lively. Most of the money had piled onto Barton Antix including a £1200-£1000 a brace of £500-£400’s and £600-£400’s and a £780-£600, that’s 13/10 to save you trying to work it out. Now there’s not many people that have backed a winner at that price on a UK racecourse, but that punter did. The Castle Cary Handicap Hurdle went to the jolly and had the bookies now well on the back foot.
Much to the racecourse’s credit the Redlynch Maiden Hurdle only went off 5 minutes late. Fourth Act was the hot favourite at an SP of 4/6 to give the Tizzards a treble with bets of £1600-£2200 and a couple of £400-£600 struck. It won, the Tizzards got their treble and the bookies ended up on the wrong side of the afternoon.
The layer that owned up to being the one that turned down the monkey bet at Exeter collared me after the race and was keen to point out that he’d laid a £400-£500 the winner. He had surely redeemed himself?
Well you’d like to think so until his neighbour piped up, ‘Yes but I laid the other half of the man’s bet!’
(c) Simon Nott
I’m off to Ascot for Champions Day tomorrow. Look out for my Tales in the next issue of Racing Ahead Magazine
If you are watching the racing on Channel 4 THIS AFTERNOON (17/10/15), keep your eyes peeled as there’s a good chance I’m going to be interviewed about these blogs and the betting ring, a couple of minutes at most I’d imagine so don’t blink!
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.
If you’d like one you can buy a signed copy direct from me via paypal here
It’s also available on Amazon, Nook, Kobo and on Kindle.