We All Love A Plot

The attempted treble yesterday was great fun wasn’t it? I’ve never been so excited about a race I didn’t have a dinar of financial interest in. I was gutted for those that had a go when the final leg couldn’t quite deliver the goods. It was a good old-fashioned plot, just the sort of thing that litters racing’s folklore and keeps the mystique in what has become an increasingly sterile industry. Restrictions for just beating prices were bad enough but the potential ignominy of getting your finances rummaged through by a member of bookmaker’s staff, notoriously transient, is a step too far for me. Imagine it, three pints in ‘That Nott, he’s potless you know’, but that’s to come.

I was really hoping they’d get it up, as I suspect most punters were. Of course, the pious were also having their say, how bad it was for the game, punters being deceived. How many times have you heard a trainer say post-race when his 33/1 charge won ‘Oh, he’s been off for a while and had his problems but got him right today’, yes loads of times. The difference is that these guys went for the jackpot. They did punters a favour too, the cat was out of the bag way before most people had even opened their paper on Sunday morning. The bookmakers caught with their pants down via the overnight prices, usually a tool for their benefit of a cheaply marked card.

The best priced screen shot of a slip I saw was 14/1, 22/1 and 33/1 which would have paid £13,367.00 for an all correct £1 Trixie. You wouldn’t need much on at those prices to potentially win the liabilities that were being bemoaned by the bookmakers. I’ve never worked in a bookies trading room but I’m guessing that the alarm would soon be sounding. Chris Poole of VC was quoted in the Post as saying they were all on at roughly the same time, Ah, just like those good old gambles in the betting ring, Bootscraper at Exeter back in the 1990s springs to mind one punter per bookie, the hat goes up and they’re all on, floormen running around like lunatics but it’s too late, no chance hedging, you’re in it. The plot punters may have side-steeped the early warning by synchronising their bets. Let’s hope so, as the double would have still paid £345 to a quid.

There was a column in the Racing Post this morning suggesting those horses ‘Backed as though defeat was out of the question’ and that there should be a ‘Level playing field’. What? Get the trainer with 6 horses who thinks he has his 33/1 chance right for the first time in 10 months to tell Luke Harvey before the race, sod the owners, tell the world?  Why would anyone really want that, most of them would lose anyway then the poor sod would be charged with putting away the gullible.

The prices vanished, punters yesterday all knew that the horses included in the treble were probably fancied to reproduce their best historical form. Judges tell me that it was all there if you delved far enough back. It may not have been puntingly prudent to have followed the gamble in though, given how those horses given double figure chances by the odds compliers the night before were all Evens to odds-on shots after a few multiples. If level playing fields are to be trumpeted, maybe it’s time to target those who appear to have Mystic Meg’s crystal ball to aid their uncanny ability to lay seemingly fancied horses on the exchanges. Those that are going to miss the break and/or run no sort of race on a very regular basis on the all-weather. There’s much to suspect more sinister stuff than a few trebles bubbling under the fabric of run of the mill racing, at least yesterday’s were tryers.

The real worrying bit and should have been big news story yesterday was the current SP system. Out of necessity now taken from off course rather than on, but widely thought to be adopted as the way it’s done even when the Covid crisis is over. The Post mentioned it, the SP for the second winner Blowing Dixie was 4/6 even though exchanges had it available at 2/1. Mentioned it? It should have been screamed from the front page. How is the current SP returned? Back in normal times it’s taken from a sample of on-course bookmakers. Woe betides the reputation of the betting ring the very occasional time that they veer too markedly from the prices on the exchanges. There’s a huge scream up from journalists who appeared not to be on duty yesterday. Forget level playing fields, confidence in betting on horse racing is eroded when it appears the bookmakers hold all the aces, close accounts, refuse and limit bets, squeal when someone manages to get them under pressure then, it looks very much like, return their own prices when it suits. Racecourse bookmakers bring that much needed confidence in the integrity of the SP. Their return and the racecourse betting ring as the origin of that SP can’t come soon enough.

As for gambles? The ‘Barney’ coup was nearly a decade ago now, it was time for another. If only to remind most of us punters that lose that there are people out there that can still sock it to the bookmakers. Aye Aye.

Simon Nott

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