The Wincanton regulars appear to have missed the place, the crowd was large and very buoyant for the first meeting of the new season. The sun came out too, as did plenty of bookmakers. Wincanton’s another course that has become ‘cashless’, that’s apart from the bookies of course. Cash is most welcome with them, don’t forget your racecourse readies when planning your day on the turf. Dave, or ‘Swampy’ to his mates, at the helm of the Sid Hooper pitches told me that they had taken several bets with punters using cards, also that forecasts had been popular but cash is still king in the betting ring.
The horse that wasn’t being backed for the opening MansionBet Proud To Support British Racing Maiden Hurdle was the favourite, Ralph Smith’s charge Mascat. ‘Drifted from 11/8 to 7/4’ Dave told me, adding, ‘the money has been for Fregal O’Brien’s Right Destination, 7/2 into 2/1.’ Telf in the Goodwin Racing, the sponsors of this blog, trading office told me ‘ It’s been a nice opener here at Wincanton, Mascat is very popular despite the drift, everyone keeps piling on it. All the other runners a good result.’ Well, the punters that kept the faith and took advantage of the market getting it totally wrong had a great start. Mascat won as it liked under Tom Scudamore though maybe didn’t hit the racecourse bookies at least as hard as it could have despite returning 13/8 favourite.
Next up, the MansionBet Bet 10 Get 20 Novices’ Hurdle which saw a warm favourite in the shape of Olly Murphy’s Island Nation, backed from evens into a 5/6. Dave at the Hooper joint told me that they had laid a monkey on the rails for Arcade Attraction. Meanwhile a shrewd lady bookmaker had backed Beholden after spotting his ‘flick action’. Walking around the ring descriptions of the business were varied. The rails appeared OK while ‘brisk but mostly modest’ summed up the money in Tattersalls. Bookmaker Mike Smale told me that his pitch had been ‘Quiet as the grave’ while Dave Hazell of a sunnier disposition said that while he’d been fairly quiet it was lovely so see so many old friends and faces he’d not seen since 2020.
It had been a while since most people had been here, memories appear to have faded a little with some. One bookmaker whose blushes I’ll spare, told me he’d tried to drive his van down the wrong, and much lower tunnel under the stand to Tatts. Luckily, he noticed before any vehicle wedging or damage was done. Talking of which, that lady bookie, she knew, Beholden won the race under Page Fuller for Jamie Snowden at odds of 9/2. Over at Goodwin Racing’s office there would have been a cheer as Telf had told me ‘Island Nation is another warm favourite, there are plenty of punters getting stuck in after the first race.’ Aye Aye’s all round then.
Of course, someone had to say it, ‘Donald McCain won’t have brought See The Sea all the way down here for nothing’. They were right though, the long and short of it, no need for any form study, he didn’t. The commentator Ian Bartlett tried to entertain the crowd and make a race of it but McCain’s 11/10 favourite won the Mansionbet Faller Insurance Handicap Hurdle as it liked from 3/1 second-in Get Back Get Back. The on-course bookies didn’t really have a moan up, they knew their fate a long way out. It was a different story from Telf in the Goodwin Racing Office. They’d taken a clobbering, he told me, ‘See The Sea is an awful result for us, some large multiples running on to it has killed our earlier good results’.
The race before the penultimate, the Mansionbet Best Odds Guaranteed Handicap Chase saw six-runners go to post. It looked a competitive heat. That’s the way it seemed to Paul Metcalfe betting as Pickwick-Bevan, he told me, ‘Nobody is having a bet, it’s too hard for them.’ However, a couple of punters didn’t think it was too hard but had their money on the rails. Bets laid there included £1400 – £400, Young Wolf and £1650 – £600 Friends Don’t Ask. Those punters that thought they knew, didn’t. Martin Keighley’s charge and 4/1 chance Mr Mafia put his younger rivals in their places winning by 16 lengths, not bad for a twelve-year-old. Over at Goodwin Racing, Telf reiterated Paul Metcalfe and said it had been a quiet betting race, Friends Don’t Ask had been the only loser and that was small.
I got chatting to bookmaker Tony Williams between races, I reckon he must be one of the oldest, if not the oldest licensed on-course bookmakers still working. Tony is 86. He looks remarkable for his age, he told me that he was a PTI in the Royal Signals in his youth and has always kept fit. He still goes to the gym four days a week where he does weights, lot of stretches and half an hour on the exercise bike. Jim Clarke was betting a few pitches down, but he’s a mere scamp at 82. If anyone knows an older bookie than Tony, please let us know.
The penultimate Mansionbet Watch And Bet Handicap Hurdle looked another tricky one of paper, but there was a buzz in the Goodwin Office. Telf came on with a message which read, ‘Our biggest loser for this one is Harbour Force, which is running up a big Lucky 15 for one of our lucky customers, everyone’s fingers are crossed in the office, even for the favourite.’ Harbour Force looked to be going very well and would surely have given that Lucky 15 punter a good run for his money had it not suffered a bad looking fall four out, an outcome nobody in the office would have wished for. The favourite Strike The Flint was in trouble very early in the race and was pulled up in front of the stands with a circuit to go. The race went to Milton Harris’ Mr Yeats which returned 4/1. He had been very easy to back on course but when the markets opened last night had been as big as 10/1 so it appears someone fancied him and bet accordingly so let’s hope they had it spark off.
11 went to post for the lucky last the Follow MansionBet On Twitter Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Chase and what a race it was. First up, the was a few quid flying about. Alexandra Dunn’s Dido attracted bets of £7000 – £500 each-way, £3600 – £300 each-way and £2800 – £200 each-way plus a host of smaller wagers. There was also decent money for Jony Max including a bet of £1500 – £600. It was lively over in the Goodwin Racing office too. Telf told me ‘Catch the Cuban in the last race is popular at a huge 25/1 and the first two in the betting are damaging too, anything else 5/1 or bigger and I think it will be a reasonable day.’ As the race unfolded plenty would have thought they had a chance, a ripple went up when Dido looked to be cruising through the field only to fade, favourite backers must have thought they’d copped when a loose horse threatened to take the well-backed this morning Richenda Ford’s 7/2 chance O’Faolains Lad across the track when going like the winner. Lucky for those that joined in the punt on the latter his jockey Thomas Doggrell kept his cool and ran on to win nicely from the jolly. Sadly, for Telf and this betting report’s sponsors Goodwin Racing, Catch The Cuban finished third. And it was all going so well, concluding an excellent afternoon on the turf where it was great to be back at Wincanton.
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