Cheltenham action comes thick and fast
Simon Nott visits Prestbury Hill
CHELTENHAM, NOVEMBER 11
There were a few familiar faces missing from the betting ring before racing. Most notable absentee was Greg Hughes who bets from number one on the rails. His brother betting on pitch one in Tatts alleviated any fears that anything was wrong,he just had business elsewhere. Business elsewhere when Cheltenham’s on? Whatever next.
My old mates from Jack Bevan and Co (est 1897) were on the missing list too, which was a conundrum. Of those that were betting, over on pitch three in Tattersalls, Star Sports’ Ben Keith was uncharacteristically appearing a little edgy. “It’s a bit quiet, a bit like a BAGS meeting,” he observed somewhat pessimistically. It was a bit quiet but it was also an hour or so before the first.
Ben didn’t have time to share his concerns when betting got going for the opening Glenfarclas Veterans’ Handicap Chase. It certainly wasn’t like a BAGS meeting then. Punters were keen to get stuck in.Sadly for the layers the majority of the money went on 10/3 winner Astracad backed down from 4/1. There was a bet of £8,000-£2,000 at the top price struck on the rails but general consensus was business was brisk but light.
The BetVictor Handicap Chase was a lively betting heat.Ben at Star Sports likes to take on the big punters and was accommodated to the tune of a bet of £22,500-£5,000 Sizing Codelco. That bet was struck at the top price on its tumble to 10/3 jolly. Elsewhere the books were having to juggle their figures when a series of bets of £2.50 each-way and fivers were followed by a £4,000-£1,000 then back to the fivers. There were smiles all around the ring a few minutes later when 25/1‘right result’Un Beau Roman shocked bookies and punters alike. “We needed that after the first,” said a beaming John Hughes.“Pay Pay”was the cry from another joint, the age old call to let his bookie brethren know he’d had a “skinner”.
The punters plunged on Barters Hill in the Steel Plate And Sections Novices' Chase with untold bundles of cash oncourse forcing the gelding into 11/8 from 7/4.The bookies kept the money but not in a way they’d have liked, the jolly broke down early in the race. The eventual winner 0 0 Seven was sent off 9/2 secondin.
Wholestone was backed from 7/2 into 5/2 favourite in the Neptune Investment Management Hyde Novices' Hurdle in a betting heat that was described as “lively”. As well as money for the jolly there was decent support for several others in the race to grands and monkeys. The 13/2 winner Peregrine Run was allowed to drift to 8/1 before late money compounded the price. One rails layer ran into £4,000-£500 each-way but it was still another decent result for a buoyant ring.
The 18-runner Opus Energy Novices' Handicap Hurdle looked a fearsome race to solve so bookies were surprised by a huge on-course cash plunge on Tudor City including bets of £4,500-£1,000 £8,000-£2,000.That money stayed with the layers, who were saved by 16/1 shot winner Wildmoor Boy foiling the gamble by fending off its challenge all the way up the hill. One bookmaker betting in the back row of Tattersalls called me over to say he’d laid a bet of £2,000-£70 the winner. That’s 28/1 with the fractions. There is value to be had, come racing.
David Pipe’sWhat A Moment had been weak in the betting having been as short as 5/1 in the morning but was allowed to go off at 8/1 for the concluding Markel Insurance Amateur Riders' Handicap Chase. It didn’t stop him winning though. The books would have been happy with that with well-backed 9/2 shot Silvergrove not only beaten but out of the frame. Day one went to the bookies.
Jack Bevan were here, which was a relief, they just didn’t fancy the Friday it seems. Their brethren were keen to point out how much they all copped but the firm took all the banter stoically.Other bookies had to be similarly robust after the opening JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle. Defi Du Seuil was hammered in the ring, Star Sports were clobbered by a £15,000 - £8,000, another firm on the rails a £7,000-£4,000 the eventual easy 5/4 winner, a nasty start.
One punter went for an even bigger gamble between races, the big screen bore the legend ‘Esme will you marry me?’ let’s hope she said yes.
Thistlecrack has been touted in several quarters as the likely winner of next year’s Gold Cup so it wasn’t a surprise to see