Simon Nott reflects on two typical days from the betting ring at Bath and Ascot
All the latest jockey and trainer form
It was a glorious night and up at Bath,Star Sports had a Silvestre De Sousa special on offer, four of his mounts to be placed paying 6/1 so I thought I’d come up and blog it’s progress.That quartet didn’t kick off until the 7.10 running until the seventh and last at 9.10.
Regular readers will remember my last column where I related Andy Smith’s story about him and his mate Ash having one too many prior to working for bookie Eddie Baxter. Andy collared me when I arrived on course,he was fairly happy with how I’d written the article but I’d missed out one very important fact.All the favourites had obliged and Eddie was the only bookmaker on course that had still won,thanks to Andy and Ash’s ducking and diving despite their hungover state. Sorry Andy, hopefully this clears things up.
Business in the opener looked pretty quiet but then word came that a rails firm had laid a monkey each-way Mambo Spirit. You’d have to think that was a fair bet to lay given the horse is 13 years old. And so it proved, the money stayed with the bookie, the veteran was unplaced behind 7/1 winner and number seven, Lucky Clover surely a great winner for the superstitious.
The next couple of races went well for the on-course books, 7/1 Union Rose was a handy result beating 5/4 jolly Trick Of The Light in the Brakes Handicap Stakes then 6/1 Innoko was another cracking winner in modest books in the Bluefin Insurance Handicap Stakes.The latter was the first leg of the Star place accumulator, Hope Is High was the selection and went of the 6/4 favourite. Silvestre De Sousa looked to have stolen the race on the jolly when he went clear turning for home then only just held on for third,but that counted in a dead eight race.
Between races I noticed Peter O’Toole has now got a lightboard. That may not seem very unusual but he’s stood against them for 11 years.He had to concede in the end. All this years he has stood firm in his one-man protest against having to have one of these new-fangled devices,he was more than happy with his whiteboard. He may well regret his 11-year stand because he told me that since he’d starting using the electric board business had boomed, though I’m taking the figures he boomed to me with a slight pinch of salt and removing a 0!
The second leg of the special was in the next race,reduced from nine to seven runners. During betting I was stood behind the Pickwick-Bevan joint when Ian called ‘One and a quarter each way’.Paul smiled a smile of a man who has just taken a bet of £125 each-way in a seven horse race,then morphed into the scowl of a man who finds out that he meant £1.25. Nasty.
SDS was on Mark Johnston’s Bicolour which was sent off at 9/4 for the heat. There had been a tip from a good source flying around for Eugenic backed from 6/1 into 9/2. Those backers did their money when 8/1 shot Henryhudsonbridge proved a head too good at the line. The winner had been backed from 14/1 but it wouldn’t have bothered the books too much as both short ones Eben Dubai and more importantly for Star Sports Bicolour were out of the frame.
That was interest in the special done but not for Silvestre De Sousa,he had a winner in the lucky last on 5/4 Unified. It’s not as bad as you may think for the bookies either as he beat Nadia Promise the 8/13 favourite.
I backed my first loser of the day when I left my coat at home, it was lovely back in Devon.No excuse though,I’ve been in the game long enough to know that was a schoolboy error as I stood in a wet suit in pouring rain.
I met bookmaker Tony Styles on the way into the racecourse. He was on the way out,not because the rain had put him off, but to buy a Racing Post. He was quite annoyed that the confectionary hut on course had been banned from selling them so he had to traipse back from whence he came to buy one outside.‘Put it in your magazine’he implored,your wish is my command Tony.
The Summer Mile Family Raceday at Ascot was never going to be Royal Ascot in attendance or turnover.Added to that the meeting is part of Super Saturday so
there’s a lot of action to attract the punting pound. Luckily for those of us who made schoolboy errors, and I wasn’t alone, the rain had stopped by the opening Ruddy Novice Auction Stakes.
I was talking to my old boss Dave Phillips who’d just bought into Tattersalls when just as we finished a lady came up and had £2.50 each way Curiosity at 9/4, that didn’t auger well for the rest of the day. It was OK though, Dave said he had plenty of change.Sadly the results started badly too.It’s never a great start when the 15/8 favourite wins,as did Curiosity,but at least the layers could pay out in shirt sleeves. The lady that bet 9/4 the winner with Dave Phillips certainly had value but probably rued her caution.
Without wishing to turn this feature into like something from the Met Office,it was decidedly humid while betting on the Totescoop6 Heritage Handicap Stakes. They might love these big handicaps in betting shops but they aren’t the best punting medium for bookies on-course. Backers tend to trim their already modest bets and layers just have to hope whatever wins is green on the screen.
There were plenty of horses laid very small but Star Sports who I was reporting from needed a miracle didn’t get one, Danzeno was backed from 6/1 into 4/1 favourite and bolted up.The places were no good either so add to that a large payout queue got an unwanted treble up.
There did appear to be a plethora of PR types about for a rainy Saturday. Maybe the hope of an invitation to the Playboy Club London Handicap Stakes sponsors box was the lure? Back down on the joint business was brisk but the most popular question of the day, was as it is so often ‘What’s your minimum bet?’ Today the answer was £2.50 each way or £5 win,they all add up. Favourite backers started to think that it was easy just betting the short ones,I wouldn’t say they shovelled it on but Laraaib was backed steadily from 11/4 into 2/1f and they were right.Super Saturday was shaping up to be anything but for the bookmakers.
You couldn’t really call Mittens weak in the Trant Engineering Fillies’ Handicap Stakes rather easy to back so the ring had a glimmer of hope they might get her beaten. They never had a hope she romped home at 3/1, the fourth winning favourite in a row.With the banker of the meeting to follow bookmakers’ mettle was going to be tested in the next.
My old boss Jack Lynn’s words ‘Don’t Educate Them’ were ringing in my ears as poor Kyle on the Star Sports joint was asked for £2.50 each way on odds on jolly Mutakayyef in the Fred Cowley MBE Memorial Summer Mile Stakes as he pointed out they would be better off having it on to win. Still the customer is always right. Mind you if it wasn’t for the shrapnel bets there wouldn’t have been a lot fielded as there were no lumps on offer.
Which was just as well, 4/7 favourite Mutakeyyef made it five favourites from five. The most popular question now
being‘Who’d be a bookmaker?’The only saving grace being there were no big, let alone mega, punters to bother us.
With three races still to go it’s fair to say the ring were already working to weary automation as the got to work on the Ruddy Novice Auction Stakes. Only the shrill and slightly tipsy calls of £2.50 each way keeping them from teetering into resigned acceptance that today was going to be a bad day. To make things worse business had slowed to match the layers’ demeanour. Over on the rails it was the same. Armaloft Alex reported a punter determined enough to successfully negotiate the minimum bet from a fiver to £2 only for the punter to try and have it on the only non-runner in the race.
One layer exhibited his frustration pricing up his board including 9/5 15/1 and 17/1 twice.His near neighbour commenting ‘9/5 should only ever be heard in Country &Western classics,not the betting ring’.
The favourites flip flopped during betting with Laugh A Minute going off as 15/8 jolly.Then it happened,it was all academic, the books blinked and rubbed their eyes and blinked again just to be sure. A result! 14/1 winner Tigre Du Terre put a spring back into their step and almost smiles on their faces. It’s amazing how quickly the fun of gloom can lift in the betting ring. Now rather than ‘can we go home yet?’ It was ‘bring on the penultimate!’
Considering that Star Sports have a reputation for laying thick bets it was saying something to comment they actually laid a bet of note £1,400 – £400 Cape Coast.Not an eye would have been blinked if that had been tendered at Royal Ascot or Cheltenham,such was the small nature of the market.To put things in perspective it was a hedge bet to another bookie which is rare, we should have read the warning sign because before Kyle on the joint could say,‘You’ve got that’ it was 3/1 and favourite with original jolly Bin Battuta very weak, another flip flop and it wasn’t even sunny. Just before the off Kyle got offered a £1.50 bet in 10p & 20p pieces and a Tote voucher, both politely declined.
The market got it wrong,Bin Battuta won at 7/2, beating 11/4f Cape Coast after a real tussle which meant a winning race for us despite being original jolly.
The one result for the bookmakers of the afternoon only stopped the rot but didn’t save the day by any means. The concluding 7/2 the field GL Events UK Handicap Stakes wasn’t the ideal race to try and salvage the day from a jolly fivefold disaster. To make things worse after eight races the punters appeared rather refreshed with some wobbling on stilettos in evidence but generally in great humour so all good. Surprisingly some backers had been keeping their powder dry with some decent bets in evidence, steady £50, £60, £100 etc.
It all added up to a nice few quid on My Dad Syd which we had for four figures at the off.The firm were praying for a result and we got one, well sort of 8/1 Cricklewood Green middle-pin was a small mercy and bookmakers happily took the crumbs.
I must point out that all the slight ribbing of small punters should be taken as they are intended just that.If a bookmaker has the £2.50 each way sign up he’s happy to take the bets. But please don’t balance your wine bottle on the hod, ask the bookie what they fancy, ask for the bet then search high and low for your money, decide what you are going to back once you get to the joint squinting, procrastinating and then ask to look at his Racing Post! When it’s busy the bookies have a short time to do their business. If you do none of the above you’ll me most welcome in the betting ring. Come racing!
Big crowds at Ascot
Peter O’Toole’s new lightboard