Tales from ring
Simon Nott spends time at a crowded Ascot and a picturesque Chepstow
Simon Nott spends time at Ascot and Chepstow
First impressions on a dank October afternoon was what a good crowd ,rumoured to be about 20,000 and an astonishing number of bookmakers, almost Royal Ascot numbers.
Business looked to be brisk for the opening Hope And Homes For Children Rous Stakes. The trouble was that the money was all one-way traffic for John Gosden’s Waady backed from an early skirmishes 15/8 into ‘tips on’ 10/11 at the off. The book makers’ mettle was certainly tested with a one horse book. Those that left the ledger lopsided were rewarded with the shock 33/1 victory of Ronald Harris’ Just Glamorous.To be fair, most of the ring would have settled for the 7/1 runner-up Sir Robert Cheval but a proper result is always welcome, especially in the first.
I took a wander around the ring but held on just l ong enough to see one layer hop off his stool ,ask the pitch in front ‘How much did you get on it?’ then stick his head into the computer before the clerk had a chance to answer. Some bookies just can’t help being bookies!
Further down the line Paul Gold on one of the Pickwick-Bevan pitches was cook-a-hoop. He’d had computer problems ,had to stand the jolly for much more than he wanted and got lucky and copped the lot. Not so chuffed was the back row firm who had a skinner for all they took. “Not chuffed?” I hear you cry, yes dear reader, they had taken the princely sum of £81 on the race, trying for their lives. Not only that, they’d given a lift to a friend of the winning trainer who told them the winner had been quietly fancied but didn’t heed the advice. “I only needed to have a tenner on, ”rued the bookmaker.Oh well, we all know it’s easy after the race.
There was another odds-on shot to contend with in the Gigaset Cumberland Lodge Stakes where the French raider Waldgeist was backed from 4/5 into 4/7. Not all eyes were on the favourite, though. There had been a whisper for Nick Williams’ two runners at Fontwell in the morning so the cry of “He’s here” was a bit of a surprise. Unless that is of course you don’t have runners in Group Three Flat races often and you’ve ever driven from George Nympton to Fontwell. He may be the genius of said hamlet and in attendance but nobody that backed Williams’ charge Flying Tiger at 33/1 was rewarded for their investment.
That said I’m sure the yard would have been very happy with fifth with prize money down to sixth. Even happier were the connections of the winner of the race, Danehill Kodiac ,who emulated the previous race victor by making all.It did look as if the jolly had come to collar him close home but he stuck his neck out to hang on and win gamely.The bookmakers were once again over the moon – none more so than Festival Racing’s Andrew Smith who is said to have a leg in the beast.
He was seen accompanying the winner back, fist raised in celebration, with his daughter Oliva leading. Happy days for all involved.
After getting the first two short ones beaten it might have been asking a bit much for the bookie treble up taking on Blue Point in the John Guest Bengough Stakes. Those that did had little hope as the even money favourite went clear at the distance. Anyone that stuck it up the jolly might have had a glimmer of hope as the field closed, but, to the impartial observer, the winner was never going to be caught, still ¾ of a length up at the judge.
Nobody on a stool was going take liberties with their winnings in the 18-runner totescoop6 Challenge Cup (Heritage Handicap).16/1 winner Accidental Agent was another welcome result for the betting ring though not everyone got their whack. That included Kyle on the Star Sports pitch who won less than £100 on the race.You don’t have to lay them many times at that price ,and incidentally you could still have had 20/1 with him at the off. Come racing, there’s still value to be had.
Despite the presence of another short
one in Eternally ,business seemed to be a little lighter in totepool British EBF October Stakes.
“Not easy to lay” was the report from a few books on the rails.The jolly was 5/6 at time of asking and had eased slightly to 10/11 at the off but the layers seemed reluctant to go evens. A decision they might have regretted in hindsight for, despite adopting the day’s largely successful tactics of making the running, the filly was swamped close home. She ultimately had to settle for third place behind 20/1 winner One Master. Regardless of potentially lower field money that was a result in any bookmaker’s language.
With the competitive McGee Lighthouse Club Handicap to finish they weren’t going be giving it back whatever the result, but in the event 11/1 winner Erissimus Maximus was the cherry on the cake.
This was the first time I’d been to Chepstow for a while, in fact not since Reve De Sivola made his debut here which must have been almost a decade ago. I’d forgotten what a lovely course it is.
The jump season opener kicked off with a bonus race, the Reuben Foundation Supports The Bob Champion Cancer Trust Legends Race. There were plenty of jockey names to get people jogging down memory lane: Jimmy Fox, Paul Leach, Graham Bradley and Sandy May to name a few.
The latter looked to have the race won on Brahms de Claremont but had victory snatched from him on the line by comparative young buck Sam Thomas on Maoi Chinn Tire, who won by a short head in a thrilling finish. There was betting on the race but it was more about money raised for a great cause.
The toteplacepot ‘National Hunt’ Novices’Hurdle wasn’t a great start for the betting ring when Paul Nicholls’ Dynamite Dollars was backed from 11/4 into 9/4 favourite before winning under Sam Twiston-Davies .The unlucky horse in the race was runner-up Lostintranslation who ran a spirited race despite a terrible mistake at the business end, though one judge observed that by its action it needed softer ground anyway. Time will tell.
There were bookmakers behind the stands in front of the ‘Oktoberfest’ marquee. It might have seemed like a good idea when they picked their places, but when the band started belting out the Fatherland’s favourite Oompah tunes with the volume seemingly at 11 it must have made it very hard to hear a bet. One bookmaker confided that it wasn’t helping that the firm’s clerk was deaf in the ear nearest the joint.
The second race on the card, was the totescoop6 Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle. The crowd in Tattersalls and on the rails was decent and definitely punting .They’re not ‘punters’ though according to a Tatts firm not doing an awful lot of big business though still enjoying a queue of people having modest bets on.
“Small fish are sweeter” was always the consolation comment from my old boss Jack Lynn when business was fiddly, though to be fair that’s how he liked it. Fergal O’Brien’s Oscar Rose was sent off
the 5/2 favourite and there was a market move for Annie Angel backed from 33/1 into 16/1. They finished fourth and fifth respectively. The race went to If You Say Run at 4/1,landing a quick-fire double for the Nicholls & Twiston-Davies combination in the process. The result was better than it looked for the ring, the winner having been easy 5/2 drifting from into 4/1 in the market.
The old cliché that racing is great leveller was highlighted yet again in the totequadpot Novices’ Chase when Sam Twiston-Davies ended up on his backside when Alcala came down between fences out in the country. That left the hot‘ carpeton’ favourite Finian’s Oscar to saunter home unchallenged. Alcala appeared none the worse for his mishap but sadly we were deprived what was shaping up to be a race to savour.
The Paul Ferguson’s Jumpers To Follow Hurdle looked a competitive heat on paper with the betting around the 4/1 the field mark for most of the race. Paul Nicholls’ Dolos was eventually sent off at that price but had to settle for runner-up spot. The bookmakers were given a little respite when Evan Williams’ Silver Streak lived up to its name under Mitchell Bastyan and shot clear for a 10/1 victory. There had been some 12/1, 100-8 if you’d asked nicely, early, but despite the nibble layers would have been happy enough with that.
It seemed to be a game of them and us for the bookmakers betting on course by the Silver Trophy Handicap Hurdle. The bookies by the Oompa tent had resigned themselves to lip-reading and sign language, while some of those in Tattersalls were looking longingly at their brethren on the rails where punters appeared to be clamouring to get on. ‘Just Busy’ was the comment from rails clerk ‘Q’ Comber cut short as I copped a ‘Don’t talk to my clerk’ withering look from his veteran, well he says, 68-year-old, boss Joe Oliver. There had been a shrewd whisper for Paul Nicholls’ 10/1 shot Peak To Peak in the morning, it had every chance at the last but at the line where it mattered it was the Evan Williams and Mitchell Bastyan combination and 14/1 shot Court Minstrel which was the toast of the layers. Those bookmakers will point it out so I’ll mention that the 4/1 jolly Wholestone snuck into fourth to take the shine off some each-way books.It wasn’t all good news ,one prominent layer admitted taking a ‘sizeable’ each-way wager on the winner from whom he presumed were connections.
The penultimate on the card, the toteexacta Handicap Chase, saw Philip Hobbs’ Rock The Kasbah backed from 11/4 into 2/1 but not to the tune of any single lumps apart from one monkey bet at 9/4 on the rail. That probably meant that the job of paying out a whole host of ‘sweet little fish’ would have been made a whole lot more painful for the layers.The jolly duly obliged but the betting ring would have fancied getting it beaten for most of the race .Richard Johnson certainly earned his fee urging and cajoling his very game mount to win from 25/1 bookies result Petrou.‘Q’Comber admitted his firm had been hammered on the race having gone as big as a carpet 3/1 early.
The lucky last Betfred Supports Responsible Gambling Week Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Chase was a race where the bookmakers would have a needed a real turn-up to get them the exes and wages on the day unless they’d already played a blinder.It wasn’t going to be an easy task with the market bobbing around 3/1 the field, though at the off the easy to back favourite Bacchanel was a 7/2 chance.
The green dale rocket was nibbled from 9/1 into 7/1 but there wasn’t a standout move in the race, it was just a case of try and fill the hod. The way 8/1 winner Definitly Grey won almost in a canter, it was surprising it had been a drifter on the ‘machine’. The bookies would have at least got their day’s wages on the day.
A busy Ascot