Simon Nott spends interesting days at Newton Abbott and Ascot
Simon Nott spends time at Newton Abbott and Ascot as the summer weather continues
Newton Abbot has long been one of my favourite tracks, especially on a glorious summer day like today. Paradoxically I’m guessing that the course would prefer non-beach weather on days they race given all the holiday makers in the English Riviera at this time of year. Still, sunshine or not, a very healthy-sized crowd turned up for a well-contested 7 race card.
I popped into the Silver Ring after parking the car before heading into the racecourse proper and almost felt like rinsing my eyeballs with bleach after seeing a bookmaker’s workman naked from the waist up. Ye Gods, in a former life he was apparently a jockey, without being unkind let’s just say it’s been a while since he did the weight at the bottom of the handicap. The more mature and well-nourished body is best kept under an amply proportioned smart linen shirt.
The opening Betfair Supporting Racing Staff Week Maiden Hurdle got punters off to a great start when Ben Palling’s Ballydun Oscar made short work of his opposition, justifying prohibitive odds of 4/9. That’s not such a great start for the layers, but at least it was sunny. Talking of beach weather, it’s anyone’s guess what the old-school bookmakers of Newton Abbot 30 or so years ago would have made of the Tat- tersalls bookies on show today let alone the vision in the Silver Ring.
Several of them looked as if they just ambled up from Torquay seafront. The old guard wouldn’t have been seen dead on their joints without a suit and tie, whatever the weather, the only concession to the sun being a smart panama hat. Some of the layers today were wearing shorts, a few even donned flip-flops, not a tie to be seen. Blimey in years gone by not even punters were allowed that sort of clobber but at least none of them were topless.
The best-backed horse in the Betfair Supporting Racing Welfare Handicap Hurdle was Martin and Belinda Keighley’s Mr Mafia, backed from 2/1 into 6/4. Turning for home a victory looked unlikely with one bookmaker telling all who would listen that he was taking a few more quid out of it in running on ‘the machine’. The only advice one could give him really is stick to being a bookie. The jolly got up just before the line to deprive 9/1 Western Sunrise by half a length.
Regular readers may remember I mentioned a notorious ‘knocker’ in one of my most recent columns. One bookmaker approached me and asked me ‘which one’ I was referring to. Obviously for legal reasons I didn’t want to go into too much detail in print as to whom I was referring but assumed him well- known if not notorious. I was quite taken aback by his term ‘which one’ I thought there was only one. When I informed the curious bookie of the name, he replied ‘Oh yes, he was on the shortlist’. Crumbs, a shortlist, I hope they are all historic and more knockers don’t still come over the horizon like Indians in a cowboy film when the others have gone. The game’s too hard these days for that sort of throwback.
Over at the Jack Bevan (est 1897) joint there was some jollity as boss Paul showed me a video clip of his trusty righthand man Ian doing press-ups at Newbury the night before, yes it was that quiet apparently. Anyone who uses twitter will be able to find said video, but for those who don’t, our ‘hero’ struggled, and I mean struggled to do a mere ten.
OK he’s not a teenager, though watching him bust shapes on the dancefloor at our wedding reception you’d think he was, add to that he was using bits of cardboard to stop his hands getting dirty, the shame. He wasn’t up for repeating the act today, possibly because he was too busy paying out over jollies or maybe still aching. Winning favourite number three of three races 5/4 Sword Of Fate won the Betfair racingstaff Week Novices' Handicap Chase, the so far good humoured sunny dispositions of bookies
was in danger of being withdrawn.
Clearly Capable wasn’t favourite in the hotly contested Betfair Thank You Racing Staff Selling Handicap Hurdle but had been backed into 7/1 in a 6/1 the field heat. You have to feel for the gelding’s supporters as he looked home and hosed jumping the last three lengths clear only for 12/1 shot Petrify to frighten the life out of the them, closing rapidly close home only for their hearts to be broken when the result of the photograph was called, beaten a shorthead. Nasty.
Not nasty for the bookies though who were due a change of luck despite it being in a race where stakes would have been low. They got it again in the bet fair racing staff week At racing welfare Conditional Jockeys' Handicap Hurdle when Nicky Hnederson’s 8/1 shot Barkis beat 11/4 favourite Tamarillo Grove into second place. That result was just as well as the jollies won the last two races at 3/1 and 8/11. Who’d be a bookie? Oh well, the sun was shining and at least one of their number couldn’t lose their shirt!
Incidentally I hear through the grapevine that Colin Tizzard will be doing a book-signing at Newton Abbot on August 6 promoting his recently published book on Cue Card.
I was at Ascot with the Star Sports team but it was hardly surprising that our trip had a different feel to it than our last at the Royal Meeting. Andrew and Lofty didn’t expect big bets from rails agents with phones pressed to their ears, and didn’t get any, but did hope to field at least a grand in the opener but just failed. To be fair to the punters it was an 11/2 the field 20-runner Handicap, so a tough one to kick off.
I was chatting to Geoff Banks, arguably Star Sports’ most outspoken critic on social media in recent weeks, before the first who pointed out that he’s continuing his ‘Best Odds Guaranteed’ policy he augmented at the Royal Meeting. Despite the excellent offer he was slightly perplexed how few punters actually understand what it means.
My old boss Jack Lynn used to say ‘don’t educate the punters’, of course he was of his time! Any punters who read Star Sports’ brand ambassador Adam Kirby’s blog on-line prior to racing would have been educated and noted he considered Spring Loaded unlucky in the Wokingham. His winning the opening Bet With Ascot Heritage Handicap at 7/1 today wouldn’t have been good for many layers but Lofty had read the blog and kept the winner nice and green in the book.
Adam Kirby’s intended mount in the Fred Cowley MBE Memorial Summer Mile Stakes, Arod, was an absentee which left a dead eight runners. One punter, an accountant surely, darted in for £550 - £200 each way the jolly Beat The Bank. Quite how he felt when it won at that price is anyone’s guess, probably wished he hadn’t been quite so cautious. The golden rule of gambling is ‘be consistent’ so if that’s how he always bets, fair enough.
‘Don’t educate the punters!’ – sorry Jack.
Still the SP did best the Bet With Ascot return but it’s early days in that comparison.
It’s not known if the 13/8 favourite for the Kelly Group Novice Auction Stakes was named in fond memory of a muchmissed and often still talked of bookmaker by the name of (Michael) Mendoza but it still got people of a certain age waxing lyrical about him again today. I’m pretty sure the namesake
would have been happy to see the jolly get beaten into third behind 5/1 winner Nuremberg . The winner was a decent result in a race where business from the sunbathers had picked up.
The Trant Engineering Fillies' Handicap wasn’t a bad betting heat, the bottle each-way punter proved his consistency by having the same each way bet on Escape The City at 5/2. Sadly for him his consistency didn’t extend to backing another winner. This time his bet was unplaced being the other jointfavourite Beshaayir.
The Playboy Club London Handicap saw a real drop in interest (maybe everyone was inside trying to blag their way into the box) failing that the punters appeared to have retired to the lawns, parched as they were, lawns that is. Extra Elusive, the name of the favourite, not referring to the punters, was a steady jolly for most of the betting. Business picked up towards the off but wouldn’t have accounted for the massive move for Frankie Dettori’s mount Elwazir backed from 5/2 into 11/8 at the off. Whoever ‘they’ were behind the punt ‘they’ knew, the gamble was landed despite hanging from the centre of the course to the rail. Luckily there wasn’t much damage done on the Star Sports pitch and no word from the office either.
The penultimate Woodford Reserve Handicap was another steady but very modest-staking race. Brand Ambassador Adam Kirby’s mount Cross Counter was the one the punters wanted to be on. The early 2/1 was trimmed into 13/8 at the off and the only loser in the book.
Turning for home commentator Ian Bartlett gleefully informed us that Cross Counter was still last and being niggled, giving the ring hope of getting the gelding beaten and a day’s wages in the bag. It was not to be though, his equally enthusiastic observation that the jolly had picked up, ultimately going on to win quite comfortably, rang in the layer’s ears as they reached into hods for readies to pay queues of successful punters.
The concluding GL Events UK Handicap saw Frankie Dettori’s mount Prevent popular with the punters but went off at 4/1 after being steady at 7/2 for most of the race. The were no lumps but public money ensured the book had just one loser, the jolly. It was a close-run thing but brand ambassador Adam Kirby winning on 10/1 shot Perfect Hustler completing a treble from the bogie ensured a modest winning day on the pitch.
Next up for the firm, the first big summer festival meeting of the year, Glorious Goodwood. Let’s hope the seasonal weather continues. The blazers have only just dried out from the drenching we got last year.