AMA­TEUR PUNTER

Ben Mor­gan en­joyed the first big meet­ing at Prest­bury Park and was happy to set the alarm for Mel­bourne

Racing Ahead - - CONTENTS -

Ben Mor­gan has ups and downs at Prest­bury Hill

As I ar­rived back home from work on the Fri­day even­ing, the first day of the Chel­tenham Open meet­ing, my first port of call was un­sur­pris­ingly the sofa where the TV re­mote rested be­side me. I had man­aged to avoid hear­ing about Chel­tenham all day at work and even sur­vived an ac­ci­den­tal re­fresh of my Twit­ter feed so I was pretty in­tent on watch­ing the races back as soon as I could.

I had to re­sist the urge to im­me­di­ately feast upon the lovely meal that my part­ner had pre­pared for me and I also had to block out the raised tones of said part­ner as she con­tin­ued to ask her­self why she both­ers. Fair to say, I have learnt not to an­swer such a ques­tion.

Al­though, I’m pretty sure if she had £40 each-way on First As­sign­ment at 8/1, she would be pretty keen to watch the ac­tion un­fold as soon as she could.

His pro­file fit­ted the race and his mark looked le­nient. He car­ried good form into the race and ev­ery­thing looked set up for a big run. De­spite know­ing all this, I still cut an anx­ious fig­ure while watch­ing the race. Tom Scu­d­amore nudged him into a nar­row lead and when he jumped the last with a nar­row mar­gin I didn’t think for one sec­ond he would stop. To be fair, I didn’t think he would be need­ing a pho­to­graph to con­firm the re­sult but the lack of match prac­tice might have just told in the fi­nal fur­long but he held on well much to my plea­sure. It’s amaz­ing how flavour­some cold lasagne tastes when you’ve just won the best part of £500.

Just 24 hours later, though, I was in a des­per­ate, damp state in the back of my Dad’s car trav­el­ling back from Chel­tenham. We had both been out­done by our bet­ter halves in terms of pick­ing win­ners and I in par­tic­u­lar was feel­ing bit­ter.

How­ever, I very nearly for­got that I had £40 rid­ing on War Brigade in the last at New­bury. I was pretty sure he was well in off his mark and backed him ac­cord­ingly. He and Press Gang en­gaged in a ding-dong bat­tle up the straight and, as they ran through the line, it was too close to call. I waited anx­iously for the re­sult only to find out Press Gang had got there by a short head. Nu­mer­ous ex­ple­tives left my mouth as I cursed my luck for the day.

It took me about 45 min­utes to re­group, find my phone which I ear­lier threw into the footwell in dis­gust, and have a look at the next day’s early prices. It was only then that I no­ticed I had a lot more in my bet­ting ac­count than I’d had half an hour ear­lier. I checked my bet his­tory and saw they had paid out on War Brigade as he had been awarded the race in the Stew­ards Room…..I be­lieve such an event is of­ten re­ferred to, in the trade, as ‘bloody lucky’.

My luck con­tin­ued to ebb and flow through­out the next cou­ple of weeks which was most frus­trat­ing be­cause I am nor­mally ei­ther hot or cold. How­ever I went from be­ing hot, £30 on Sun Hat at Wolver­hamp­ton at 7/1, to be­ing cold, £80 loss on War Brigade at Newmarket, in the space of 48 hours. I nor­mally ad­just my stak­ing pat­terns as to what form I am in but I had very lit­tle idea as to what to do.

I de­cided to sit, wait and watch be­fore I made my next move. That was

un­til a mate texted me ask­ing me what I fan­cied for the Mel­bourne Cup. Now, I hadn’t re­ally stud­ied this race and hadn’t even looked at the race­card be­fore he asked me as I en­joy watch­ing the race but, for me, it’s not a bet­ting race. How­ever, if I had re­alised Cross Counter had such lit­tle weight on his back then I would have gained far more of an in­ter­est at a much ear­lier stage.

I re­layed the tip back and stuck £10 each way on at 15/2 my­self just as I tucked my­self into bed. It didn’t seem long un­til the alarm was pen­e­trat­ing my ear drums at 4am which was part of the rea­son I made a right hash of a) turn­ing the alarm off and b) turn­ing the telly on – much to my part­ner’s an­noy­ance. Through half opened eyes I watched the race and de­cided it was far too early in the day to be crit­i­cis­ing Ker­rin McEvoy’s de­ci­sion to an­chor Cross Counter to­wards the rear. Had it been 4pm, the lit­tle Aussie would have been on the re­ceiv­ing end of a good telling off I can as­sure you.

All was for­given turn­ing for home, though, as he made smooth progress and pressed go up the straight. The ac­cel­er­a­tion was bril­liant and the way he men­ac­ingly bore down on the lead­ers was some­thing else. He won with plenty in hand and rates a top prospect for next year now.

I turned the TV off, rolled back over and fell back to sleep while mum­bling some­thing like ‘should have put more on’. I thought I heard a dis­ap­prov­ing tut from the per­son next to me but I de­cided to let that one go.

Af­ter back­ing What­more in the Sil­ver Tro­phy at Chep­stow where he fin­ished a gal­lant third, I couldn’t not back him at 3/1 in a weaker race at Ban­gor. Now that he has learnt to set­tle he is a de­cent free-go­ing front run­ner with an eye for a hur­dle. I stuck £50 on the nose and watched the race in supreme con­fi­dence. Ping­ing his way from one hur­dle to the next he was far su­pe­rior and his vic­tory pro­vided a much needed boost head­ing into Chel­tenham.

How­ever, as much as I would love to re­port on a ding-dong bat­tle with the book­ies over the three-day meet­ing, it turned out to be a rel­a­tively quiet af­fair.

I had one big bet each day as I wasn’t overly im­pressed with the qual­ity on show com­pared to other years. The Fri­day was all about White Moon (£25 each-way 5/1) who I think is right out of the top drawer. Given plenty of time by con­nec­tions to re­cover from his in­jury he looked like re­pay­ing them as he gal­loped up the straight. It was clear he was the only one stay­ing on and I’m sure he had plenty left as he fell at the sec­ond last. The se­cret is out now, but I’m sure he can re­coup losses.

Luck swung my way on the Sat­ur­day as First As­sign­ment held ob­vi­ous claims of fol­low­ing up his pre­vi­ous course suc­cess. £80 was placed at 5/2 and I only wish that all big bets would win as easy as he did. Tom O’Brien barely had to move as he gal­loped a good way clear of the field. A se­ri­ously pro­gres­sive horse.

Un­for­tu­nately I con­clude on a dis­ap­point­ing note as Paul Ni­cholls’ smart bumper horse, McFab­u­lous (£80 at 15/8) strug­gled to cope with the Chel­tenham hill as he faded badly.

He was my main bet of the day and such a loss is not what you need on a Sun­day night with work in the morn­ing.

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