Tales from ring
Simon Nott watches the bookies endure a wash-out with occasional outbreaks of sun
Simon Nott spends time at rain-swept Cheltenham
CHELTENHAM NOVEMBER MEETING FRIDAY
What a glorious day to be in the betting ring. The opening Markel Insurance Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase was a very quiet betting heat to open with at around 5/1 the field.
There was unlikely to be a monster bet and there wasn’t, but Star Sports did manage to lay a £10,000 – £100 each-way Angus Milan early on, they never had a worry. David Pipe’s What A Moment won the race at 11/1 which would have been a fair start for the bookies in the ring that managed to take any money.
The Fairlight Books Novices’ Handicap Hurdle was another tricky looking heat and one you’d excuse the punters for standing back from.However,they didn’t, backing the favourite Magic Dancer which was cut from 4/1 into 7/2 then into 10/3 at the off though there was still 7/2 to be had in the ring if you looked around. Come racing.The result, the jolly first the rest nowhere, which ensured the betting ring was already on the back foot on the day.
Despite only nine going to post for the BetVictor Handicap Steeple Chase it was another competitive betting race with Exitas hovering around 3/1 at the top of the market. There was some light-hearted banter when ITV Racing’s Matt Chapman visited the Star Sports joint talking to their boss Ben Keith, no doubt for fashion advice,though I couldn’t really hear.Then the punting got going. Kapstadt deposed Exitas briefly as favourite when money came in, including a £1,500 bet at 7/2 but at the off the latter had won that particular battle going off at a carpet 3/1. Where it really mattered,though,in the race,neither of the market leaders were a match for 13/2 winner Doitforthevillage, who also did it for the bookmakers who were over the moon just to get the front two beaten.
In the next Star Sports laid £100,000 – £25,000 Movewiththetimes to a bloke on a telephone. Jumping the last it looked like the firm were about to kiss that £100k goodbye. Then it happened – Finian’s Oscar found turbo boost and shot clear to win going away at 10/11 costing most of the ring plenty.
There was very little of interest from the punters for most of the Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Steeplechase. Then suddenly there was a great deal of interest when a punter had £12,500 on Auvergnat at 2/1, once again with Star Sports, and that was just as the starter’s flag was dropping. The 14/1 winner Kingswell Theatre was a cracking result for all the betting ring but once again field money was reported to be very poor.
The concluding Ballymore Novices Hurdle set to go off at 3.35pm was an early bath after the opening day. The one the punters wanted to be on to pay for their post-racing pint and expenses was Calett Mad,backed from a morning 9/2 into an at the off 15/8 but the jolly was beaten at the turn for home.There was a cracking finish with 9/2 winner On The Blindside proba- bly a small cop for most of the bookies on the day, but with expenses as they are, breaking even on the day would probably have been the best most could have hoped for.
What a difference in the weather,incessant rain. The feature of the opening JCB Triumph Trial was the weakness of original favourite Gumbal which drifted alarmingly from an opening 4/6 to 5/4 at the off. Even more alarming for the ring was the relentless deluge of money for Apples Shakira from 9/4 into even money favourite.What more can be said but the market knew. In the post-race interview winning trainer Nicky Henderson said that they hadn’t known what to expect. Evidently someone knew more than him,a massive gamble was landed when the filly powered up the hill to victory.
Just three went to post for the mallardjewellers.com Novices’Steeplechase.The weather seemed to dampen the spirits of the on-course punters who didn’t really get involved.The sponsors probably felt a bit the same with just the trio running for their money.
Things livened up a little when support came in for the jolly Ballyoptic and the price tumbled to 10/11.It looked for much of the race that the gamble was going to make all and be landed but Bryony Frost on 4/1 Black Corton had other ideas and took the race by the scruff of the neck.The jolly did look to be fighting back but a
horlicks at the last ensured the money stayed with the good guys. That is apart from all those scores the books gave back to those shrewdies who backed the ‘outsider of three’.
There was more for the punters to get stuck into for the BetVictor.com Handicap Steeple Chase.The one they wanted to be on was Minella Rocco. The gelding ‘bounced’ near the off and was beaten a long way out and Perfect Candidate was an aptly named winner for the betting ring though they were really looking for an absolute result to get them properly into the green for the meeting.
Next up was the feature BetVictor Gold Cup.Despite the still miserable conditions the punters did make the effort to come out of wherever they were that was dryer and warmer and have a bet. Business was brisk which was great news because Splash Of Ginge winning at 25/1 was a blinding result for the ring.The poor punters didn’t even get the final pleasure of shredding their losing tickets, they were already papier-mâché. All of a sudden, the ring was buoyant and it had nothing to do with all the excess water.
Talk about ups and downs,things took a plummet in the Regulatory Finance Solutions Handicap Hurdle.Thomas Campbell was the subject of some lumps off course. At the last it looked a race, at the line an absolute disaster,Thomas won. That betting ring buoyancy was now in need of armbands.
The rain teemed down mercilessly during betting on the Martin & Co Jewellers Handicap Chase. It was happy days again on course when 25/1 shot Coole Cody showed them a clean set of hooves to victory.
The concluding The Experience The Theatre At The Festival Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race was one final push for both punters and betting ring. National Hunt supporters of both ilk are a hardy bunch so betting was spirited if soggy. The market centred around Grageelagh Girl and Posh Trish at 5/2 each of two, Posh Trish winning was a nasty end to the day.
The weather was back to sunshine, the readies and clobber dried out, so all was well in the ring. Having said that, there were several firms who had decided to head to Fontwell or give Sunday a swerve altogether.Going by turnover in the opening Velcourt Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle they weren’t bad judges. Business was timid to say the least.There appeared to have been a wholesale gamble on Evan Williams’Wild Magic in
the morning from 8/1 into 7/2.That move no doubt influenced the drift on original jolly Melrose Boy which went off at 11/4 and went on to win as it liked, the gamble unplaced.The books had little option but to chase the favourite out so it cost them plenty. A bad start.
A story did reach me between races that is typical‘bookmaker’.A bookie who shall remain nameless received a phone call to say their elderly mother had fallen, thankfully unhurt.The layer was of course relieved but also a little annoyed, “It’s Cheltenham, she could have at least waited until after the last or better still, tomorrow!”
Just three ran in the Racing Post Arkle Trophy Trial Novices Steeplechase despite there being £1,565 prize money on offer for fourth. Once again business was modest, the 6/4 second favourite North Hill Harvey won the race with the jolly running on from an impossible position to snatch second up the hill. You may not think that mattered much,but think again. Martyn of Leicester found time to come and moan about a veteran floorman named Ricky. That’s now ‘Ricky the Racereader’ with Martyn. According to he of Leicester it was Ricky’s fault that he lost £1,400 on the second race. “He told me the jolly was nowhere, I started counting the money then it sprouted wings and got up to be second and land the bogie forecast.” Or words to that effect.Luckily Ricky was elsewhere at the time so blissfully unaware of the weight of blame on his shoulders.
Of the five that went to post in the Shloer Steeple Chase it was Fox Norton that was sent off jolly. It was quite humorous to see a trio of possibly well-refreshed lads running around with £600 begging evens while the 5/6 was splintering into 4/5 all around them. That price looked exceptional value a few minutes later as Colin Tizzard’s hotpot romped in unchallenged. At least there was no bookmaker anywhere cursing “I should have laid those lads evens”.
The Unibet Greatwood Hurdle was of course a competitive betting heat. Sadly, rather than relish the challenge the punters appeared to zip their pockets though there was some support for London Prize into 9/2.There was also a bit of a move for The New One. A member of staff jumped off the stool and availed himself of the 8/1 with the fractions each-way with benevolent Barry of the Pinno firm.“I’ve tucked up the Tash” he joyously proclaimed, ticket waving in the air. Sadly-premature as it turned out,Elgin won the race at 10/1,The New One?Where every‘clever’each-way finishes, fourth. The race was badly marred with the subsequent news that London Prize didn’t survive its fall out in the country.
The running of the SkyBet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle was delayed due to low sun. Nicky Henderson’s Dame De Compagnie was initially uneasy in the market drifting to 11/8 but that price dropped with the temperature and the sun, eventually going off at tips-on 10/11. However, it wasn’t the favourite but Slate House that had his backers raising the roof winning at 5/2,while the jolly finished stone last.
The concluding race of the meeting,the High Sheriff Of Gloucestershire’s Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race, was a competitive betting heat with several horses backed but to very modest stakes. Vocarium was the one combined weight of money saw shorten from 7/2 into 11/4 but it was 4/1 chance Crook’s Peak that won the race delighting those who had been hollering ‘Go on Dickie’ and not so much the bookmakers paying out with slightly numbed fingers. Let’s do it all again in December.