Tales From The Betting Ring – February 2011


This was written for Racing Ahead magazine, I have been contributing since issue 2. For some reason it wasn’t used so for one month only, here it is on line. Comments welcomed.

Tales From The Betting Ring – Feb 2011

‘You could fire shots up the front line and not hit a punter’ was one bookmaker’s observation as the market started to take shape in the opener. To be fair despite the pessimism pinch of salt you have to use with many bookmakers he had a point. The crowd did seem quite sparse for a Saturday, Wincanton is normally well-attended so have to assume that the combination of the re-arranged Welsh Grand National taking place at Chepstow and a Point To Point just up the road knocked the crowd figures around a bit. The whole card was sponsored by Higos Insurance, I have no idea who they are of if they are any good but if they sponsor the whole card they deserve a mention in my book.

The punters that were there couldn’t decide who they wanted in the first as Ace High and On Trend were sent off the 5/2 joint favourites. Neither camp were right as it was 8/1 shot Buck Mulligan that got the money and had the bookies feeling good about themselves going into the next. There had been a big word for David Pipe’s Arrayan in the morning with every clever person who punts Pipe’s according to one of my off-course bookie mates. The confidence didn’t appear to have made it to Wincanton however with the talking horse taking a walk from 15/8 out to 5/2 in the live market. There was a bit of support for Nick Williams’s Royale Charter, mainly because he was reportedly seen within 100 yards of the ring. As the race progressed it soon became apparent that the two were going to be the two involved in the finish but in the end it was the Pipe morning buzzer that did the business. My off-course bookie mate wasn’t too happy, thought I’d drop that in just for enjoyment factor. It didn’t get any better for the layers in the next when Honourable Arthur was supported into 3/1 from 7/2 before landing the race.

Paul Nicholls trains just down the road from Wincanton and when they fancy one of theirs it seems half of Somerset know about it. The jobber of the day for those in the know must have been The Minack, at least that’s what a rails layer that laid 7/4 the eventual 5/4f winner thought. The bookies had their backs to the rails now, even the ones that reside in the front row, the days of two are long gone. Five Star Wilsham was hammered in the next from 5/1 into 7/2. Those of you are hoping to read that once again the books got it in hods are going to be mistaken, they had a reprieve just when they needed it when Sparrow Hills provided 16/1 respite. It wasn’t to last though, Fistral Beach was supported by a steady wave of money to provide Paul Nicholls with his second winner of the day which was swell for the punters but hardly fun for the books.

‘Beyond the point of no return’ bemoaned the bookmaker who made up the gun metaphor before the last. He may well have settled for his book then in hindsight after Bellabriggs then landed a 9/2 into 10/3 punt compounding a pretty miserable day for the layers. Business was so light that pretty much whatever they took bets for was a loser reported another, before adding he should have gone to Lark Hill.

It was back to my regular haunt of Kempton Park on Wednesday for the first of their two twilight meetings of the week. The crowd was pretty modest for the opener but there was action in the ring with Duke Of Rainford backed from 5/1 into 7/2 helped in no small part by a rep from at least one high street firm. They got it right too as the 5/1 into 7/2 gamble was landed but not before he had been ‘Loaded into the gate’ and then ‘Pressed the speed’ according to the commentator who seems to have a penchant for Americanising not only his dialogue but also renaming the equipment. Having said that, and it does seem to bug a lot of people, his is excellent at what he does, deliver exciting and accurate commentaries but they are still ‘stalls’ in England.

There was another punt landed in the next when prolific front-runner Kidlat made virtually all to land bets at all rates from 13/8 into 5/4f. There were horses behind the winner ‘Looking for a scene’ though nobody was too sure what that meant, but as none of them won we can assume they didn’t find what they were after. The crowd had started to grow a bit by the third which may have accounted for the appearance of the other thing that bugs the Kempton regulars, at least the ones I know, ‘Tales From The Scales’. These are short video interviews with regular Kempton jockeys accompanied by a little jingle. They are excellent and when they were first shown we all thoroughly enjoyed them, but now, months and months later they are akin to Chinese water torture, it was interesting to hear their answers the first few times but now it’s not, though I’m sure the first time Kempton race goers enjoy them.

The market got it wrong for a change in the next, Earlsmedic was smashed from 20/1 into 9/1 while the fancied in the morning Stratton Banker was a drifter on-course from 2/1 out to 10/3. That didn’t stop him as he went on to win well but it did seem to anchor the gamble who only managed 8th. We had to endure another Tales From The Scales before the market got it wrong again, this time Rambo Will was out of the money despite being supported from 7/2 into 5/2f. 11/2 shot Greenhead High won the race in a tight finish, say what you like about the quality of the runners in the majority of Kempton races but you certainly get some excellent excitement in the business end. We were treated to another one in the next when Muzo landed a 5/1 into 7/2 touch when just getting the better of the 10/11f Camps Bay.

Oh no, not again ‘Tales From the Scales.’

There appeared to be a little posse lumping on But Beautiful at around 11/10 pre-race but you can be sure that they wouldn’t have been so keen to take anywhere near that price at the furlong pole or even at the big screen when 10/1 shot Bold Ring was backed at the minimum of 1.01 by those punters dotted around betting in-running. Their chagrin can only be imagined as the jolly found a turbo change of gear to scorch home and chin the likely looking winner. That chagrin would have only been exacerbated by the loud celebrations from the cash punters down in the ring. The bookies didn’t look too chuffed either, doomed and distraught would be more apt a description,

There was some respite for the hardy band of layers in the last when a 7/1 into 4/1 gamble on Guildenstern never looked like being landed. One again we were treated to a stunning finish with just a short-head and a nose separating the first three home, if Carlsberg did finishes they would be Kemptonesque.

Thursday and it was more of the same, pretty much the same bookmakers and some Kempton regular punters amongst the new faces. Sadly for the layers it was business as usual for the well-backed horses. One of their number was partly responsible for the 11/8 into Evens move for Vhujon in the opener. They got it right too as the gamble never really looked likely once the race was live. The next favourite went in too, Replicator held on well from the front after being supported from 9/2 into 4/1jf.

There was an extremely enthusiastic guy in a tracksuit watching the excitement unfold in the next, you might think that sporting attire of that nature is not suitable for the races but not for this fellow. Kenton Street and Fivefold fought out a prolonged battle for victory in the closing stages, one of those Kempton finishes again, and our hero in the tracksuit rode every yard of it from the rail. He pushed, he shoved, he whipped, he rode, in fact he had a workout almost as good as the jockeys involved. No doubt the vigour involved would have boosted his happy serotonin levels anyway but judging by the smile on his face he also backed the winner Fivefold who defied a 7/2 to 9/2 drift as well as Kenton Street to win the race. Odin won the next after being backed from 4/1 into 5/2f. ‘Oh no not again’ was the scream that went up from one of the bookmaker’s clerks, no not because yet another jolly had gone in but just when you thought it was safe to go racing, ‘Tales From The Scales’.

The next was a decent betting heat, Dubai Miracle was punted from 4/1 into 11/4f while there were a couple of lumps for Zebrand at 10/3 that got the layers jumping. The favourite ran no sort of race and never looked like winning, at the distance it looked as if 6/1 shot Good Again was going to get the money but you can never count your chickens at Kempton, once again there was a flying finish, this time it was Zebrano spreading joy to those punters that had the lumps on and breaking the hearts of the bookies that laid them.

There were a couple of theories for the running of the penultimate. Two guys who like to bet in running or at least back to lay were talking of the merits of two of the market leaders. One of them was of the opinion that Double Duchess would be certain to lead and that a back to lay bet was certain to pay dividends. It seemed that other punters agreed that she would not only lead but win and proceeded to back her from 2/1 into 13/8f. The other student of form who bets in running calling his ‘winner’ on the telephone to a mate sat at home was more interested in Mrs Neat, who he insisted always looks like winning but doesn’t so he was looking to either lay her short or back one at big odds in running to beat her when she flattered to deceive. The first punter and all those who lumped on the jolly knew their fate very early on, not only didn’t she lead but her saddle slipped soon after the start and was pulled up. Mrs Neat however had read the script looking all over the winner at the furlong pole before being overhauled in the shadow of the post by 20/1 number 14 of 14 Applejack. ‘The bottom one the bottom one’ the in-running guy was heard to call quite early in the straight to his mate back home.

The winner was backed from 25/1 into 20/1 though a great result for the ring (well the rails to be fair as there were only two bookies in the ring), well you’d think so wouldn’t you. ‘I laid it’ groaned one. Sometimes you really do feel for them, just a bit.

© Simon Nott

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