Tales From The Betting Ring – Wincanton 05/01/13


Sadly as far as crowd sizes go Wincanton’s appeared to have suffered being the meat in the sandwich between Chepstow  and Sandown. It was not just the racegoers that were spoilt for choice, some of the bookies were a little ‘staff-challenged’. There appeared to have been three choices open to the layers who had pitches at two and in some cases all three of the tracks that were racing.  The first option, was to choose where you wanted to bet and bet there forgoing the others (and spend the rest of the day bemoaning your choice) . The second, divide your team the best you can and try and coax some ex-staff out of retirement (this one could be tricky because they were no doubt quite often cheesed off to be left on the shelf on a regular basis). Or third, let your pitch out and hope that the team betting under your name don’t run off owing fortunes.

It is fair to say that there were a fair few ‘B’ and ‘C’ teams in evidence, as well as people giving the punters an identity crisis whilst probably being a little confused themselves having to keep checking who they were that day. Or at least that is how it appeared as they set up.

I don’t know if people are aware of it but there is a fund-raising effort being held in January, it’s called the ‘Dryathalon’ and basically involves not drinking for the whole of the month. ‘Dryathletes’ are seeking sponsorship to raise money for Cancer Research UK.  I am a dryathlete in training and due to my attempts to raise money that fact is quite well-known among those that know me. Before racing as I was walking through the bar area I heard my name called, I turned to see a veteran bookie’s workman grinning at me, let’s call him ‘Mossy’. ‘Would you like a pint’ he offered, before grinning to his mate looking extremely pleased with himself. Luckily the people that are organising our non-drinking event had thought of such waggish behaviour. They have given us as all cards with ‘Mine’s a donation’ emblazoned across it followed by a number to text in order to donate the price of the previously offered pint. His smile turned to the sort of face normally seen on Armaloft Alex when he realises he has prematurely celebrated again as I produced the card and shoved it under his hooter. He blustered and huffed about not being able to drop any in because he didn’t have a mobile phone. I thought that was a bit weird in 2013 even for an old fella, especially as I had his number in my phone butI took his word for it and left.

The general camaraderie of the ring was missing in some areas when betting commenced for the first. Once again it was that thorny subject of place betting terms. One fourth-generation bookie was incensed that all of his neighbours were betting 1/6 the odds a place. His opinion was being voiced loudly, pointing out that betting to a 1/6 then topping 33/1 to 35/1 was ludicrous and that bookmakers that do it were spoiling the game for everyone and apparently resembled  ladies  generally private anatomies.

His tirade was briefly silenced when Martin Pipe appeared in the ring, which was a blast from the past. As people scanned their racecards to see which one of his they missed he walked straight out of the other side. Still the fact he was there was a welcome distraction from the heated stuff. The only interest lumpy bet wise once things got serious was that someone had a monkey each-way on the even money favourite, that came second. Here’s hoping the intrepid but cautious punter was on at 1/5th the odds a place.

The books were glaring at each other for place terms in the third race but it was the favourite they should have been keeping an eye on. David Pipe’s charge, and it won, heavily backed, easily. ‘Had their mortgages on it’ was the word supposedly from the yard, not in the ring they didn’t though, which was probably a good thing. Now we all knew why Martin Pipe was there, it was a bit late to sink in though, just before he helicopter’d off to Chepstow.

It was just after this race that I spotted ‘Mossy’ again and remembered his excuse. He didn’t appear to be doing an awful lot so I decided to check out his story and give him a call from the other end of the ring. I couldn’t hear his phone ring but it obviously did because he was jumping around and reaching into his jacket in such a frenzied manner you could be forgiven for thinking he’d been attacked by a swarm of beer-loving bees. The comedy value was increased when he got his phone, peered at it, from a distance as you do if you have forgotten to get your glasses out, and then realised it was me. The game was up. I may have been a bit cruel to relate the story in front of the rest of that part of the ring. Ah no it wasn’t it’s for a good cause, so that’s what I did and it worked. In true racecourse manner he held his hands up then donated a tenner. Proper sportsman after all.

The meeting ended bad for the ring when Cridda Boy landed a bit of a touch for the Richard Woolacott yard, backed into 11/4 from a fair bit of 9/2. You had to feel sorry for the layers. Well not really, at least not the firms that bet on the Welsh National 1/5 the odds a place……

If anyone fancies donating the price of a pint to my Dryathalon appeal you can do so by texting 70070 followed by Nott65 and the amount (like ‘Mossy did)

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