Tales from Sandown’s betting ring. Friday’s well-heeled fancy dress Cheltenham warm-up.

Sandown Park – Friday Cheltenham warm-up.

It was definitely the calm before the Cheltenham storm at Sandown for the Grand Military Gold Cup Friday. The weather was pretty miserable which didn’t help the mood of the majority of the betting ring. Most of  whom appeared to be fearing the worst long before the first.

There is always an exception to the rule, this time it was a true gladiator of the rails who is nearing retirement. He confided that he had sold most of his pitches then burst into, some might say an uncharacteristic, which would be slightly unfair , smile. He explained that he had decided to not to sell his ring pitch at Cheltenham until after the Gold Cup so he could do battle at the festival just one more time. He beamed even brighter as  he bathed in the knowledge  of what was to come and oozed a warm glow as he gazed contentedly into space. Suddenly his happy demeanour vanished, wiped off his face in an instant as if a hideous thought had just shattered his day-dream. That was not far from the truth as it happened, he seemed startled and looked at me steely-eyed with a furrowed brow and half whispered, “ I hope I don’t do my bollocks!”

I hope he doesn’t too, watch this space next week.

I had a bit of a shock as betting got underway for the opener. I has approached by a very shrewd operator, to the layman he appears to spend most of his time talking into his rolled up Racing Post. In reality on occasion he enjoys terrorising the rails bookmakers betting live ones in lumps. He asked if I could help him with something, then to my horror opened his paper. Now that might not sound too terrifying, but I have to admit that my knowledge of racing form is very limited. I am lucky enough to  have some friends who are  great judges so have become lazy when it comes to doing my homework before a day’s racing. If I get my card marked I might have a bet, otherwise I don’t bother trying to find one myself as I could never be as good. At least that is my excuse for not putting the hours in trying, so I am sticking to it . Anyway, back to the sharp punter. As he opened his paper to the page on which his conundrum lay I knew with some certainty that if he didn’t know something contained within it was 1.01 that I would be clueless.

What is it the trolls say on the Betfair forum? Oh yes ‘1.01 gubbed’.

He wanted to know what LBdr in front of jockey Sally Randell’s name was an abbreviation for. Quite relieved that I wasn’t going to expose myself as a form ‘know-nort’ (as we say in Tiverton) and being an ex-squaddie,  I was able to enlighten him that it stood for ‘Lance Bombardier’. He thanked me and went on his way. I assumed not to back her mount, Walden Prince, but maybe I assumed wrong as it rattled home late to win the race despite appearing weak in the market.

As far as betting and business went the bookies were not over-enamoured with it. “Not a decent bet to be had in the whole ring” bemoaned one prominent layer. It did seem to be a strange crowd, I have never seen so many brand-new looking tweed suit ensembles. There must have been a good couple of dozen guys who appeared to be wearing brand spanking new very nice tweed suits that don’t even start at less than a monkey in price range. It was almost as if it was well-heeled very expensive fancy dress day. Whatever the reason, the guys in question were evidently not adverse to pulling up serious money at their local country gentlemen’s’ clothing emporium for their clobber. As for punting, well there was no way that they were going to bet more than a couple of quid, less if the bookies would let them, which, good for them too right too,  they wouldn’t.

One of the off-course firms did come to the turnover rescue in the fourth having plenty on Cockney Trucker. They forced its price from 10/3 in a place to 9/4 but left it behind when it ran no sort of race. That of course pleased those layers who opened their shoulders on what was otherwise a pretty uninspiring day  down in the ring. But not to worry, Saturday would be busier and next week is Cheltenham.

Simon Nott


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