Tales From The Betting Ring – Cheltenham Wednesday.


I got the feeling that there had been mainly carnage in the ring yesterday, but maybe I’d feared the worst slightly too hastily. The first few layers that I spoke to bright and early on Wednesday morning were quite upbeat. The shrewd firm from the Westcountry had stood by their form convictions and not taken liberties with the ‘good things’ their figures highlighted. The workmen that had spent the night in the car stranded on their way back from Plumpton had both slept well. It’s funny how a sleepless night and choosing the costliest evening meal on the menu at the bosses expense  will aid restful sleep winked one.

The veteran layer who had decided to postpone selling his pitch until after the festival admitted losing but also that he’d not lost nearly as much as he was entitled to so was perfectly happy with his decision so far. You do get the impression that he is going to enjoy every minute of it even if he does his cobblers each and every day though.

There was one person on course that had been a highly sought-after workman on Tuesday but wasn’t working today. Armaloft Alex. I asked if he’d had a good day on the rails. He looked a little sheepish as he shuffled from leg to leg before admitting that there had been a nerve-jangling incident. It transpired that his boss for the day had asked him to hedge a monkey on the exchanges on the second favourite. That request is a simple task for a regular clerk but our premature-celebration plagued hero was at his own admission ‘slightly ring-rusty’. Not ring-rusty enough to realise that something had gone horribly wrong when the horse he just backed went green for five figures. He’d mistakenly had five grand on instead of the more modest requested stake.

Luckily it all turned out OK when the beast in question was backed (self-perpetuated when exchange users spotted a plunge and followed it in maybe?) But for whatever reason the mistake was rectified with a profitable trade back, so all was well. All except Armaloft was back to paying to get in with no wages today. That was only because the regular team were back and not because of the rick he hastened to add. Hmmmm.

I managed stop a long-striding pro-punter in his tracks for a chin-wag prior to the first. He was OK with it though as he always has time for a chat, at least before racing. I told him all about the ante-post 33/1 and 12/1 wagers on Reve de Sivola for tomorrow’s World Hurdle. Sadly he thinks that there will be several to beat it, though he couldn’t pinpoint exactly which ones. His advice was to hedge the place part of the bet, obviously sensible but oh so negative. I hate to ignore the wisdom of a seasoned professional but it goes against the grain, but will sleep on it.

Once betting got going in earnest it didn’t take long for rumours of a £90,000 – £40,000 on Back In Focus to come filtering through. Not once but twice with a £18,000 – £8000 to top it up. It looked for all the world like those hefty bets would stay in the hods of the intrepid bookies that laid them. So much so that the jolly was reportedly traded at 150/1 on the exchanges and 1/100 bet on the likely looking winner Tofino Bay. That is before that notorious heart-breaker of  many a bet, the Cheltenham Hill, did it’s worst yet again. Back In Focus flew up it to land the spoils in the shadow of the post and do some serious financial damage both on and off course.

The ring got a short one turned over in the shape of Pont Alexandre in the next but it wasn’t supported in anywhere near the strength of the previous winner and was beaten by The New One who was landed a little 9/2 into 7/2 tickle.

My trilby made an appearance again today after having to sit out yesterday due to the wind. It was lucky because I did don it because I felt I had to take it off to the ever-imaginative PR team of Paddy Power. Any firm that can not only give away green ‘lucky’ y-fronts but persuade people to wear them, over their trousers of course, is good by me. Having said that, Guinness have  been associated with the festival for 20 years to maybe their product helps with the latter. Not content with dishing out undies Paddy Power have been hoisting a  giant inflatable pair at the far side of the racecourse too. I was slightly confused as to why they seemed to appear and disappear on an irregular basis. I managed to collar one of their PR staff who informed me that ‘Paddy’s Pants’ get pulled down every time a short one goes in. Of course, genius, and silly me!

They came down after Sprinter Sacre did what pretty much everyone wanted to see it do. Win impressively. The course commentator was exceedingly overwhelmed and almost stumbled over the rapid-fire superlatives he spat out Gatling Gun style as the 1/4 shot powered home unchallenged. Spare a thought for the layers who accepted bets of £10,000 – £40,000 and £12,500 – £50,000 though.

OK, maybe not, the ring had it spark off in the last three races with winners at 33/1, 25/1 and 25/1 making it a bookies’ day for sure.

I did have another visit to the Tented Village and have narrowed the new suit down to a couple of choices, I might even go for the waistcoat too. I’ll have to not hedge the place money then won’t I because that will pay for the extra treat. Sorry big-striding pro-punter.  Here’s hoping Reve de Sivola gets a great night’s rest in his box down in George Nympton. Roll on the World Hurdle.

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