Tales From The Betting Ring – Exeter 16/04/13

There were plenty and runners and racegoers at Exeter for their 8-race midweek card for which the sun even made an appearance. The favourite beaten in the first,  Billy Dutton won the second at  14/1, he had been 18/1 so maybe landed a tickle for somebody but it also doubled up as a result for the bookmakers. Drama followed in the third when 4/1 favourite The Clyda Rover came from what looked like a hopeless position for a dramatic victory. I am told that over £100 was matched on the winner at 999/1 in running on the exchanges. It’s hard to have sympathy with people I’d think of as graspers prepared to nick pennies at 1/999, minus commission, on beaten horses.  On the plus side, where there are losers there are also winners so good luck to those who copped a small fortune. The latter would no doubt have seen similar things happen in the past in long-distance races up on Haldon Hill, it’s certainly not the first time.

Talking of graspers, that brings me nicely on to the fifth race, a Novices’ Chase with an odds-on favourite. As far as I could see everyone was playing the game place-wise until the spectre of an odds-on favourite and the possibility that the punters might have a chance (heaven forbid) loomed. There were five runners, so the layers only had to pay out on two places so traditional odds would be 1/4.  A commendable few did bet to those terms, most to 1/5 and at least three firms went 1/6. No concession on the win prices either, just trimmed place terms. Of course, proper bookies, those that actually fancied taking on the punters and the short one and not just having it all back at a bigger price on the exchanges needed to get it in. There didn’t appear to be many lumpy punters in the ring. Yes that is the moan that you hear, but hardly surprising. These days the vast majority of people have a phone which they can place bets on. They are not daft, why would they want to have their grand on with a bookie at one price only to see him pant with excitement and have it all back immediately at slightly bigger odds with some anonymous layer on-line and skim some of their winnings?

There were a few false alarms of a big backer. One guy marched into the ring with a plastic bag. In days gone by a ‘plastic bag man’ wasn’t racecourse myth but every so often a reality. The quite often innocuous looking punter would saunter up, wait in the queue of old ladies and then ask for a lump of grubby readies he suddenly produced from the bag on the odds-on shot. The biggest I saw when I was working at a run of the mill meeting was a £2000 – £13,000. The boss laid him half (I know I know, lay a bet) and it won by about a furlong. Anyway, this guy wasn’t a blast from the past, he was picking up rubbish. Farmer Derek and Pennymoor Peter were also spotted in front of the bookies but turned out to be just having a chat and not betting, they wouldn’t get much off those two shrewdies anyway.

2/5 shot Coole River was beaten, so the ring copped again.

The next race was a nine-runner Hunters’ Chase with an even money favourite, perfect excuse for the three 1/6 the odds merchants to get to work again. The favourite won but to be honest it probably didn’t make any difference to these particular firms. The last two races were bumpers. Then it dawned, the horrible reality that the shameless three were going to bet to 1/6 regardless. There was no excuse apart from short-changing the punters in the 7th, there were nine runners in a competitive 5/2 the field heat. Their odds stayed the same in the last, the favourite was beaten in both.

I remember when Exeter was full of gentlemen bookies. The pitches were occupied by men who were also sportsmen, Harry, and later Ian Metcalfe, Dave Pipe, Bernard Redfern, Norman Barnes and a whole host more. What they would make of  some of the people and practices in the ring these days is anyone’s guess, but I expect Bernard would have told them exactly what he thought. It would probably include a few Anglo-Saxon words that weren’t exactly flattering.

As far as I can see most racecourses ensure that prices for cans of fizzy pop and cups of tea and coffee are universal at their meetings so racegoers aren’t ripped-off. Surely that can be imposed on the ring too? That way the majority of bookmakers who are desperately trying to keep up the reputation and tradition of the betting ring and ensure its longevity can compete on a level playing field with those few short-sighted graspers.

Sorry that this is more of a soap-box than a colourful tale of the ring and its characters. Normal service will be resumed, but I feel these things have to be highlighted or before long there won’t be any colourful ring or characters to regale, and that would be heart-breaking.

(c) Simon Nott


6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Muley Graves on April 17, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    Simon, surely it is up to racecourses/racing media to make sure that first time/floating punters know they are being ripped off. Name and shame!


  2. Posted by Jonny on April 18, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    Why don’t you buy your own pitches and bet over broke on the place ??? Easy to sit back from a distance a mock those trying to make a living. It was easy to bet to ‘standard each way’ terms years ago when they bet to 3 percent a runner on the win market. Your obviously still one of the complete morons who can’t see a tenner each way at 66/1 at 1/6th the odds Is better than the same at 50/1 at a 1/5th. No wonder you never made a career betting for yourself. When i see you stand up on the stool with your money ill start listening to you. Good luck betting over broke


    • The books in question were betting to a bigger margin 1/6th the odds than those betting to correct terms. The place book at 1/5th was 109% on one race. I may well be a complete moron who has never stood up with my own money, but I do understand the game. However of course you’re (I also know the correct way of saying that in context too) perfectly entitled to your opinion and I appreciate you took the time to read my blog and comment on it. Thank you.


  3. Posted by GURNEY on April 20, 2013 at 7:03 am

    Surely you don’t have to be a bookmaker to offer an opinion on layers who bet to ridiculous place terms ?

    These layers could be damaging the reputation of the whole ring and could be indirectly costing those who bet to the correct terms.

    Personally I think it’s up to the punters to stop this practice by refusing to bet with those who don’t offer the proper terms but many don’t known the difference between a quarter and a fifth.

    Always enjoy reading the comments.

    Thank you


  4. Posted by chunk on April 20, 2013 at 7:23 am

    Maybe the courses should have something in the racecard. They tend to have a “how to bet” section under the FAQ’s after all. Just add something along the lines of “check the place fractions”. In my opinion, the betting ring is a factor in the slow death of racing. Currently there is no great value in the betting ring compared to exchanges. If bookies take the old fashioned stance and make their own book instead of following exchanges then there is an incentive for punters to pay entrance fee and go racing. Why would I want to pay entrance fee, travel costs etc etc when I can get the same, if not better odds at home?


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