Tales From The Betting Ring – Newbury 20/04/13

The first truly glorious day of the year weather-wise played host to Newbury’s Saturday card. The crowds turned out in their droves  to enjoy the sunshine, watch the racing and have a bet. Though not so much the latter according to one bookie on the rails, ‘They’re not even having £2.50 each-way on, they are just standing and looking’ he bemoaned. It was the first race, and a 17-runner handicap at that. Maybe those of us lucky enough to be  racecourse regulars underestimate how daunting it might be for novice racegoers to just wade into the betting jungle.  That issue may well have already reached the racecourse judging by the blue gazebo erected being the rails with the legend ‘Betting Zone’ emblazoned upon it. It seemed to be empty though and I’m not sure what actually went on there. I’m hoping there were people helping out with potential punters queries and explaining how to enjoy the unique racing experience that is the betting ring. If it was it was a great idea.

Some of those punters initially had a bigger problem to overcome with traffic chaos coming down from the London side of the M4. Not just the punters either, at least one member of the bookmaking fraternity had staff missing because of it. Geoff Banks, never one to let small problems like that hinder his day’s business, managed to grab someone to tap bets into his computer. More than one racegoer did a double-take just to make sure they actually did see a well-known racing celebrity clerking for him. The person in question is a familiar face on our screens though not so much staring into one. That Geoff never does things by halves that’s for sure. The celebrity stand-in did appear quite relieved  when his usual girl arrived to save the day enabling her to leg it before being offered a permanent position.

The John Porter Stakes was a less tricky looking heat for the punters. There were a couple three and four figure bets reported but generally business was still reported very light, one bookie saying he’d taken more money at Kempton mid-week.  That given you had to feel for the layer that ran into the £2200-£200 each-way the winner, though of course they did get the jolly beaten.

There were 25 runners in the Spring Cup. As you would hope and expect on a public Saturday the vast majority of firms bet 1/4 the odds a place. Sadly there were exceptions, it wasn’t hard to find them either, you only had to listen for their exasperated neighbours screaming that they were betting to correct terms. Still the novices piled in like lambs to the 1/6th the odds slaughter. ‘They just don’t know’, spat one book on the front row barely able to control his frustration. It continued all afternoon much to the chagrin of  those around. Rumblings from the racecourses who are sitting up and taking notice is that these sorts of scenes are soon going to be things of the past. Not a moment too soon I’m told. At least that was the overwhelming result of an impromptu straw poll conducted amongst bookies during the course of the day.

It appeared that the spring conditions had taken some of the betting ring community by surprise. Having been used to freezing weather for what has seemed like living memory, several of them had been reluctant to shed their winter clobber. The result being that there were some over-dressed, sweaty palmed, red-faced firms cooking for much of the afternoon.

None more rouge-faced than bookie Simon James who was plying his trade on the rails and decided to bet on the Scottish Grand National. He was tidying his book up a few minutes before off when his screen went redder than all of his over-heating colleagues combined. Anyone who read my blog over Cheltenham would have learned how my mate ‘Armaloft’ Alex accidentally hedged five grand instead of a monkey when taking a casual day’s work. Well luckily for Alex, and unemployment figures in general, it was Simon himself who committed the fat-fingered crime this time. I have no idea how the computer systems work these days, or quite how you manage it, but our hero accidentally had £1000 at 16/1 a horse instead of his very much more modest intended hedge. The race was off and the panic was on. To make things worse, despite the race being shown on Newbury’s big screen, the commentary was not broadcast. This of course made things very hard for him to try and lay himself out of trouble. He spent the race tap tap taping away attempting to get his misplaced stake back. By the time it dawned on him that the horse he erroneously backed was looking like the winner he’d laid most if it but did stop before Godsmejudge passed the post winning him £700.

Some people are just born lucky!

photo (4)

(c) Simon Nott


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Xxxx on April 21, 2013 at 8:45 pm

    Couldn’t believe seeing these bookmakers betting to 1/6 the odds on every race. One of them used to be a decent layer in the westcountry – I suppose he must have fallen on hard times to be resorting to this deceitful practice.


    • Sadly these days very often the person on the pitch (often dressed looking like he has just finished work on a building site) is not the person named on the board so you have no idea who you are betting with. The other problem with this scenario is that the person working the pitch is only interested in money and not the good reputation they are ruining. Yes a lot of bookies bet under ‘trade names’ but they have great pride in their business and good name,sometimes built up over two, three and even four generations, and would never do anything to tarnish that. In my option those shamelessly fleecing punters have total lack of interest in the long-term health of the betting ring in general because when it is gone they will just move on to something else.


  2. Posted by FCC on April 22, 2013 at 7:42 am

    It was supposed to be a day to attract a new crowd to racing… Disgraceful to see these bookmakers blatantly fleecing new punters. There is no excuse for this type of behaviour. These bookmakers should hang their heads in shame….


  3. Betting 1/6 a place is outrageous and you are right to highlight it. Need to be encouraging more racegoers not fleecing them. Your blog is a very entertaining read and thanks for the Twitter follow by the way.


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