Tales From The Betting Ring – Royal Ascot – Tuesday.

I always like to set off for big meetings nice and early and got a pleasant surprise when I tuned into Radio 2 in the car having missed the news on the TV in my haste to get on the road. I recognised that voice, the dulcet Westcountry tones of none other than ex-jockey, all-round good guy and budding comedian Luke Harvey. He wasn’t cracking jokes though just telling the nation of Chris Evans fans just how much he likes Royal Ascot. His enthusiasm was palpable and timing impeccable, well I was impressed anyway, and it seems so was Chris. Look out Cornelius Lysaght, there could be competition for your racing radio crown!

Talking of luminaries of the press room, there were plenty of familiar faces in evidence who obviously like to get there even earlier than me. The vast majority of them, especially the regulars, are gentlemen (and women) to a man (woman). There are a couple though, that has to be said are on the missing list apart from all but the top meetings, appear to have delusions of grandeur. This meeting makes them even worse, put an already inflated ego in 19th century fancy dress and their pomposity seems to know no bounds. I’d wager that if I happened upon Royalty and opened the door for them they would utter a thank you.

I felt much more comfortable down in the ring with the gentlemen of the turf as they set up for the day’s business. I was looking out for my old pal Jack Bevan and Co but couldn’t find them. That was a bit weird as they bet number three in Tatts. As I stood gazing, that bloke from Time Team appeared. I wondered if they were doing a period piece on chimney sweeps as he was dressed in the garb. Then to re-visit an old joke it wasn’t that bloke from Time Team at all, but Ian who works for Bevan. He told me that they had decided to forsake their prestigious pitch in Tatts and bet by the old paddock. A bit of a gamble on their part but they were up for a punt. Watch this space.

That bloke from Time Team

That bloke from Time Team

The Queen’s procession preceded any real punting action. She looked resplendent in pink but there didn’t appear to be any wagering on her choice of hat colour as in previous years. There was plenty of betting in the opener though. The bookies wanted to get stuck into Animal Kingdom and the punters were keen to oblige, including one to the tune of a cool £20,000. The bookies kept the cash as the favourite flopped behind Declaration Of War. The 15/2 winner had been 10/1, ‘Terrible result for the Irish bookies’, said a well-loved PR man for an Irish bookie. I guessed he might be saying that a bit tongue in cheek, I knew he was when he burst into a grin.

I got chatting to a real bane of the bookmakers over on the rails. There is only one thing he likes better than winning off them and that is goading them after he has won off them. I suggested that the expenses might be a bit much attending a meeting like Royal Ascot for a week just to punt. With that he heaved out a house-brick sized wad of readies and waved it under the noses of the nearest layers and laughed out, ‘This lot will be paying the expenses!’ Well, you do need confidence.

The ring got the next favourite beaten too so it was their confidence that was sky-high. Geoff Banks had a brace of beauties on the joint doing all the hard work while he held court jokingly calling the prices as loudly as possible. ‘He’ll give the ring a bad name’ commented one punter with a wink. I’m not sure about that but he may well have tempted fate, to his chagrin. It did look that Dawn Approach might have just been beaten in the St Jame’s Palace Stakes, but the roar that went up when the result was given told the story. Favourite backers were in business again, including one bet of £33,000 to £24,000 that was landed by a short head.

On the rails, they bet.

On the rails, they bet.

War Command won the Coventry Stakes at 20/1 which was another cracking result for the books. I did spot one punter who likes to bet those sort of prices. He was sporting an original looking topper but most importantly was clean-shaven and not be-whiskered. Now he told me previously that he only shaves when he has backed a winner. His chin was so clean it could well have been that he nipped up to the gents and got a celebratory razor out between races. Let’s hope so.

When I was a floorman and asked for what some bookies might have considered to be a bet out of proportion for the meeting we were at, a common bluff retort used to be, ‘Where do you think you are? Royal Ascot?’ Well it seemed that the vast majority of Tatts had forgotten where they were, betting to 1/5 the odds in the 19-runner Ascot Stakes. You could get 1/4 if you looked around but you had to be a pretty canny shopper. Those lucky enough to be in the Royal Enclosure, at least at the top rail, had no such problem with most of those firms betting traditional odds a place.. The favourite was second behind 8/1 Well Sharp.

Extortionist won the last at 16/1. It wasn’t a case of did they win, but how much, down in the ring. The bookies will tell you that it is the quietest day and all that but they were smiling all over the place on the way out. Nasty.

(c) Simon Nott


4 responses to this post.

  1. Entertaining, always good to hear what it’s like swinging the bag..


  2. Enjoyable read as always, Simon. Keep it going.


  3. Thank you very much, I’m glad you enjoy them. Spread the word!


  4. Posted by Charlie Robertson on June 20, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    Brilliant Simon!!! I really enjoy your humour and you certainly bring the betting jungle to my PC!!!! Keep up the good work! Cheers, Charlie


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