Tales From The Betting Ring – Ascot – 12/07/13


Back to work after a short holiday and I thought I’d missed some important news. Ascot have done a Kempton and installed an all-weather track, all finished since the royal meeting at that.  The inner course was so parched that it looked for all the world like Fibresand, but on closer inspection, yes it was just parched. It does show you how much work the ground-stuff do to keep the racecourse in such great condition.

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The first race was run in glorious sunshine but it seemed that people were more interested in basking in it than betting. Mappa Mundi won the race at 15/2.  You would have thought that it would have been a result for the ring, well it was for some but not the two firms that laid a monkey and bottle each-way. Somebody appears to have fancied the winner.

Nobody fancied the second winner, 20/1 shot Sartorialist, at least not enough to have monkeys on. Not many could take a bet either, not a big one anyway.  Though one well-known Tatts book told me he made a stand and held the price of the market-leaders so got them in the book and his reward. ‘I had an opinion on the race’ he added.

The betting ring is the ‘cold’ side of the racecourse but was plenty hot enough for most. One front row bookie was sporting a really trendy, OK garish, pair of running shoes. I was always told that you should never bet with a bookie in such footwear and informed him so. It was OK though, the layer in question has only just stopped using various contraptions like leg-scooters to get around. He confided that although happy to no longer need vehicular assistance to be mobile he’s hardly able to out-run a winning punter.

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The third race on the card was started in front of the stand which gave racegoers the rare opportunity to watch the horses loaded up at close quarters. They still weren’t betting though. ‘Pitiful’ was the way one rails book summed up the business. In actual fact there were a few lumps on the favourite which could only make runner-up spot so a lucky few layers did cop.

The moans from the ring continued, ‘Can’t lay a thing’ bemoaned one, ‘horrible just horrible’ said another. One bookmaker’s staff member was munching on a sandwich. He opened it to show me the contents, ‘home made blackcurrant jam’ he informed me, ‘ and that is the highlight of this race, and all we can afford’. It has to be said that he boss was tucking into  a very substantial looking bagel so maybe it’s just the staff on rations.

By the penultimate, the ring had become stoic, admitted to themselves that it wasn’t going to be a bumper punting harvest and that they might as well either have a laugh or admire the scenery. One book at the bottom of the rail certainly had an eye for the ladies, so much so that he allowed a rather attractive one to have her ‘bus fare home’, £1.80 on the favourite.  The firm in question did look a bit out of place bathed in the sun, their joint normally has something grey and miserable about it, what was it?  The AWOL long-serving member of staff of course one race-goer enlightened me. Of course, that was it!

The comedy came from one of the more flamboyant and vocal on the rails ‘Somebody please have a bet’ he cried, but with a resigned smile. There was actually a few quid about for the favourite Morpheus from 11/4 into 2/1f. It got up to win by a nose. ‘How did that get up?’ screamed a Tatts layer, ‘it was a million in running’, if it was I’m sure he hedged it then.

The last winner was 40/1. There was no point asking the books how they did because they would have all said if you can’t take any money you can’t win anything. I couldn’t take any more stories from poor potless layers . It didn’t stop some of them betting on the charity race being run when most people were heading home though. I had a quick peek into one of their computers. Not much charity going on there I thought, he was betting to 230%. Seeing my reaction he looked up and said, ‘I know I know, I was betting to 300% until that lot next door priced up and bloody topped me!

I have no idea what won, the gamble of the race, in aid of the charity you’d hope.

(c) Simon Nott

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