Tales From The Betting Ring – Ascot 28/07/13


It’s funny how things change, going back a decade or so the thought of two of the three top pitches relocating to what would have been known as the ‘fiddlers’ end of the ring would have been unthinkable. There it was though, Sam Harris and Jack Bevan all pitched up and taking on the small-fry down on the edge of the lawn. Their reasoning made good business sense though, on a day aimed at families there were a lot more small fry than there were likely to be big, or even reasonably substantial punters. Sam Harris’s trusty side-kick Lynn had already taken a deep breath and was fielding a seemingly never-ending stream of £2 bets a good hour before the first. ‘It’s going to be a long day’ she sighed with a resigned smile as I passed.

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I am told that anglers sometimes use a lure to catch their fish, now my old boss Jack Lynn used to say that little fish were sweeter. As the name of the game today was enticing the tiddlers  that could have been the reason that veteran bag-man, almost as old as the aforementioned Jack I’m told, Laurie, was wearing a rather splendid tie. To reel in those lady punters? On enquiry not only was the tie a recent purchase but also one in a good cause bought from a charity seller at the previous Ascot meeting. ‘Real silk too’ Laurie informed me and went to the extra length of pointing to the label that indeed backed up his story, emblazoned ‘silk’. Such was the bargain he had snapped up four of them for a score ensuring that not only did he look dapper but the charities coffers had been swelled in the process. A great double up there then.

Hello Ladies....

Hello Ladies….

Up at the ‘business end’ things were very much quieter, business-wise that is, it was noisy enough with what appeared to be an atmosphere permeated by an omnipresent shrill of young voices punctuated by a wailing infant where ever you went. Those children that were showing their vocal discontent were in the vast minority however as most of the kids and families present appeared to be having a great time. Which is good. Give me that any day compared to drunken louts singing football songs and urinating in sinks and on floors witnessed and thankfully only heard about, in that order, at a recent meeting at another course.

There were a couple of punters having it on over at the rails. Not with Geoff Banks though, he hadn’t taken much money but did recommend a very nice sounding wine. Sadly I could probably no more afford it as I could pronounce it, let alone spell it. Though if you do wish to educate me in the ways of the jolly vintner Geoff I shall be more than prepared to imbibe after racing at Goodwood.

One bookmaker who had taken advantage of the exodus from the ‘good’ pitches for a move-up was suggesting that I should go down to those that had vacated and tell them how great it was up there. I wasn’t keen to do that as it was an obvious lie. I did wander down to see how they were getting on, they were doing very well thank you. I returned to tell him that they were betting overs for a monkey down at the other end. OK a blatant lie too, but by this time his computer had packed up and he was screaming to nobody in particular that he didn’t know where he was, if he was winning or losing or how much he had taken. I decided Martyn was suffering enough so decided not to compound his misery with an untruth.

There was a bit of a punt landed on Red Refraction,backed from 11/2 into 4/1 in the third, not to any money on-course though. As it would have taken a bulldozer full of pound coins to shift it in readies you have to suspect that the support came from the exchanges and the tail wagged the dog, though actually these days I think those roles have already been reversed.

Somebody had a £9000-£4000 on Love Marmalade on the rails in the fourth, the bookie that took it must have wondered where the hell that came from. I know where it stayed though, in his hod. Charles Camoin provided a 20/1 result for the ring and couldn’t have come at a better time, at least for that layer that took the lump.

I think those of us lucky enough to go racing on a regular basis sometimes forget that a lot of what we take for granted is a mystery to many. That was highlighted when one of the security guards told how he was totally amazed at the skill of the racecourse commentator and how he managed to recognise all those horses.

By all accounts the bookmakers had it spark bang off at Ascot on Saturday, they enjoyed results that they could hardly have written in better. One even attributed the bags under his eyes to burning the midnight oil counting the readies he had won. Sunday was a family day where many were exposed to racing for the first time, an advert for the sport. A little miserable of the vast majority of the ring that all but a handful bet 1/5 the odds a place for the concluding 18-runner handicap then.  Yes we all know that it is hard to win on the places in such races but most businesses have a loss-leader as a sweetener for new customers. On the plus side, few would have known that they were being short-changed, or maybe that makes it worse.

There was a market-move for Joe Packet, 12/1 into 8/1, in the race. No doubt the bookies that remained, half the rails had legged it after the fifth, were keeping their eye out for the owner. If he was there I didn’t spot him, sadly for his supporters the judge didn’t need to spot the horse either, it eventually finished 10th but is surely one to keep our eyes on though.

Some firms and punters were staying on to bet on the two pony races, I was heading for the car park. Goodwood from next Wednesday on for me is more than enough excitement to look forward to.

(C) Simon Nott

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