Tales From The Betting Ring – Cheltenham 18/10/13


It won’t come as any surprise to read that getting the treble up of great jumping tracks this week, culminating in Cheltenham today after Exeter and Wincanton was a great pleasure for this writer. There were bits missing at Cheltenham though, it was weird to notice something was gone but not being sure quite what. I won’t spoil the surprises but will let on the the sweet van was moved to the other side of the parade ring. At least I would have worked off some of the chocolate bar I was trying to buy looking all over for it once I realised it was gone from its usual pitch.

As you would expect there was a decent crowd but Cheltenham is a big place to fill so it was nice to rattle around in it getting reacquainted.  The bookies reported that business was a bit slow in the opener, The winner at 11/4  Saint Rouque did attract some hundred pound bets but at least beat the 2/1 favourite Rum And Butter.

The second race was a match which might have tempted one intrepid punter to wade into the favourite Rebel Fitz with £6000 at 8/13, he only had one to beat after all. Sadly that was too much of a task leaving one rails bookie smiling from ear to ear, the punter wasn’t seen again, hardly surprising as that is a financial wound that would take a lot of licking.

In stark contrast the next race attracted 20-runners and was hugely competitive, the serious punters appeared to be holding fire. One of them called me over, he was talking to legendary ex-bookie turned punter Stephen Little, all three of us appear in an oil painting by celebrated artist David Dent commissioned by rails bookmaker Gregory Hughes. The punter thought it funny that we were recreating the scene.  It was the first Stephen had heard that he had been immortalised and that we were all hanging on the Irish layer’s wall, was he impressed? Well it’s hard to tell with Mr Little.

If the Devil could cast his net!

If the Devil could cast his net!

Artistic interlude over it was back to business in the fourth with large-staking punters getting stuck into According To Trev, Pantxoa, and Sizing Symphony. They all left it behind when Twirling Magnet won the race at 7/1. My bookie mates were a bit miffed because their figures threw it up  but were put off after its lack-lustre run last time. The stewards had spotted the same thing and noted explanations as to why the A P McCoy-ridden beast found sparkling form this time, maybe a bit harsh.

There was a huge plunge on Lac Fontana in the maiden. One of the off-course firms had untold bundles on in the ring and along the rails to force the price into 8/13 at the off. They were spot-on with that decision as the plunge horse won as it liked.

The penultimate was classic Cheltenham. I was stood next to a firm who had gone all out for Oscar Davy and roaring the 10/1shot home as it approached the last. Their anticipation of a skinner was shattered when it came down still a length up. This left Handy Andy clear and at 16/1 was still a great result for them and most of the ring too I’d imagine. Those that backed him suffered the full agony of the Cheltenham hill as it faltered in the shadow of the post and was swallowed up denying even place money with 8/1 Hunters Lodge pouncing fastest to the line.

It got busier honest.

It got busier honest.

One rails layer was mortified, he’d been having a great day, took one chunky bet in the race and decided to risk the only bad loser in his book, the winner. ‘It was 100/1 everywhere but the line’ he squealed to nobody in particular. I don’t think anyone had the heart to ask why he didn’t back it back at that price then. ‘Sod it let’s go’ was his next statement to his team, you couldn’t really blame him with just a big field Conditional Jockeys’ race to conclude. They packed the kit down and waited for the sole winning punter to come and collect so they could feign a smile, pay him out and bugger off.

As the field gathered at the start they were still waiting. They were still waiting during the race, and the last time I saw them still waiting when the 10/1 winner of the last passed the post. It’s name?

First In The Queue, sometimes you just couldn’t make it up!

(C) Simon Nott

My brand new book entitled ‘Skint Mob! – Tales From The Betting Ring’ will be available in November, watch this space.

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