Tales From The Betting Ring – Wincanton Boxing Day


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The first person I bumped into at Wincanton was Tiverton trainer and cousin a few times removed Linda Blackford. She had two runners but wasn’t too happy about the heavy going. At least racing was on, though must have been privately  in some doubt on Christmas Eve when there is said to have been standing water on the track. Linda had some friends in tow too, Bill and Phillipa who had a leg in one in the bumper and keen to have a good day out as proud owners despite underfoot conditions. The crowd hadn’t been put off either and who could blame them with competitive races and glorious winter sunshine. It must have been a nigh on record crowd too because the place was absolutely heaving including in the rarely-opened silver ring. Silver rings, remember them?

Glorious crowd and sunshine.

Glorious crowd and sunshine.

I got a bit of a telling off when I arrived in Tatts. A bookmaker whom I named in a previous blog as another owner of a leg had the right needle with me. I won’t name him again because he already has the hump but would like to take this opportunity put things right. I’d to categorically state that this Westcountry bookie, despite getting very excited when it runs, does not, I repeat not, have any financial interest in any horse in training. He does admit to having a connection with a connection of a horse but that is far as it goes. It seems by naming him and linking him with said beast a spectre from his past loomed large with a hand out which by all accounts gave him the willies and almost ruined Christmas. So sorry about that ‘Most Concerned, of a town near Torquay’. It’s amazing who reads these blogs so sorry and happy to clear that up.

Luke Harvey was much more cheerful than the financially embattled bookie. He was sporting a fine Christmas jumper with not a hint of having pulled the item on under duress. This in comparison to what was alluded to as a viable excuse for such behaviour by those in similar garb on the ‘Morning Line’. Nope, Luke liked his and said he wanted to get the wear out of it, and quite right too. There may well also have been a professional reason for our jocular hero to be in a festive woollen. He was hosting a Christmas jumper competition out in the parade ring so was evidently putting competitors in their comfort zone. I couldn’t see this all taking place but get the impression that Luke’s jumper paled into insignificance when he asked a wearer to ‘Cover that one up sir you’ll scare the horses’, you have to love Luke.

As far as the betting goes, well it appeared that the bookies couldn’t take it fast enough. They took it fast on Bobble Boru in the opener with weight of money forcing it from 7/2 into 5/2 before getting the punters of to a flying start by winning. The market was tight in the next, Exemplary won the race at 4/1 which wasn’t a lot of cop for the layers. Ardkilly Witness was the 3/1 winner of the third, not favourite but no good either. Mind you it could be expected that plenty of bookies’ computer screens were fairly green all over given the level of business.

There is one phenomenon that only rears its head on bank holidays, the crowd give the horses a roar when they pass the stands on the first circuit, and so they did today, for every race. To be fair they cheered pretty loud in the proper end of the fourth too when Champagne West landed a 15/8 into 6/4 gamble. It’s not certain if the favourite-backers’ smiles would have been so broad had Upswing not come down at the last though.

After four short-priced winners the bookies were losing some of that Christmas cheer but found it again when  Count Guido Deiro sprang a 16/1 surprise in the next. If you like to read about bookies winning then you’d have to hope they got their whack on that race because it’s all a tale of woe from here on in. Lord Of House beat the favourite in the penultimate but was backed from around 10/3 into 5/2 before winning so no good for the ring.

There were five non-runners in the concluding bumper including what looked to be a hotpot Sergeant Thunder. Mountain Of Mourne took its chance despite trainer Linda Blackford’s misgivings about the going. Somebody obviously thought that the gelding would handle the conditions because it was nibbled from 7/2 into 3/1. They, whoever, ‘they’ were were spot on as it made all to win nicely. The race was run in rapidly dimming light  with the presentation  in near darkness. You didn’t need lighting to see the smiles from the winning connections, delighted would be an understatement and for a race worth less than £1300 to the winner too. Proper job.

(c) Simon Nott

My book full of stories based on bookies, punters and characters that inhabit the betting rings of the UK has been getting some great feedback on Twitter. As a way of blowing my own trumpet and hopefully generating some interest in this self-published title I thought I’d share some with you. http://wp.me/p1dLbd-br

Available on eBay http://r.ebay.com/4fS1wF

Skint Mob! Tales From The Betting Ring. OUT NOW

Skint Mob! Tales From The Betting Ring. OUT NOW

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