From the archives. ‘Tales From The Betting Ring’ #1 Christmas 2004

With racing off again and the prospect of new tales looking thin on the ground I thought I’d share one of a few year’s worth of old ‘Tales’ I rescued from an old hard-drive. Here’s one from 9 years ago. First published in Racing Ahead magazine.

Tales From The Betting Ring
Christmas 2004
Simon Nott

Most people turned up at Wincanton oblivious to the fact that there had been an earlier inspection. Stuffed full of mince pies and turkey the amassed ranks of bookmakers who occupied the often half-empty pitches were licking their lips at the prospect of relieving some of the 12,000 strong crowd of some of their Christmas money. The Boxing Day meeting is traditionally one where the books fill the hod, bet to figures and let the results look after themselves. That prospect was tarnished slightly when rumour spread around the ring of a recent pitch sale to a bookmaker who it has to be said is his colleague’s worst nightmare and a punters dream. The sight of various books upping tools to get away from the new purchaser of a prime pitch was one to behold.

Once the excitement of pitching-in had subsided most firms got straight to work trying to fill those hods and get the Christmas expenses. They were in for a shock. Lamps Return was plunged on, bundles of cash from shrewds were being thrust into the hands of bookmakers just keen to lay the once a year £5 punters. They were taken by surprise and the price plummeted from 7/2 all rates down to 2/1f. That sort of move is not really the sort of thing the books looking to bet tidy were looking for, neither was the each way tickle on Cream Cracker who was backed from 25 into 16/1. It would not normally be too easy to get much on each way in a Novice Hurdle but the books were keen to accommodate the punters who only ever bet on the Grand National and ask for each way out of habit, so the generally redundant each way signs had been dusted off and were up. Lamps Return won pulling up and Cream Cracker finished second. The groan from the ring was audible but there were some smug smiles from those layers who had managed to stick to the plan and bet ‘overs’ if possible.

Tribal King was a similar story, 11/4 into 9/4f and won pulling up too. The bookmakers who had arrived confident of hitching a ride on the gravy train were looking somewhat jaded as they paid out long lines of winning punters. To make things worse many who were each way on second placed Luneray 12 into 11/1 and 10/1 shot 3rd Beau Supreme.

With two defectors the Handicap Hurdle was reduced to 16 runners, holiday crowd or not the each way signs were slung into the darkest depths of the kit bags. Martin Pipe’s Honan was backed from 5/1 into 4/1, then 50/1 shot Le Gris was withdrawn, the speed and agility displayed by bookmakers and their staff in retrieving the ‘each way taken’ signs was admirable, then it went their way. Winner, Mystery was short but hard to lay, 11/2 from 4/1, On A Deal was an unsupported 50/1 while third place Coustou was hardly order of the day at 16/1, 4th and out of the money due to the non runner was none other than Honan. It wasn’t all rosy for the books though, an SP percentage of 117% in a 15-runner handicap proved that some of the bookmakers at the business end of the ring haven’t grasped the idea that when there is a massive crowd there is no need to tear up the market. Which of course is great news for punters who come racing but not so good for the back row bookie trying to scrape a living.

Bambi De L’Orme was a drifter from 11/8 to 13/8f and was beaten when fell at the last, the eventual winner Master Rex was backed from 7/1 into 5/1 and once again proved costly for the books. Unusually there were no Exchange Arbing firms in evidence in the ring so some sharp bookmakers were able to take advantage of price anomalies to hedge themselves. Which was just as well, because had their not been such a crowd and good business the results would have resulted in financial bookie meltdown. Dangerously Good won the next having been backed from 7/2 into 5/2f.

In what could have been the final twist in the knife the off-course firms came battering into the ring for Bunratty Castle smashing the price from 9/4 into 7/4f, the last thing the books needed, but only if it won. Those who kept their nerve, and that being a big ask as one of the firms only bet real live stuff, kept the money. 10/1 Walter’s Destiny manifested himself as the bookie saving cavalry by trotting up from 25/1 shot Dear Deal.

Sometime floor man and self styled tweed clad gent of the turf, ‘Sunbed’ Dave told all who would listen that Be Be King was different class in the NH Flat, though despite the touting from the unseasonably shaded one, the gelding was allowed to drift from 2/1 to 11/4jf but won in a hack canter and could now well be on target for Cheltenham.

Kempton held and inspection at 8am, half an hour before I had to set off from Devon, a phone call to the course was thought prudent, after being informed that the course was almost raceable and that the inspection planned for 10am was purely precautionary we set off through a glassy landscape. By the time we arrived at Kempton Park there had been two further inspections with another planned at midday. A veteran bookmaker/farmer wandered down to the track and returned asking if anyone would lay him an even pony racing would be abandoned. His shrewdness is well known so despite the sun beating down there we no takers. Not long after his kind offer was swerved racing was abandoned. Funny that, but was at least something to chuckle about on the long drive home.

As a cool down interlude. If you are enjoying this blog, any chance you could take time out to vote for it in the UK  Blog Awards here?

Chepstow was rammed, anyone who hadn’t left plenty of time to get to the course early probably missed the first race. If they were the sort of people who like to get stuck into short priced favourites they would have saved themselves a nice few quid. Blushing Bull was heavily backed from 4/7 into 1/2 and looked certain to collect, only to be collared by a short head on the line by Miss Fahrenheit. The winner had been backed from 9/1 into 8/1 mainly by public money latching onto an each way chance, so depending on the bookmakers strategy on what would be another ‘fill the hod and bet to figures’ sort of afternoon would not have been an amazing result but would have been a winner for almost all books. Almost Broke in the second on the other hand would not, backed from 7/2 into 11/4 including money from the exchange boys the gamble was landed by three lengths and wiped out most of the gains made in the first.

There were bundles for Cerium in the next 11/8 into 5/4 but he dropped away tamely behind Phar Bleu. The winner was ridden by AP McCoy and backed from 10/1 into 9/1 and was once again popular with the smaller each way backers so took the shine from the books boxing clever, though with 50/1 and 33/1 shots filling the places it was another pretty good result. The Welsh National was a disaster, Sunbed Dave had once again touted a winner, Silver Birch was all the rage shortening from 9/2 into 10/3f with the massive crowd more than keen to get involved though it’s not certain Dave had managed to whisper in all their collective ears. The rest is history, Silver Birch won and the places were filled by 8/1, 5/1 and 15/2 shots, a result that can only be described as nasty for any bookmaker, especially those betting each way, and in the big race most were.

Tanterari was the stick-on in the next 9/4 into 7/4f but at the home turn Victory Gunner an unconsidered 20/1 shot was clear. Two out it looked as if he was certain to win and must have been a fantastic result for bookmaker Dick Oliver who shouted 2/1 in running. You had to be quicker than a floor man who’s spotted a fiver on the floor to get on but a couple did, 25 lengths clear at the line the beaming bookie was keen to pay out the lightning-footed value-seekers. The extra beam in reply to the question had he had a good race told the story. It didn’t last long. The next winner Le Passing had enough money wagered on him to re-float the economy of a small African nation and as a result of being 13/8 from 2/1 separated the bookmakers from the winnings from the previous race, though it has to be said not all. Many had been waiting for the one result and had put the winnings firmly into a secret place and bet tight.

In the National Hunt Flat only The Mick Weston 3/1 into 5/2 and Victom’s Chance 10/3 into 9/4f were backed to any sort of money, they finished in that order. Pirate Flagship drifted from 7/4 to 3/1 and could only finish a distant fourth at the line. Another day of terrible results for the bookmakers was saved by pure weight of money and the ability to book make, a blessing counted by many as they scurried though various short cuts to escape the traffic on the way of course.

It was soon apparent that generally good figures enjoyed by the books at the previous two meetings would not save them at Newbury, though there was a good-sized crowd there were plenty of bookmakers. The strong front row and rail meant it would be tough going anywhere apart from there and so it proved. 2/1 Joint Favourites Kauto Star and Foreman were both backed in their turn and that’s how the race panned out, a match between the two turned into a one horse race as Kauto easily accounted for his rival. Anyone who went up the front two hoping for a result did their money in cold blood. In the next Lady Zephyr was backed to huge amounts from 11/4 into 2/1f. She looked to have it all to do but sloshed in. The winner looked to have dropped something after the last, rumour had it, mainly out of bookmaker wishful thinking, that it was the weight cloth were soon dispelled by the weighed in signal.

There had been an off-course pricewise inspired gamble going on Bee An Bee all morning, the on-course books took no chance with the horse and put up an early show of 4/1. That was snapped up by the sharp suited reps of one of the off-shore based rails firms. The plunge continued touching 3/1 in places helped along by at least one of the High Street firms, but then Lou Du Moulin Mas came in for heavy support, 6/1 into 4/1 a result of which the early plunge horse was allowed to drift back to 10/3. That gamble on Bee An Bee never looked like coming off, but on the run up to the line it seemed as if Lou Du Moulin Mas was going to ruin the bookmakers day but 16/1 shot Juveigneur came to their rescue and was about to provide a result when morning favourite with some firms Ulusaba swooped from nowhere to deprive the French raider and bookmakers alike. Although the winner had drifted to 9/1 he was nowhere near a good a result as the second.

Moonstream was backed from 2/1 into 13/8 in the next, along with little bits of shrewd cash for Lion Hunter 9/1 into 15/2 and people being very clever lumping on Marki each way where possible at 6/1 into 7/2. Rubberdubber drifted from 3/1 out to 4/1 but at the line was only a neck from depriving the bookmakers of a 66/1 Christmas bonus in the shape of Pretty Star who just failed to get up. That was the last sniff of a holiday result the layers had. By the time they had lugged their stuff back to the cars, Brewster 5/1 into 3/1, Earth Man 5/1 into 9/2 and the aptly named Grumpy Stumpy 9/1 into 7/1 had just about ruined their Christmas, but not quite badly enough to think about flogging the BMW, yet.

(c) Simon Nott

My book Skint Mob, 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.    The book can be ordered direct from me by sending a cheque toSimon Nott, 16 Fairby Close, Tiverton, Devon EX16 6AB, BACS email me for details via Paypal at the same email address or  on eBay



2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Adrian Armstrong on January 4, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    Hi Simon

    How many archives do you have?

    I hope you consider either putting them online or using them for another book!   Regards,

    Adrian Armstrong



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