Tales From The Betting Ring – A Tale Of Two Courses ‘Ascot and Chipley Park’

The tales from the weekend’s betting ring are from probably one of the most famous and prestigious racecourses in the world, Ascot (18/01/14) and a Somerset field hosting the Tiverton Foxhounds Point To Point, Chipley Park (19/01/14). Tiverton I hasten to add is in Devon and this Somerset field is only a rocket-propelled Wellington throw from that fine county.

Saturday’s venue was the aforementioned Ascot, the venue as far removed from Chipley Park as you could possible get whilst being in the same family. As opposed to the chances of me being personally offered to view racing from the Royal Box it’s not far from beyond the realms of possibility that one of Chipley’s participants could grace this meeting in a few year’s time. Ascot is designed around the hugely attended Royal meeting in the summer so little surprise that you can rattle around in it at other meetings.  Likewise, the betting ring for jump racing is far from that of the summer but can still come to life. There was action in the first when off-course firms on-course got involved backing Handiwork at around 6/4 into 11/8, while a smaller but more effective and ultimately inspired punt went on Astre De La Cour backed from 7/2 into 2/1. The latter went on to win from the 11/8 jolly, basically the bookies had no chance.

Do you want crisps or peanuts with your lager sir?

Do you want crisps or peanuts with your lager sir?

There were a couple of hundred and the odd thousand pound bets around if the layers were lucky. Not enough to go around or make business worthwhile according to the more vocal on the rails though. ‘The business is pitiful’ announced one rails layer to everyone but nobody in particular. Geoff Banks, not one to shrink from speaking his mind, was first to pipe up in response. Ears picked up in expectation of tales of monster wagers absorbed by his prime pitch, then were once again at ease after his retort. ‘Did you say pitiful? I take issue with that, it’s nowhere near that good!’

For those at the ‘wrong’ end of Tatts (and there were plenty who appeared to have given the meeting a swerve) there was  a punter keeping them on their toes. One bookie took the first couple of bets which were successful. ‘He had it on again’ the layer exclaimed and then added with some exasperation ‘But not with me’ pointing to a beaming layer behind then adding ‘He nicked my punter!’ He was exasperated because having taken his winnings from him the punter was playing it up and losing and leaving it behind elsewhere. On a day so quiet that’s all the more galling with little chance of getting it back.

Sire De Grugy looked to be the only chance of getting anything on the day for many. One prominent firm were determined to take him on and stuck their chest out. The writing was on the wall for them when their main chance of getting it beaten, Somersby, unseated. The rest of the race was akin to equestrian water torture with our bookie knowing his fate and just waiting for it to be over. 11/8f Champagne West was the aptly named coup de grace for the layers in the last on a day they’d rather forget, especially if they actually did manage to field some money.

Talking of fields all roads from Tiverton on Sunday led to one in Somerset for the annual point to point bearing the Devon town’s name. Back in the 1800’s Tiverton hosted a prestigious meeting that attracted  Cesarewitch winners. See here http://wp.me/p1dLbd-J Those glory days are gone but the point is much loved, even though it’s not in Tiverton or even Devon.

Muddy without work.

Muddy without work.

It’s not hard to see why it’s so popular, especially in glorious sunshine  like today. The previous few days of heavy rain had taken their toll though with tractors ready to help vehicles bogged down in the mud. Thankful I didn’t see those agricultural workhorses in action towing people onto the course as witnessed in the past, so it can’t have been that bad!

It's all very well saving on tickets but every bloody bet is down to 'Farmer'!

It’s all very well saving on tickets but every bloody bet is down to ‘Farmer’!

There were plenty of bookmakers in attendance that would be familiar to regular racegoers but also a phenomenon that is sadly a blast from the past these days. I had forgotten the fun of rushing around looking for the best prices. Without Internet hedging and exchanges to be obsessed by the ring at point to points is alive with action. Markets are still initially dictated by the shrewdest layers having done their homework and consulted their moles and  pricing up accordingly. What follows is what it always used to be about, weight of money and perceived weight of money topped up with who has backed what and hedging. It was a real pleasure to get skittled by a panting floorman lunging for a £200 – £24 only to see him unashamedly bluffed, probably just for fun.

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? Just seven days of voting to go. http://www.blogawardsuk.co.uk/blog-entries/tales-from-the-betting-ring/

I was told that an investment on Un Ami in the second might bear dividends. Trainer Jane Williams, wife of the Genius of George Nympton Nick, was sure to have him fit and their son Chester was an able pilot despite his relative inexperience. He was up there neck and neck at the last it was impossible to see who had won from my vantage point. The intrigue was added to as the commentator stopped commentating on the run-in. Who’s won? Nobody seemed to know, Jane and Chester were all smiles though so that was positive. I’m not sure it if was watched kettle syndrome but the actual result seemed to take an age. I assume the judge didn’t have a photo to study so quite what was taking the time was anyone’s guess. ‘He’s won it’, I was told on several occasions from people on the line. My confidence grew as the announcer eventually started to give the result, but not before reading the whole title of the race ‘The agrii Restricted Race (Div 1)’but was then shattered. Chester had been pipped, deemed to have been second, by a short-head. One chap in the ring was incandescent with rage. Arms outstretched  (not up but widthways but if you are guessing who it could be you are probably right) akin to a fisherman regaling of the one that got away. ‘He won by this far’,  he protested demonstrating with various lengths of arms akimbo.

Best seats in the house for the officals.

Best seats in the house for the officals.

Did he back it? Of course he did. The meeting hosted ten races with the ninth split  so our furious fellow had a few heats to get over his losses and recoup enough money to buy the judge some glasses. Of course those who were on the winner had no doubt of the judicial official’s 20/20 vision.

Regardless of not backing a winner it would have been impossible not to enjoy the day. Seeing bookies’ clerks still using the art of pen and pencil and bets called down to ‘me’ and ‘farmer’. Some of the horses doing battle will doubtless never trouble the judge unless its their distance behind the winner prompting him to invest in some new bins. On the other hand we could have witnessed a future Gold Cup winner in one of the maidens, that’s one of  the joys of grass roots racing. All to the backdrop of proper bookies doing battle in an albeit modest market, something that as all but disappeared from our racecourses and a hugely enjoyable blast from the past, alive and well in a field near you. Can’t we get that back on racecourses? I doubt it sadly, come pointing!

Two more circuits to race.

Two more circuits to race.

(C) Simon Nott

*My new (and first) book ‘Skint Mob! – Tales From The Betting Ring’ is out now. It covers people and events in the betting ring from the 1980′s where hopefully some colour has been captured. It is a royal sized paperback. It’s on Amazon, eBay and Kindle or direct from me.

Skint Mob! Tales From The Betting Ring. OUT NOW

Skint Mob! Tales From The Betting Ring. OUT NOW

Full details can be found here.



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