Tales From The Betting Ring – A Wet Weekend At Newbury and Exeter


My weekend’s racing action had to survive two inspections, and survive it did. Your (waterproof) hat has to go off to ground staff at Newbury and Exeter who defied not only the elements but the odds too, ‘It’s a million to one that Newbury will be on’ proclaimed one bullish Press Room regular earlier in the week. I would have had a life-changing quid on despite the rain pouring as he  prophecised a weekend washout of biblical proportions but sadly it seemed the odds he was touting weren’t actually available.

Scarf anyone, anyone?

Scarf anyone, anyone?

Needless to say I didn’t become a millionaire just before 8am on Saturday morning when racing was given the go ahead. I did get to go to Newbury though so still not a bad outcome. Despite being on, the weather was atrocious for most of the day. Umbrellas were flying about again in the howling wind, the ones that got loose were the lucky ones though because for more than one mush Saturday would be its final day. My bookie mates who occasionally mark my card with their speed-figure inspired selections were loathe to advise anything today. It seems that the going horses have been running in the past few weeks have been unprecedented. They told me that for their own benefit they added a ‘very heavy’ going a few years ago but times in the last few weeks have even been off that scale.

If they aren’t confident enough to tip anything you’d imagine they’d be hoping the dire conditions would come to their rescue with a few ‘funny’ results. Sadly for those layers enduring a literal battering from the elements three of the first four jollies went in. There was a small boost for the ring to discover that a  building had been previously housing the Tote at its entrance had been transformed between meetings into a fish and chips emporium. ‘It was a credit office anyway, only the potless in there so no benefit to us’ dismissed one grumpy bookmaker.

The best plaice for a bet?

The best plaice for a bet?

Some delightful looking ladies clad in yellow appearing in the maelstrom to dish out Betfair scarves did brighten proceedings. Racegoers keen for something for nothing, but possibly less cynically something to keep the wind out, clamoured to relieve them of their loads. Well they did for a bit but it seemed supply exceeded demand. The bookies did look in need of scarves but the vast majority of them appeared less than keen to don something advertising arguably the catalyst of the betting ring’s downward spiral.

Having said that, a lot of the on-course layers didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory betting to 1/5 the odds in the 20-runner feature hurdle. They were doing nothing wrong of course  but there were grumbles from punters who could easily stand a few yards away in a warm betting shop and get 1/4, that of course was a very inviting option on a miserable day like today. Skinny place odds aside I for one couldn’t begrudge the ring their 33/1 result with Splash Of Ginge, those layers looked frozen out there. You’d have to hope they got their whack out of the race because there was little other respite though they did get the well-backed 5/4f beaten in the bumper. 6/1 shot Definitly Red won the race but I was more interested in  Mountain Of Mourne finishing third at 25/1. The gelding won at Wincanton last time out for Tiverton trainer and second cousin once removed Linda Blackford and local owners. This was a great run in a step up in class so a real thrill for the handler and connections.

Those connections were still buzzing at Exeter, yet another meeting that defied the weather and the odds to be on, though I didn’t hear a million quoted this time. ‘We’re going to Cheltenham with him’ enthused part-owner Bill still hyper over the Newbury third, impervious to the driving sleet and freezing wind. There was more buzzing when it transpired TV celebrity Jeremy Kyle was in attendance to see his Paul Nicholl’s trained Dormello Mo run in the opener. Luke Harvey got to interview the owner before racing who seemed very happy to be at the course despite the weather. While being regaled by Leglock the horse’s odds tumbled from 9/4 into 13/8f, let’s hope Jeremy was on before he was collared by Luke or he might not be so keen to be on the receiving end of a microphone pre-race again. Sadly the favourite went from going very well to appearing to get stuck in the mud eventually finishing 4th.

Haldon Hill does its best to batter the bookies.

Haldon Hill does its best to batter the bookies.

By the second race it was snowing, then the sun came out for a bit before we were treated to some rain, this was Haldon at its best. People have often said it’s possible to get all four seasons in one afternoon at Exeter Racecourse and this afternoon was the proof. There was some great racing action out on the course and decent betting in the ring too. There was an excellent crowd despite the initial doubt about the meeting taking place. ‘It’s not been bad, there’s not a huge quantity of bets but there are some decent punters out there’ was Richard ‘Tall Boy’ Watson’s summing up of the day’s business, with a ‘Well worth coming’ top up.

I suppose it depended on which weather forecast you saw really.

I suppose it depended on which weather forecast you saw really.

By the last Luke Harvey really did deserve an award of some sort, he had stood out in all that the elements could throw at him all afternoon. He’d interviewed owners, celebrities or otherwise, presented prizes and talked to trainers  and all with a smile while looking like he’d just been pulled from a swamp. Back in the ring Philip Hobbs’ Trickaway was being smashed into for the concluding bumper. Some punters got on at 7/4 but those who had dawdled got the crumbs, the gelding went off at 11/10 and landed the gamble despite running all over the track. It was probably lucky I talked to Richard Watson before the last not afterwards, after all, nobody likes to hear of poor beleaguered bookies soaked, freezing  as well as losing money, do they?

(C) Simon Nott

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From the Sunday Independent

From the Sunday Independent

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