Tales From The Betting Ring – Cheltenham Festival Thursday 2014

The course was shrouded with mist first thing but fears of an abandonment followed by a 13-race Gold Cup day were soon dispelled along with the poor visibility. It was still a little dank when I ventured to the Best Mate enclosure to see how things had been going over there. Everyone seemed quite happy, as in Tatts the results and winnings had been better on the Tuesday but the general feeling was a contented one. The ever-exuberant Dave Hazell was as ever, exuberant with his delightful family betting in two pitches. He was helping set both up with a smile and even proved to be pretty good at selling Skint Mobs for me too. (If anyone wants one I still have several left though! Details here http://wp.me/p1dLbd-9n)

Dave Hazell directs the task of joint erection while his daughter Lucy waits patiently.

Dave Hazell directs the task of joint erection while his daughter Lucy waits patiently.

Dave was brightening the place up with his cheerful demeanour but bookie Guy Faber had gone one step better. It’s safe to say that it’s unlikely you’ll find his jacket off the peg anywhere, at least I doubt it. Some elements of the main ring could have done with some cheering up. Poor old Paul Metcalfe, betting as Jack Bevan, established 1897 has been having a torrid time of things. Anyone who read this blog on Tuesday will have been saddened to read that his accommodation had gone bust taking his deposit with it. Miffed by doing his dough in cold blood before the starter had even stepped on his rostrum he’d decided to commute to and from Torquay every day. Sadder still that cost him even further after being pulled over slightly exceeding the speed limit on the way home last night. He didn’t let on but I’m told he was a century lighter than before being given the tug. He was sticking to his guns and refusing to stay for the final night. Ian, his long-suffering right hand man didn’t look over enamoured with the decision but stayed tight-lipped.

Suits you sir.

Suits you sir.


If you thought things couldn’t get any worse elsewhere, they were, poor Geoff Banks was in turmoil. He’d paid ‘Eighty odd quid for a bottle of champagne that should be only thirty-odd’. If that wasn’t bad enough, the salt was well and truly rubbed into his already stingy wound; ‘They served it to me in a plastic glass’ he seethed with a look of contempt normally reserved for the sort of stuff one hates to find on one’s shoe. A disgrace indeed. His staff looked very very sad for him but the whole team appeared to have gotten over the trauma before the first and raised a smile for the camera. Very stoic of them I thought.

Geoff Banks and staff put on a brave face after a terribly traumatic time in the Champagne Bar

Geoff Banks and staff put on a brave face after a terribly traumatic time in the Champagne Bar


All of the aforementioned may well have cheered up more when Taquin Du Seuil won the first, it was a 7/1 from 8/1 victor but fourth in the betting, a result of sorts. The finish of the meeting so far was fought out in the Pertemps Network Final. Fingal Bay and Southfield Theatre went past the post together but to the naked eye it looked as if Fingal Bay, the 9/2 favourite had won the race from the 20/1 shot despite the finish being desperate. Favourite backers around me obviously thought they had won and were delirious. So much so that many of them didn’t see the slow motion re-run on the big screen, those that did let out a gasp it was a real bobber. After what seemed like an age but was probably only a minute, the result was given, first impressions had been correct, but only by a nose. In other words a dead-heat before judges were able to magnify to the nearest pixel.  Now the ring were on the back foot the cup being snatched from their lips.

Then along came David Pipe to sock it to them again when Dynaste made no mistake winning the Ryanair, landing plenty of chunky bets which included a £30,000 – £9000. The World Hurdle had been the most anticipated race of the day. Most people were looking forward to a supposed battle between Big Buck’s and Annie Power. That was the tussle in the betting ring with by far the most action surrounding those two. One firm on the rails was reported to have laid a £60,000 – £40,000 which must have had him slightly worried approaching the last. Luckily for the bookie and sadly for punter More Of That came to spoil the party, the winner had seen a couple of four-figure bets for it at around 10/1 and returned 15/2 but was still a cracking result.

As often seems the case after the main event the ring seems to thin markedly and that was the case today. Hardly surprising with two fiendishly hard handicaps to fathom. Those who went with the ‘When in doubt back Pipe’ theory got the money when Ballynagour made a 12/1 mockery of the supposed competitive nature of the race by hacking up, beating 5/1f Colour Squadron into second. The same theory about the Pipes went went astray in the last when Spring Heeled obliged also at 12/1. I’m told a whole posse of racecourse photographers were tipped the winner at at open day recently. Some had it spark bang off, while others were cursing their caution by not backing it, not all happy snappers. Naturally such is the camaraderie within their ranks I’m sure the haves will treat the have nots………..

I didn’t stay about for the Charity Race but some bookies did bet on it, I am told Martyn Of Leicester’s form man put the winner up so he had a skinner, at the time of writing he was still working out how much of a bonus to bung him. Charity begins at home of course on course!

(c) Simon Nott

Devon Life review

Devon Life review



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