Tales From The Betting Ring – Cheltenham Festival Friday 2014

Day four upon us before we know it, and it’s the big one, Gold Cup day. Not everyone was abuzz with excitement as I was. I bumped into rails bookmaker Andy Smith on my way into the course. It is safe to say that he was not happy about the level of business he had ‘enjoyed’ during the first three days. ‘I have done more bets on an off day at Bath’ was his summing up. I didn’t pursue the conversation any more, but just hoped he’d find things better today.

People were more cheerful elsewhere. Not least Rocky and team at the Kelross joint, they had been AWOL from their position on the rails. It wasn’t by choice but had been held up in traffic so badly they turned the car around at midday and headed for home again. Calm as ever, Rocky also admitted that ‘The meeting isn’t really the jackpot’ so not too upset about missing yesterday but was glad to be there today adding that ‘We don’t ever have a last race, there’s always another day’. Good advice for bookies and punters alike who tend to chase their loses.

Who needs a lightboard? Not Peter O'Toole. Maybe a pair of glasses to find the horse the punter wants to back though.

Who needs a lightboard? Not Peter O’Toole. Maybe a pair of glasses to find the horse the punter wants to back though.

Simon James down on the rails had once again stormed away in the tipping competition but had another story to tell from Thursday. He had opted to bet on the previous night’s charity race and had got himself a nice book when a punter approached the joint. Simon was at the helm on the computer while his father was fielding the bets. With his head in the laptop he didn’t notice that the chap appeared to have imbibed a fair bit of Guinness and was slightly unsteady on his feet as he scrambled around in his pockets for his stake money. He eventually rummaged up £100 and had it on. His selection was 14/1 and made a right lop-sided mess of Simon’s previously tidy book. Not having looked up he decided that anyone having a century on in the charity race must have had his card marked. As luck would have it the horse was trading a fair bit bigger on the exchanges he decided to just have it all back. Good thinking, the horse won. Virtually as they passed the post a conga line of equally refreshed young men snaked its way vocally into the ring and headed for our hero’s joint singing ‘We got fifteen hundred’ as they did so. They obviously had no idea that our man had profited too so were keen to make him ‘suffer’ and he paid out the winnings surrounding his joint and roaring as each hundred of winnings was passed across. Loot collected, they were in time to greet the winning combination singing ‘Let’s all cheer the jockey bird’ or words to that effect.

1/4 the odds a place all races on the Perry firm, come racing.

1/4 the odds a place all races on the Perry firm, come racing.

Up in Tatts Paul Metcalfe had suffered a full house of travel woes having been stuck in traffic ’45 minutes with the engine off’ on the M5 this morning. He finally had to agree to staying over, not at Cheltenham though, the firm were off to Fontwell in the morning. Ian was already planning on how order enough grub to start making up for his missed all-expenses paid meals that week.

That look on Ian from the Bevan firm's face is long-suffering (or so he'd have you believe!)

That look on Ian from the Bevan firm’s face is long-suffering (or so he’d have you believe!)

Now John Patrick “J. P.” McManus is a face that puts the fear of God into the heart of bookmakers and would be recognised universally in the racing world. Not so in the world of security it seems. Apparently the great man was wandering through Tatts with a phone stuck to his ear and was about to head into Members when a earnest young fellow in a high-vis jacket barred his way and demanded to see a badge to prove he was entitled to enter said enclosure.  I am told he responded to the request in a polite manner and with a smile, showed he was indeed badged and was allowed to cross the threshold. You have to think that the guy doing his job so admirably thoroughly had a lucky escape had he had the temerity to quiz certain  members of the press room fraternity.

The general consensus with the layers I spoke to as they got stuck into betting on the first was that most had got their expenses. Actually winning on the meeting would depend on today’s results. They were no doubt delighted when 10/1 shot Tiger Roll won the first but could hardly have dreamed the results that were to follow. Lac Fontana at 11/1 would have been welcomed by most in the next, then 33/1 Very Wood in the Albert Bartlett was an absolute cracker for the ring. The Gold Cup would prove to be the icing on the cake, Bobs Worth was heavily backed into 6/4 while Silviniaco Conti was a popular alternative 3/1 into 11/4. The money wasn’t just for those two either with office support for a couple of other runners but not the winner Lord Windermere. There had been a little bit of money for him from 25/1 into 20/1 but  was a tremendous result for the ring. Luckily for the bookies present, or at least one. The ticket he showed me proved that John Henwood junior’s bet of £200 each-way the winner at 33/1 had been placed in a betting shop that morning, great picking that man.

Punters, largely about to be potless, we salute you.

Punters, largely about to be potless, we salute you.

The elastic bands would have been snapped around the winnings with just the Foxhunter and two big handicaps to follow. They need not have been snapped too tight though as the results looked after themselves as the ring enjoying a ‘jollyless’ day. Even Savello backed from 33/1 into 16/1 winning the last couldn’t spoil the party for the betting ring.

A good last day was required to make it a decent winning week, what they got was a great winning day which meant Cheltenham 2014 belonged to the bookies, the fat lady has sung.

(c) Simon Nott

I have written a book called ‘Skint Mob’ it is about bookies, punters and racecourse regulars and has been quite well-received. Here’s a review from the Racing Post on Sunday 23rd March.

Review from the Racing Post 23/03/14

Review from the Racing Post 23/03/14

It’s available here on Amazon – Kindle and Paperback http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0992755409/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_s7Ymtb0Y2B



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