Royal Ascot 2014 – Ladies’ Day

The bookies were still cheerful before racing on Ladies’ Day, given the weather and the general ambiance it’s probably hard not to be. There was some moving about going on Glyn Jones was still in his tails but have moved off the grass to try pastures new. ‘No the clobber hadn’t worked’ he conceded, but it was worth a go. The general rule of thumb is that if you see bookies moving about the ring from day to day, they haven’t had a good one previously, Pickfords, they used to call it back in the day when it used to happen between races.

I hope these ladies had flip-flops in their bags given this was an hour before the first!

I hope these ladies had flip-flops in their bags given this was an hour before the first!

Not everyone on their travels though. Paul Gold betting as Pickwick appeared to be quite content betting by the bandstand. It is a fairly enviable spot, in the glorious sunshine surrounded by novice punters sipping champagne. He was full of praise for Royal Ascot too. ‘They let under 18’s in for nothing’ he informed me, I wasn’t aware of that but he was over the moon because families that otherwise might have been put off by charging for minors attend. ‘And it’s the future generation getting interested too’ he added, and I’m sure he’s right, what child wouldn’t be hugely influenced by attending Royal Ascot, especially on a day like today.

Not a bad working environment, Paul Gold and co get to work early.

Not a bad working environment, Paul Gold and co get to work early.

Back up by the paddock Dave Spice and his team were getting some media attention with their Queen’s Hat market. Maybe word had got around that they had been tucked up on the first two days. They weren’t taking any chances with their margin but if you only lay one lumpy bet the winner you’ve not bet to what’s on the board. So far the man that seems to know his hats hadn’t been spotted.

No madam, it's a bet on the colour of the Queen's hat, not yours, we can see that's yellow. No swearing on camera...

No madam, it’s a bet on the colour of the Queen’s hat, not yours, we can see that’s yellow. No swearing on camera…

Over where Jack Bevan bets, he too was fielding on the hat market but it seems the man that knows doesn’t get up to him. He’d been having it spark bang off the previous two days, at least on the hats. Best turned out award went to Tony Styles who looked resplendent in his topper, he wasn’t complaining too much either.

Bob Stock and team win best turned out.

Bob Stock and team win best turned out.

Just as we we chatting the cry went up from the Bevan firm, ‘The man that knows has had it on yellow’. Now I can’t go into detail but the word was that the man that has beat the hat market book the last two days had not only had it on again again but been recognised. A member of the public had informed the Spice team that the man was a dressmaker rumoured to have close connections with the Royal Household (not the Queen I hasten to add, I don’t fancy the Tower). The word was out, yellow. The trouble was you couldn’t be on for love nor money, well you could be on with money if you fancied taking bottle-on.

I did look all over the shop but to no avail. I even called my old mate Armaloft Alex who was working with Albion over in the public enclosure. I should have known he’d know already. No, no chance of making some poor book pay for not keeping their ears to the ground. All there was to do was wait and see if the Palace Mole had indeed be identified. While waiting for the Queen to make an appearance and open a whole can of worms with a yellow hat I noticed that the Cambross firm were also taking debit card bets. Gary on the joint said that they were keen to use it for more that the three bets so far this week but not keen for the guy betting winner in grands to come shopping. The conversation was cut short because the royals were on their way.

That's not yellow.

That’s not yellow.


Best get on with the proper action. The Great War had been touted as Aidan O’Brien’s best two year old. The bookies could have been forgiven if they did their best to duck the odds-on shot in the opening Norfolk Stakes. Not a chance there was still plenty of fight in them and they stood shoulder to shoulder to take the good thing on. Plenty laid even money to plenty before taking refuge at a shade of odds-on, there were still plenty of people prepared to lump on at 10/11 and 5/6 too. Then it happened, just what the ring had been waiting for, a result. 8/1 Baitha Alga won the race with the jolly back in fifth. To make it even better the snide each-way second in was also out of the frame. The bookies were back with nostrils flared sniffing a change in fortune in the air.

Well either that or it was a waft of some fine dining coming from one of the nicer restaurants. Cannock Chase was backed from 15/8 and 7/4 and landed the  Tercentenary Stakes which put those that laid the £7000-£4000 bets back on the back foot. Not all lost on the race though. Ben Johnson said that there had been little interest on the jolly in pitch one and he’d copped. Most of the ring would have won on The Ribblesdale Stakes too when Bracelet won with the well-backed 9/4 favourite out of the frame. It returned 10/1 so a spare a thought for the firm that laid a £30,000 – £3000 the winner. No doubt somebody was thinking ‘why me?’

The real betting drama of the day, and possibly the meeting came in the Gold Cup. Leading Light was all the rage in the ring, hardly surprising as it was trading around even money. Of course many of the crowd wanted the Queen’s horse Estimate win the race again, but the professional money appeared to be on the short one. I was stood by Star Sports in Tatts when boss Ben Keith toldme that they had laid an £110,000 – £100,000 in their office. Given being volunteered that information it was a little surprising to see he was on the stool calling a top of the market even money. A punter came in for a right lump, the bookmaker didn’t blink at what was an eye-watering to most sum, accepted the bet, then stunned the man asking if he’d like it again. He didn’t but another lump of similar proportions was soon called in and accepted, Star Sports’ boss eyeball to eyeball with his punters. Rumour went around that a rails firm had just laid a £100,000 – £110,000 too so not long after the evens slipped to odds on. There was a little hope for those that were going down the book the jolly, and there were a few, Star Sports were just the most conspicuous. One of the offices appeared to be nibbling Royal Diamond at big prices.

Call that a bet?

Call that a bet?

I have no idea how anyone on the firm watched the race. They tell me that Leading Light looked beaten on a couple of occasions, I could barely watch myself. Estimate came with a run that looked dangerous enough for many in the Royal Box to get to their feet, but as the winning post approach the heartbreaking reality for the bookmakers, and joy for those intrepid big-staking punters was that Leading Heart was going to land the gamble.

Ben wasn’t at the joint when I returned. I had left it a bit. I did a quick check to ensure that he wasn’t perched on the edge of the stands roof. Luckily not. ‘You’d never have known we’d lost on it, he just patted me on the shoulder and said see you later’ confided Lofty as the firm got to work on getting some back on the Britannia Stakes. Hopefully the 14/1 winner Born In Bombay did claw some back for the layers though Hors De Combat was well-baked each-way and made the frame.

In the not so lucky last Elite Army and Windshear both attracted support and went off the 4/1 joint jollies and finished 1st and 2nd topping off another desperate day for the layers after an encouraging start. Business had been brisk though so there’s still hope of getting some back and in front with two days to go.

Things weren’t so bright for some bookmakers on the racecourse. I got this photo and text from my old mate Armaloft Alex. I’m not sure what changes have been made, but when they are and livelihoods and pitch values are affected so badly it must be heartbreaking.

The grass certainly looks greener across the course for these bookies.

The grass certainly looks greener across the course for these bookies.

‘This is 10 mins before the Gold Cup – Ascot have ruined the famed ‘public’ enclosure – On the first four races we took 900 paid out 1200 betting to less than 1% a runner every race – We’ve packed up and left and although have paid the betting badge for tomorrow and Sat will not be attending !!
Hope you have a good one – Cheers’

Let’s hope the business does pick up for those that persevere, last ‘Tales’ of the week coming tomorrow night.

(c) Simon Nott


My  (Award Nominated) book ‘Skint Mob – Tales From The Betting Ring’ is a book about the bookies, punters and other wonderful characters I have met in my time on racecourses. There have been some nice reviews. 

Skint Mob! Tales From The Betting Ring. OUT NOW

If you’d like one you can buy a signed copy  direct  from me via paypal here

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