Tales From The Betting Ring – Exeter 21/10/14

Haldon was battered for most of the afternoon by the tail-end of Hurricane Gonzalo and with it some curious results. The bookies started their struggle to make a few few quid not with the punters but the elements and their mushes. There were nice touch of camaraderie on display with umbrellas being lent and team efforts, albeit with limited success, at on the spot repairs. Any kit that was on its way out stands little chance when Exeter racecourse’s weather does its worst.

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The first race for amateur riders included two from the Paul Nicholls yard. Popular opinion was that the Champion Trainer’s daughter and pin-up girl jockey Megan would have been given the speediest of the two for the race. photo 4Unsurprisingly her mount Howlongisafoot  was sent off as favourite though at 7/4 was somewhat bigger than had been forecast in the morning. The race itself was a messy one eventually going to 14/1 shot Morito Du Berlais, the supposed Nicholls’ second string. A surprise to most but not all, a couple of paddock-watching shrewdies were on as well as one bookmaker renowned for having his ear to the ground. The result was a good result for the ring and kicked the day off nicely for them.

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The yard were looking for a quick double with 10/11 market-leader Alcala in the next. They didn’t get it though, the gelding could only manage 6th behind 3/1 shot Hello George. ‘The bet of the meeting’ bounced Armaloft Alex after the race. I had spoken to him for quite a while before racing and he’d never mentioned it, probably forgot among all the gossip I was getting, all of it far too blue to even hint at here. To be fair it does seem that I was the only one on course that he didn’t tell, so good luck to all those that were on.

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Dunraven Storm won the next, it was the 3/1 outsider of the three in the betting given much of a chance with 5/4 favourite Far West, another beaten Nicholls favourite, runner-up. Amazingly the sunshine was out for the fourth. There were reports of some shrewd money for Perfect Candidate in the morning at much bigger prices than its SP of 9/2. The money wasn’t that clever at all as it turned out, eventually finishing last behind 11/2 winner Court By Surprise.

There was real drama and some in-running carnage in the fifth, The Avalon Surfacing Handicap Hurdle. Go West Young Man had the race won with just yards to the post when it inexplicably veered across the track. This left 25/1 Thundering Home to snatch a lucky victory. Not so lucky for those that hit the 1.01 button in-running the former to the tune of £20,000. Still, if someone lost it someone also won it too.

The field for the penultimate was reduced from eight runners to seven just as the previous race was reaching its climax. Betting soon got under way it a gamble for Caroline Keevil’s Judge Davis gathered steam. I’m told the gelding had been backed from 20/1 into 7/1 overnight. There was nothing like that available on course but punters appeared happy enough to have a top-up at 10/3 resulting in an SP of 5/2. That money was never looking happy once the race got going but at the last it seemed as if another second-string shock was on the cards when the same yard’s Midnight Lira approached the last clear. Anyone that had read between the lines and been on that one had the cup snatched from their lips when 11/4 Jewellery rallied to deny her close home.

The rain and wind were back with a vengeance before the bumper finale claiming at least one more brolly. One bookmaker caught my eye as he suddenly jumped from his stool, and belying his advancing years verily sprinted towards a group of racegoers. One of them looked slightly sheepish. Being in earshot it soon became apparent why. ‘£75 please’ panted the bookie, it had only been a couple of seconds sprint, but as I said he is of advancing years. The punter rather unconvincingly asked why. He was reminded that he’d come to draw over the third in the 7-runner last and was erroneously paid. My immediate thought was that the bookie would be lucky but to my surprise the punter (quite rightly) promptly paid it back.

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It seems it wasn’t just that bookie’s day but all of theirs. Out of the gloom Tobouggalo won the last at 25/1 ending the afternoon with the layers winning enough money to replace their battered kit. Maybe not all though, one member of staff was jumping about having backed the winner after a tip (before the race Armaloft) reportedly copping a nice few quid at the price. I hope he didn’t bet it with his boss.

(c) Simon Nott

My  (Award Nominated but sadly unplaced) 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. 

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