Tales From The Betting Ring – Cheltenham – The Open (Sunday) 16/11/14

Initial thoughts on Sunday’s Cheltenham betting ring was that it looked a lot thinner than the Festivalesque Saturday we’d just enjoyed. There were definitely a lot less books present. My old boss had even decided to give the last day a miss and head over to Fontwell as had a couple of other firms. Our old mate Armaloft Alex was unemployed today, he didn’t seem too bothered about it. He didn’t let on it was because his bok arm didn’t appear to work as well when employed by a bookie but that’s my hunch.

The crowd was definitely well down on Saturday too, though hardly a shock that being the feature day, hence the bookies looking for pastures new. Those that were in attendance were keen to get involved in the punting action. The opening Brian Kilpatrick Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle looked a tricky one to kick off with though.  There weren’t many lumps about but the public latched on to David Pipe’s Unique De Cotte sending it off the 7/2 favourite. The ring may not have been holding the fortunes that they had the day before but a 20/1 ‘result’ would have been most welcome. Yards from the post that’s just what looked about to happen when Dark Spirit forged up the hill. Quite how Kieron Edgar got the jolly up in the shadow of the post nobody knew, except that he rode a fine finish. You would have thought the bookies would have been gutted, and no doubt some were, but it gives you an idea of their sporting attitude with a comment I got from Ricky the clerk on the Kelross joint. ‘It made two bad ricks otherwise it would have won a lot easier so it deserved to get up’, that probably from a firm that just did their money.

Still respectable but not fighting to get on.

Still respectable but not fighting to get on.

Only six went to post for the Sky Bet sponsored novices’ hurdle. It was a competitive betting heat though. There was plenty of support for the Paul Nicholls trained Emerging Talent including several four-figure wagers. One firm laid £11,000 – £1000 Pyromaniac but admitted to having a bit back at 12/1, that must have been a bit annoying for him, not to mention the punter, to see the gelding drift to 20/1 at the off. It was academic as it turned out because Nicky Henderson’s Vyta Du Roc got up close home to beat the jolly. The winner had been backed from 4/1 into 3/1 but I’m told had been a 16/1 shot in running, Pyromaniac was a distant 3rd.

As an interlude this blog has been entered into the UK Blog Awards if you could vote for me I’d be very grateful http://www.blogawardsuk.co.uk/candidates/Tales-From-The-Betting-Ring-2/

Even fewer runners lined up for the Racing Post sponsored Arkle Trophy Trial. Vibrato Valtat was well-supported sent off at 13/8 favourite with Duke Of Navan snapping at its heels at 2/1 also seeing some decent bets. It was the Philip Hobbs trained Dunraven Storm that won the race though the 7/2 third-in. One firm did lay a £4000-£1000 but would have been a welcome result for most.

Simon's award for hardest working bookie almost went to Greg Hughes.....

Simon’s award for hardest working bookie almost went to Greg Hughes…..

All six declared runners ran in the Shloer Chase and once again there was spirited betting. The market was generally focused on Dodging Bullets and Uxizandre who slugged it out for title of market-leader both trading at ‘top of the head’ 9/4 at times before late money saw the latter firm up to a solid 13/8. There were still surprises out there though. One boards book laid a monkey (£500) on Poole Master at 25/1. Sadly for the ring, the result was no surprise, the JP McManus owned Uxizandre won the race landing some chunky bets. ‘Those connections don’t leave it behind when the money is down’ bemoaned one rails firm. Well you’d be a brave man to take them on that’s for sure.

The feature race of the day was The StanJames.com Greatwood Hurdle and quite fittingly saw the most frenzied betting action. There was steady money for several in the race but it was Nicky Henderson’s Vaniteux that became the stick-on. There had been money for the gelding at 9/2 including a £13500 – £3000 but then one of the firms got involved having what appeared to be untold bundles on at all rates down to 7/2. While all eyes were on what was now the jolly there was a nifty little move for Garde La Victoire when nobody was looking. The small 16/1 tumbled into 10/1 in the last few minutes of betting. When I say nobody was looking, the bookies’ computers were, they alert the clerk when a price is going on the exchanges so unless they want to take the horse on they heed to warning and clip their prices too. The system saved them because that late money was inspired, the big-priced gamble was landed foiling the big-money gamble saving the ring from a colossal payout on the runner-up Vaniteux.

.... but even Greg was no match for Brian Hazell's grandson. The champion bet-taker of the meeting!

…. but even Greg was no match for Brian Hazell’s grandson. The champion bet-taker of the meeting!

There were still some punters left to have one last tilt at the ring in the concluding bumper. Birch Hill was supported from 9/4 into 15/8f but his backers latched on to the wrong one.  Definitly Red won the race at 2/1 so second-in having been original favourite for much of the race. Either way it was no good for the books, 14/1 runner-up Arabic History would have been a great result for them but from a long way out there was only going to be one winner.

Not a great end to the Open Meeting for the bookies, but one where I dare say they won, just.

(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. 

Skint Mob! Tales From The Betting Ring. OUT NOW

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