Tales From The Betting Ring – Ascot 21/11/14

It was the first day racing this autumn where I would describe it as cold. The crowd actually wasn’t that small but when they are housed on a course designed to accommodate the Royal Ascot masses it can sometimes feel thin. The bookies on the rails were chattering, with the cold and each other because there wasn’t a lot going on in the first race. There were a few decent bets here and there but boredom got some banter flying between the layers. One had prettied up his board with a blue light ‘safety system’ border, his neighbour and close relation had a similar one in green. ‘The prices can’t get bigger or the board will bust’ the blue light chap called, followed by ‘It’s the blue light safety system’. Just up the line chief rascal Geoff Banks called back ‘My board won’t bust and I’ll take more than a tenner’, and so it went on.

The first race actually went to the bookmakers, assuming they all did take some money. Unusually it was a Paul Nicholls horse that got them in front, Arpege D’alene won quite nicely at a weak 12/1. The 7/4 jolly  Alisier D’irlande was ten lengths or so back in third, there had been some fair bets at 2/1 early on, so a good start for those that found them.

Only five lined up for the second race, the Sodexo Beginners’ Chase, despite there being prize money for 6th and  £5000 added to the £12,000 prize fund should eight or more runners take their chances. Puffin Billy would have copped that had a couple more horses (slower than him) been declared. He won by an unchallenged eight lengths after being backed from 10/3 into 5/2 so the bookies gave some back in what had once again been described as a ‘very quiet’ market.

If ever there had been a quiet before a punting storm those two races had been it. The Felix Rosenstiel’s Widow & Son Introductory Hurdle (5K Field Size Bonus Race) once again failed to qualify for the bonus but attracted a competitive field of six. The betting opened with  Clondaw Banker at 5/4 and Harry Fry’s Jolly’s Cracked It  at 6/4 (13/8 if you were quick). There still wasn’t a lot going on, a couple of punters took the 5/4 the former but it wasn’t enough to make the books they bet it with jump. The banter continued and the punting pottered along.

Just a bit cold and bored.

Just a bit cold and bored.

Then out of the mists of spectators and modest-staking backers came two punters who meant business. Dressed in matching raincoats they marched purposefully and steely-eyed towards the unsuspecting rails bookies like a couple of gunslingers. Then from under their coats, rather than a brace of ivory-handled Smith and Weston six-shooters they pulled out what looked like at least two £5k bundles of fifties each. The way too relaxed bookies didn’t know what hit them. Wide eyed some stared frozen as they were offered big lumps in one hit. Most managed to parry the entire salvo but still caught a fair chunk of it. Up and down the line they went until the ammo was exhausted. With that they disappeared from whence they came.

Probably to watch the race.

Amazingly the punt didn’t result in a flip-flop in the market, Jolly’s Cracked It went off at 5/4 with Clondaw Banker at even money. The bookies, limited largely to the rails that had laid the cash, had little option to look at their red screens and hope for the best. Hope seemed to be deserting them as the gamble cruised to an effortless three-length lead on the way to surely landing the tilt.

Then hearts on both sides of the shoot-out were surely beating at double time in mouths as the money trembled in the balance when Jollys Cracked It made a terrific blunder at the second last. Nick Scholfield managed to stay on board. It gave the two in pursuit, the favourite and 25/1 dream result Jebril and the bookies a chance, the field closed and the bookies hoped. Still it looked as if the stick-on only had the jump the last, then it jumped high and went right, still the pair bore down and the crowd roared. Justice prevailed, the gamble was landed despite the mistakes. The rail looked shell shocked, it had been worse than previously thought, one firm had the pluck to take a double-barreled £10k bet in one hit at 11/8 on top of the flurry of £50’s elsewhere.

The calm before the storm.

The calm before the storm.

Shell-shocked or not the rest of the meeting had to get stuck into by those who remained. There was no let-up in the Winkworth Handicap Steeplechase when last year’s winner Niceonefrankie justified his 9/4 head of the market price. One well-known layer, not on the rails, didn’t price up again for the rest of the day. He trailed off after the fourth and was heard to half shout a parting shot of ‘I knew I shouldn’t have come to this……..’ (we won’t go there, after all it is reputed to be The Queen’s favourite track) let’s just say his brethren assumed he’d not had a winning day. It seems Geoff Banks may have missed out on doing his money too, because he was far too jovial with his beastly ridicule of my beloved but battered trilby, Try harder please punters!

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/

.Things eased for the bookies in the Brown Advisory Handicap Chase when 10/1 Grandads House defied top-weight to victory. There had been a £4500-£1000  Ardkilly Witness but that one finished out of the frame. The closing race was The Canaccord Genuity Handicap Hurdle with boasted £20k of prize money and just six runners. The betting was lively though with most horses coming in for decent bets including a £7000-£2000 Benbecula and some three-figure bets on 5/4f Sweet Deal. Weirdly as it may seem to read the on-course layers appeared to be saved by a fairly hefty gamble on Leviathan backed from 8/1 into 9/2. That punt was landed without any of the drama seen earlier and more importantly very little of the cash. ‘It was a machine touch’ one insider informed me, the books just kept it on their side when they saw the price tumble.

That was handy for them then, they kept the readies on the last. That’s just as well because looking for a bank to draw a new tank from before Saturday racing is hardly ideal.

(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

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


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