Tales From The Betting Ring – @BetBright Festival Trials Day 24/01/15 #Bettingtales

It was a glorious crisp winter’s day, a perfect one to be at the races and where better the National Hunt fans than Cheltenham? They turned up in their droves too and seemingly ready to take the bookies on eye to eye.

It didn’t take long for hostilities to start, six went to post for the opening JCB Triumph Hurdle Trial (Registered As The Finesse Juvenile Hurdle) (Grade 2). Nicky Henderson’s Peace And Co was forecast the hot favourite to win the race and so it proved once battle commenced in the ring. Early birds snapped up the 8/15 before the bigger hitters stomped in. The rail at Cheltenham is a strong one so a couple of £10,000 bets plus plenty more four-figure lumps at 1/2 isn’t going to have it running for cover but does get them to grit their teeth. One bookmaker who had taken plenty for the jolly  alluded that winning or losing on the day could very well revolve around the first. There were still people willing to take the crumbs at 4/9 at the off. The books may have had a glimmer of hope when the jolly was said to be racing keenly out in the country. By the time they could see with their own eyes there was only going to be one winner and the layers the en-mass losers.



There was no time for licking wounds especially as some of them were reported to be virtually mortal. The Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase was a great race on paper and one to get stuck into. Unsurprisingly there weren’t the volume of lumpy bets  as in the first with the betting wide open at 4/1 the field but there were still plenty of them. 6/1 shot Generous Ransom had flown for home under Daryl Jacob after three out but had only a neck to spare when winning from the fast-finishing 8/1 poke Astigos. The runner-up had been 10/1 early. One layer down at the ‘wrong’ end of the rails had admitted to falling into a £4000-£400.  When asked after the race if he’d been slightly worried up the run-in he replied in the negative saying he’d had the foresight to back it back each-way. Some people are just too shrewd.


It was quality rather than quantity in the six-runner BetBright Cup Chase (Grade 2). Despite the low turn out it was a great betting race with money for all the runners ensuring the bookies could make decent books or just give the jolly the stripe, whatever their style. David Pipe’s Dynaste was eventually sent off 5/2 favourite seeing solid support at the price. Sadly for his backers they did their money when it could only manage third behind Oliver Sherwood’s Many Clouds. At 4/1 in a six horse race that may not have been silver lining for the layers but still not a bad result.

The freebets.com Trophy Chase (Grade 3 Handicap) was a fine Saturday betting race, 10 runners all with chances so bet accordingly. It another of those races where bookmakers could really get stuck in fielding plenty of money for lots of horses, just as they like it. Easter Day was sent off the 3/1 punters’ favourite but once again jolly backers left it behind but still in with a chance of rewarding their support when it fell three out. Meanwhile back up in the vanguard the bookmakers were stretching to see how well the leader Big Fella Thanks was going. It was going very well and gone for home and a right result at 25/1. Jumping the last it was still 2 lengths up, clerks could be seen peering into their computers with their bosses glancing from their screen to the big screen in anticipation of a real cop. It all seemed to be going well. Those unable to see for themselves would have been counting their money listening to commentator Mike Cattermole’s account of the closing stages. Then Annacotty, previously backed from 6/1 into 5/1 found another gear in the shadow of the post to break the heart of the ring.

It wasn’t just the bookies gutted. Our old mate Lofty who can usually be seen tapping down bets for Star Sports was on a busmans and had backed the runner-up at 25/1 and was understandably mortified. He’d had just had the cup snatched from his lips. My ‘At least you backed it each-way’ didn’t seem to soothe him much so I left him to wallow in peace. At least he probably won’t have to watch it every Cheltenham festival unlike us poor Maljimar sufferers.

The  Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle (Registered As The Classic Novices’ Hurdle) (Grade 2) saw just one-way traffic in the ring for Value At Risk from 11/8 into 11/10f. Rumour on the rails was that one high-staking punter came up to draw £15,000 from a previous race and just let it all ride on the jolly. That must have taken some courage. What it must have felt like to see the hotpot unable to get past 16/1 shot Ordo Ab Chao on the run-in is anyone’s guess. You wouldn’t have to be all that perceptive to guess it was probably quite nasty. Especially with the ‘Aye Aye’s and Eiiii Eiiii’s’ ringing in his ears from the triumphant bookies who no doubt thought they were due that one.

I had special interest in the galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle (Grade 2) because my good mate Andrew Mount aka Trend Horses has a leg in Reve De Sivola for which hopes were high backed from 6/1 into 4/1. David Pipe’s Un Temps Pour Tout was the well-backed 7/4 jolly but over the last the dream was still alive for Reve’s backers. We all know he’s a battler so another Cleeve Hurdle victory looked a reality as he stuck his courageous head out in a tussle to the post with Paul Nicholls’ 3/1 shot  Saphir Du Rheu. Sadly this time tenacity was not quite enough going down by a neck but not without a real scrap. There had been a few decent bets for the winner including a £3000- £1000 but the ring got another short one beaten.

There was some excitement down on my old boss Ivor Perry’s joint when his Ivors Rebel scooted up over at Lingfield. Ivor was at the course previously known as ‘leafy’ with his grandson, his daughter Wendy was watching the race in the course betting shop here while son-in-law Jo was watching the race unfold on the in-running exchange market manning the joint. ‘It stuck at 1.03 for ages’ he smiled. If it did somebody had some value because it won the 5f race by over four lengths and is now off to the sales. One can assume by the demeanour on the joint some of the morning 7/2 which evaporated into an SP of 5/2 had something to do with the connections. Well done Ivor.


The concluding Steel Plate And Sections Handicap Hurdle saw another David Pipe horse made jolly only for the money to stay with the bookies. Dell’ Arca was sent off at 2/1f but had been well-backed at 9/4 but could only manage runner-up spot behind Lightentertainment. The winner had also seen support from 5/1 into the starting price of 7/2. One firm on the rails laid five monkeys each way but it was another well-backed favorite beaten for the ring so although not a great result there was probably not a lot of harm done.

‘I copped the lot’ shouted a triumphant Peter O’Toole from the second row of Tatts, maybe slightly exaggerating but who knows, but that’s what I like to hear, a happy bookie.

(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. Here’s one from the Independent On Sunday 21/12/14

Independent On Sunday 21 December 2014

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


It’s also available on Amazon and on Kindle.


Available on Nook


Available on Kobo


And one from the Racing Post just before Christmas.



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