Tales From The Betting Ring – Kempton 06/02/15 sponsored by Racing UK

The meeting may have survived a 10am inspection, the Sun may well have been out but it was still perishing cold in the ring. The rail of bookmakers looked suitably frozen and it appeared had little to thaw them out business wise.. ‘It was 34′ where I was just yesterday’ lamented Pete Houghton from behind his computer, wistful look in his eye and pendulous dewdrop swinging from his nose. (Pete had been in Sharm El-Sheikh, the game’s obviously not gone) Another less tanned but equally frozen layer wasn’t over-enamoured with business in the opener either and dismissed it with a tart; ‘Jump racing here, the more you take, the more you lose, luckily I haven’t taken anything’. The mood was no better further up the line. Rocky said he takes more and the all-weather and another who sings like an angel but would rather remain nameless just burst into a rousing rendition of a song called ‘Desperado’! Hardly surprising then than apart from Tommy in the crowd shouting himself hoarse there was little reaction either way from the bookies when Kayf Blanco won the opening Racing UK Anywhere Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle at a fairly easy to back 11/2 (from 9/2)


Talking of easy to back, and also talking of come racing for value. West Wizard was the hot favourite for the New Racing UK iPad App Novices’ Hurdle largely 8/11 in the ring and 1.76 on the ‘machine’. The bookmaker stood shivering on the end of the rail shouted over ‘Look at this’ and pointed to his price of 4/5 and compared it to the aforementioned exchange price, then added ‘I can’t give them money’ with no takers. Luckily for the rest of the ring there had been some takers though not to huge amounts so 4/5 ended up as starting price. The big mover in the race was Minella Rocco, the formidable JJ O’Neill, JP McManus & AP McCoy combination. The money came in forcing the gelding’s price into 4/1 from a tiddly 7/1 early skirmishes. One on-course punter got involved with a monkey each-way at 5/1. That punter probably wished he hadn’t been quite so cautious as the gamble made short work of the jolly finishing the race in that order. Some cheers could be heard on the rails, given the connections are not to be taken liberties with it’s doubtful many firms took a stand against the winner with just the odds-on shot the loser in the book. If you could get it in the book in the first place of course.

More like Sharm El-Shivver today Pete.

More like Sharm El-Shivver today Pete.


Those books who bet in Tattersalls started to thaw about a bit in the sunshine before the  Join The Racing UK Club Novices’ Handicap Hurdle. The market appeared to warm as well with a few decent bets coming in for Last Shadow at 5/2 and 11/4, another JP, JJ, AP, combatant. Those that expected another good run from the dream team were right, but not right enough to land their bets. Under The Phone proved the fly in the ointment landing the spoils at 10/1 thwarting the favourite’s backers by being  just over a length too good at the line the rest, way back.

Only four contested the Watch On Racing UK App Handicap Chase with Josses Hill all the rage backed from 4/7 into 1/2 with a few three and four figure bets in evidence. The most famous bookie on the track had already turned it in before the betting started, Barry Dennis’ had been pitch deserted, ‘He’s a good judge’ observed one of his neighbours before hoping to capitalise on one less hod to fill. Good judge he maybe but he left before the ring got the short one beaten. I’d imagine the punters that waded into the odds-on would have been slightly nervous a fair way out. Commentator Richard Hoiles kept highlighting the jolly not looking all that comfortable or at east at comfortable as a short-one should. It looked for much of the race as if the jolly’s nemesis was to be Ceasar Milan but when push came to shove it was 7/1 shot Third Intention that was just under a length too good at the line under the magnificent Daryl Jacob.

Peter celebrates the lack of some competition with a sandwich. Not a bought one of course, a brought one (of several).

Peter celebrates the lack of some competition with a sandwich. Not a bought one of course, a brought one (of several).

One rule in racing should possibly be never jump to conclusions. ‘I only went for a coffee to get warmed up’ was Barry Dennis’ answer when told it had been assumed he’d gone. Well he hadn’t and was soon getting stuck into the Watch On Racing UK App Handicap Chase. It was a very open looking heat with 9/2 Umberto D’Olivate eventually just edging market leader position at the off. Business was reported brisk but light. ‘I’ve laid them all but all small’ was Peter O’Toole’s happy as ever summing up. It was no doubt a bit harder for him again this race with Barry Dennis back in his pitch. The firm at the end of the rail hadn’t be able to get the last jolly in the book either so had decided to keep what they were in front and not stand another horse. 9/1  Ballyheigue Bay won the race, quite possibly adding to the ring’s winnings with just two divisions of the racinguk.com Maiden Open NH Flat Race to finish the afternoon.

And he's back........

And he’s back……..

You could see why Barry Dennis had gone under the stands to warm up. That is exactly what virtually everyone else on the track did between races. It was positively balmy and very welcoming under there. Those firms that brave it all afternoon betting on the next straight away are made of tough stuff for sure. Peter O’Toole appeared to be keeping warm by munching at least one sandwich roll per race. ‘I have to eat’ he half chewed and half communicated. Depending on how much he took on Newsworthy the jolly in the first division of the bumper would possibly determine his filling of choice for Newbury tomorrow. After a tussle the 4/7 shot won fairly comfortably, could be cheese spread then.

By the last it was once again freezing though still sunny. Lynda working with Sam Harris was looking bronzed and remarkably, having also just got back from climes much warmer, not too bothered by the weather. ‘You’d never believe how many clothes I have on’ she cheerily confided to a punter she was paying out over Newsworthy, so now we know.

Let me tell you a little secret......

Let me tell you a little secret……

The bookmaker on the end of the rails had kept to his word and not stuck it up the last winner. His odds were unashamedly a bit skinny in the last. ‘They’ve had their chance all afternoon I’ve had horses bigger than Betfair and they weren’t even looking, this race they can bloody well go to Betfair for their value’. That was the word from below a blue nose under a well pulled down hood. His clerk smiled in wordless acknowledgment nodding in accentuation from behind the joint. With that a punter thrust a wad of notes under that blue nose and asked for it on High Bridge at 2/1. There it was on his board, up in neon (well sort of). The trouble was the rest of the ring were 7/4, with all the gusto they missed the move and been left roasting, (who says you don’t need a floorman). ‘Bugger, now I’m it’ was his resigned reaction after laying the punter his requested wager.


If this were an anti-bookmaker Sod’s Law type blog I suppose the jolly would have won and the bookie would have had his afternoon ruined by the one moment taking his eye off the ball. But no, life’s not always like that. He did get a scare because the favourite did run very well, but not well enough to beat OK Corral. It wasn’t even the luck of the draw either the 5/1 winner had over two lengths to spare at line. That was 2 more than sandwiches Peter O’Toole had left at that point.

So that was the afternoon, the bookmakers froze, but mostly won, proper job, unless you were that punter on the last jolly of course…… Newbury next up.

(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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