Tales From The Betting Ring – Newbury Mencap Charity Raceday 27/02/15

Newbury Racecourse was bathed in glorious winter sunshine for Friday’s racing. It’s hard to tell if it was the weather or the decent card that brought the punters out in their droves but they were certainly here. The rail was full to the gap and a decent number of books filled their pitches in Tattersalls. Geoff Banks was a notable absence on the rails. ‘Gone Skiing’ I was reliably informed, on a work weekend Geoff? Tut Tut.

Glorious isn't just at Goodwood.

Glorious isn’t just at Goodwood.

The first couple of races featured odds-on shots. The books and the punters both appeared keen to get stuck in to them and kicked off betting like men in the opening AJC Premier Juvenile Hurdle. There had been a press conference with A.P McCoy before racing so it appeared people assumed he’d naturally be a shoe-in for victory in the race. Sebastian Beach looked to have all the credentials and punters waded in, early birds got a little 4/5 including a £800-£1000 then the money came pouring after it at 4/6 with £800-£1200 struck in several places before hardening to 8/13 at the off. For once blind faith in the champ went unrewarded with favourite-backers knowing their fates a long way out. The race went to 16/1 shot Bishop Wulstan which was a dream result for the ring.

Steady the go on the rails.

Steady the go on the rails.

Those punters with still smoking fingers and nerves of steel had the chance to get it all back care of AP in the Physicool ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle (In Aid Of West Berkshire Mencap) on Minella Rocco. Those who had the faith and courage were gifted with a no-nonsense never off the bridle win. One punter got £800-£1400 but much of the business was done at 1/2 and 4/9 before going off at 2/5. The winner had been bought out of an Irish maiden point to point for £260,000 so bagged £2477 back from that outlay.

Only five went to post for the Berry Bros & Rudd Handicap Chase (For The Geoffrey Gilbey Trophy) which saw good money for four of them. Tony Styles trading as Bob Stock wanted to know where all the punters had come from, but wasn’t complaining. Sadly for him, judging by the queue at his front row pitch after the race the majority of them were on the winner 5/4 jolly Village Vic who also won with some ease. ‘Shame the first race wasn’t as busy as that race’ was the comment from one layer digging deep to pay victorious punters, though you suspected he hadn’t quite given it all back quite yet.

I didn't have the heart to ask Bob Stock if they 'got that one in the book'.

I didn’t have the heart to ask Bob Stock if they ‘got that one in the book’.

The Agetur UK Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase was more competitive on paper and so it proved in the betting with several horses coming in for decent money. The books didn’t really have any time to have a moan which is always a good sign that business was brisk. A Good Skin went off at 10/3f but it was that man AP McCoy again at the line with 9/2 chance Bandit Country. Not a great result for the layers but most probably had good books given the business. Not all though, Bo Brown betting as West End at the tail of the front row simply replied ‘Two ham sandwiches’ when asked if he’d taken anything of note. They were actually one and a half with the the other half being munched at that point, he seemed to be enjoying them too. It’s not all about money though it should be noted they were homemade and not racecourse bought so that’s it then, you can eat value!

Shame the first race wasn't as busy as the third?

Shame the first race wasn’t as busy as the third?

The race before the penultimate, the RR Elite Handicap Hurdle (In Aid Of West Berkshire Mencap) was another seven-runner event but once again saw spirited betting the result being Be Bop Boru and Hindon Road were sent off 7/2 joint-favourites. The latter came in for some solid support including a £2000-£500 and £3500-£1000. The front row bookie that took the grand bet was a bit smug about it. ‘I hopped off the stool and had a carpet back at 4/1 right behind me’ he beamed before adding, ‘Pitches, it’s all about location, location, location’. You’ll probably be glad to know he wasn’t that clever giving away the £300 because it was beaten into second behind 5/1 David Pipe runner Vif Argent, nobody likes a smart Alec. The winner was a decent result for most but had been nibbled with a couple of bottle bets on the rails at 11/2.

Nine runners lined up for the Southdowns Water Co. Handicap Hurdle and once again several horses attracted decent bets, £2700 – £600 Obistar, £2000 – £400 each-way Offical Ben and £2250-£500 Easy Beesy. All that stayed with the bookies when 8/1 Krackatoa King won the race by three lengths. Spare a thought for the firm that laid £3750 -£500 the winner. Maybe not though as it returned 8/1 so plenty of room there for an ‘earn’ maneuver if he’d wished, which I’d wager he did.

You're all on.

You’re all on.

The punting drama of the day was reserved for the ‘lucky’ last, the Rickety Bridge Mares’ Standard Open NH Flat Race (In Aid Of West Berkshire Mencap). Sir Mark Prescott’s Sea Pride was plunged on. The really early birds had a bit of 6/1 with Bob Stock but then a whole slew of bets bounced around the ring at all rates down to 7/2 ensuring it went off at favourite. Some of the money was down to one punter who is renowned for ‘having a go’. With a furlong to go the gamble looked certain to be landed. So much so that a gaggle of sharp suited young chaps could hardly contain their excitement, running from the bookies along the tarmac telephones to ears cheering wildly relaying the good news.

There must be something about people celebrating before they have won that really irks the Gambling Gods into acts of savage punting cruelty. Those have been racing on a regular basis have seen it, and no doubt suffered it all before but the horror is always the same. Just as the cheers had reached a delirious level something found another gear, and it wasn’t the jolly. It was hanging in there though but where was the post? Where was the post?

The post was where the photo finished showed 9/2 chance Katie Too reached a gamble-foiling nose before Sea Pride. I couldn’t bear to look at the punter that likes to have a go but I’d imagine his expression was similar to the group of guys so elated just seconds before. Distraught to the point of  disbelief and despair if you want to be flowery but I’d say ‘gutted’ would sum it up just as well.

At the other side of the hods there were some bookmakers that allowed themselves a little smile, discreetly of course.

Have those rascals no heart? Answers on a post card…..

(C) Simon Nott

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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. 

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


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