Tales From The Betting Ring – Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup 13/03/15



Dare I say there was a weariness about the betting ring at the start of Gold Cup Day. Love it as everyone does it’s hard going now that there are four days of the festival. It didn’t make things easier that it had been raining all morning so macs were on an umbrellas up. Thursday had been the best winning day of the week, at least with the firms I asked. Armaloft Alex wasn’t happy though, he’d had enough of the drunk punters down in Lower Tatts and decided to join AP McCoy and announce that this would be his last festival, that is in working for a bookie. Unlike AP this was (at best estimation) Armaloft’s fourth swansong so nobody was having a collection just yet.

Who needs cashmere?

Who needs cashmere?

In the Centaur the Geoff Banks team had changed ends. Glamour girl Brandy had left her position at front of house taking bets and was apparently enjoying tapping them into the computer much more. Vicki and Steph on the joint looked happier than Geoff who was asking how business had been elsewhere. Of course I had to report that it had been up and everyone has had it spark off. Jack Bevan (Est 1897) were back as Jack Bevan but had won as alter ego Ivor Biggun though decided the name had attracted the wrong sort.

It was business as usual for opening races this week. The bookies did their cobblers. Nicky Henderson’s Peace And Co was backed from 5/2 into 2/1 and got up on the line to win. That victory landed bets of £30,000 – £12,000, £18,000- £8000 etc and for the fourth time this week set the ring off on the back foot.

The market for the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) indicated that bookmakers had taken the ‘shorten them as you lay them’ approach with plenty of horses being clipped in the market. Sort It Out was one of those who included a bet of £20,000 – £2000 which was the value as it returned 17/2. Sadly for that punter and the majority of others, 25/1 shot Wicklow Brave was eight lengths too good for it at the line. The trainer? The bookies’ nemesis all week Willie Mullins who had at last done them a favour.

It’s always a little bit iffy wandering up to bookies beaming all over your face expecting them to tell you they’d won bundles. John Hughes betting in the #1 pitch in Tatts isn’t a man given to swearing but he let a couple slip. He was exasperated that it seemed every punter wanted ’50 bob each way on’ and that they were a pain in the arse. We can assume he didn’t get his whack on the race. It was even worse up at Star Sports, Lofty admitted that they’d hardly taken a bet because they’d been too busy paying out over the first winner.

£2.50 each way please...

£2.50 each way please…


Moving swiftly on to the third, the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Registered As The Spa Novices’ Hurdle) (Grade 1). Once again I asked two bookmakers the same question and got identical answers, how was the business? ‘Very Poor’. Martello Towers won the race at 14/1 which was a result for most of the books if they’d taken any money, well you’d think so. Spare a thought for the rails bookie who laid £165,000 – £5000 each-way the runner up Milsean, maybe spare a bigger one for the unfortunate punter who was only half a length away from copping the lot.

Chel4 2

Luckily business for the feature of the meeting and the whole season the Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1) picked up significantly. Star Sports laid a £66,000 – £20,000 Silviniaco Conti and another firm on the rails a £33,000 – £10,000. This time they kept the money when the race went to Coneygree. The winner had been 8/1 on course and a couple of books fell into some decent bets including a £16,000 – £2000. Given the winner was the first novice to win the race in over 40 years some layers had taken the horse on, those that did lost and admitted so with crestfallen ‘I got it wrong expressions’.

As happened all week things seemed to quieten down after the feature but of course quiet at the festival isn’t your usual quiet. Paint The Clouds was well-supported in the  St. James’s Place Foxhunter Chase Challenge Cup backed from 3/1 into 11/4 including a few £9000 – £3000 bets. The books kept that money too but not many would have got riches when popular 6/1 (from 7/1) shot On The Fringe hosed in.

21 runners went to post for the penultimate Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle in which Willie Mullins’ Roi De Francis was sent off 3/1 favourite. It had to settle for third spot behind 7/1 winner  Killultagh Vic trained by Willie Mullins. It was a bit gutting for the books to see him get up in the shadow of the post to pip 14/1 Noble Endeavor who would have been a decent winner for most of them I’d imagine.

Maybe finally realising that their betting day was coming to and end the punters appeared to get their betting boots on for the A.P. McCoy Grand Annual Handicap Chase (For The Johnny Henderson Challenge Cup) (Grade 3). Of course virtually everyone on the course, the bookies included was hoping that AP McCoy would end his Cheltenham Festival career with a winner. He was greeted with a huge cheer as he went to post leaving him in no doubt that the crowd were behind him. We had been warned that this was Cheltenham and not Disneyland but that didn’t stop the punters wanting to be on if the dream was to come true.  His ride, Ned Buntline was heavily supported at 4/1 including a £16,000 – £4000 but it was the smaller punters who all wanted to be on too with their scores tenners (and 50 bob each-ways). The other feature of the race’s market was the gamble on Grumeti who’d been 20/1 in the morning but went off at 7/1. For a few strides turning for home it did seem that McCoy might well do it, a roar when up for those magical seconds but it was not to be. Ned Buntline eventually finished fourth behind 16/1 Tom Scudamore ridden winner Next Sensation.

So long AP, where's Armaloft's?

So long AP, where’s Armaloft’s?

The roar that went up for McCoy as he returned back to the Winners Enclosure is the sort normally reserved for a well-backed winner, thunderous chants of ‘AP AP’, great to hear.  So that was it, the end of a memorable festival and the AP McCoy Festival era had come to its conclusion. The race in his honour won by a horse aptly named Next Sensation. It’s doubtful anyone will ever match his achievements but those legendary boots are now there to be filled, it’s just who is going to dare try and fill them and become that next sensation, it may be a while.

As for the bookies. They cheered him too, just like they did Dettori when he rode his magnificent seven, they are sportsman all after all. It’s been a great festival, the bookies probably won in the end as they generally do.

Thanks for reading, time to recharge the batteries.

(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. 

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One response to this post.

  1. brilliant post I am a huge footy nerd from Sweden


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