Tales From The Betting Ring – Hunter Chase Evening, Cheltenham 29/04/15

I turned 50 on the 10th of April and threw a little party to ‘celebrate’. My great mate, pro-punter, tipster and form book guru Andrew Mount, ( see his regular column on https://gg.com/news/author/andrew-mount ) surprised me with a gift. No, not the bottle of champagne, the man is a trend horse, the champagne was 1.01, but the other gift. It’s a thing that looks like a watch called a ‘Fitbit’ and it monitors what you are up to, while you are awake and asleep. It’s a great little contraption for someone like me who is trying to fend off middle-age with fitness. Your target is 10,000 steps a day, that’s a lot unless you make the effort. With my first taste of fatherhood looming at the grand old age of a bullseye I’m making the effort.

My new thing is getting to the races a bit early and walking the course. That really builds your stepping distance up, burns calories, and gives you the opportunity to ‘taunt’ your friends. Yes this excellent little Fitbit actually has a ‘taunt’ button to torment your Fitbit mates, in my case just Andrew at present but feel free to add me. If you notice that they have been sitting about on sofas and not putting the effort in like you have you can send them a rude message. So today I walked the course, I was the one in the coat that would make Toad Of Toad Hall self-conscious, here’s proof, that I walked it, not of my bad wardrobe taste, that’s widely accepted by those who know me.

Consider yourself taunted Mounty!

Thanks to 'Fitbit' you get to see racecourses from a whole different angle!

Thanks to ‘Fitbit’ you get to see racecourses from a whole different angle!

The Hunter Chase Cheltenham evening meeting finale has always been a favourite of mine. That can’t be said for the bookies I used to work for though, despite the excellent sport it was always very hard to win at. I haven’t worked in the ring for a firm since 2008 but judging by the people on the missing list and the new faces on the rails I’d guess little has changed in the opinion of many bookmakers.

The opening John Ellis Memorial Hunters’ Chase was going to give the betting ring a chance to test the water with a short one to get stuck into. Penmore Mill was generally a 6/5 chance before going off at 11/10. The punters were there to back him too with a trio of monkey bets at the price just a few reported. Now I have often had a gentle dig at my old mate ‘Armaloft’ Alex for ‘after-timing’ but today is not one of those days. He made a good case for Delta Borget who was 20/1 when he advised it and still 16/1 at the off. He very nearly won the race having overhauled the long-time leading favourite after the last only to be collared itself by 7/1 shot Sam Cavallaro who went on to win by just under a length. Gutted. Not as gutted as the punters who waded in on the jolly though I’m sure. Not all bookies were celebrating getting the short one turned over, one firm up at the ‘wrong’ end of Tatts joked that the biggest bet they took was £2.50 each-way. At least I’m assuming they were joking.

The rails they bet...

The rails they bet…

The second event of the day was the, deep breath, Connolly’s Red Mills Precision Nutrition Intermediate Point-To-Point Championship Final Hunters’ Chase. It was a competitive race with Mr Mercurial and Empire Builder being sent off at 4/1 joint favourites. The former had attracted a bet of £1600 – £400 each-way in the ring. As it cruised ominously after two out a veteran bookmaker’s workman we’ll just call ‘Bob’ declared with some confidence, ‘This won’t win, it’s a dog’. Sorry now to connections, his words not mine, but of course he was made to eat them as Mr Mercurial went on to ‘dog it’ four and a half lengths clear at the line.

Anyone in this picture called 'Bob' is in it purely coincidentally and bears no relevance to the paragraph above. Probably.

Anyone in this picture called ‘Bob’ is in it purely coincidentally and bears no relevance to the paragraph above. Probably.

The third event on the card, the Hunt Staff Benefit Society Hunters’ Chase (For The United Hunts Challenge Cup) saw only seven runners but it was a lively betting heat. Following Dreams was a well-backed 5/4 favourite while Harbour Court was supported from 11/4 into 15/8 including a bet of £1100-£400. Tugboat was also subject of a decent wager, with £2700 – £600 laid in the ring. The money for Harbour Court proved the sharpest when it landed the gamble by four lengths. Not the jolly but not great for the bookies either.

Tally Ho!

Tally Ho!

The feature race of the day, the Bonhams Men’s Open Point-To-Point Championship Final Hunters’ Chase was another where the betting was very lively. While there was modest support for plenty in the race the two that featured for bigger money was Moroman backed to the tune of £1800 – £600 near the rails and a £900-£300 up at the other end of Tatts before being sent off 11/4 favourite. ‘Watch that one storm up the hill’ bemoaned the bookie that laid the bet. He had the look of a condemned man, not a happy sight at all. There was good news for him though he didn’t know it. There had also been good support for Quinz including a £1800-£400 each-way and that was bang on the money winning the race just under four lengths clear of the jolly. The winner actually went off at 5/1 so maybe the book that laid the lump earned out of it, at least the win side.

'Yes you got that and you can have it again if you like.'

‘Yes you got that and you can have it again if you like.’

Chosen Milan was a well-backed 4/6 shot to win the next, the Thoroughbred Breeders’ Association Mares’ Hunters’ Chase and did so but only just. Roseyroo had been bet from 12/1 into 17/2 and only failed by a neck to land the gamble. She had been hampered a couple of times so maybe considered unlucky not to beat the favourite, scant consolation for the bookies who were once again digging deep to pay out the winning punters including a £400 – £600 and £600-£900.

Maybe the fox was once again runner up to the hunting crowd?

Maybe the fox was once again runner up to the hunting crowd?

The betting for the penultimate  Cheltenham Club Open Hunters’ Chase was conducted in a pretty cold wind. The punting itself was warmer though business appeared some have slowed with some firms on the perimeters having already legged it. ‘We laid a polar and a penguin’ was the report from a fellow we have already mentioned who we called ‘Bob’. I’m not sure that comment was any more accurate than his one previously but it was that cold so he’s forgiven. There were a few decent bets about including a £3000 – £300 each way Special Portrait and £4000 – £200 each-way Connies Cross. Back at the head of the market the original favourite Major Malarkey (2/1 out to 11/4) had been usurped at market leader by Alskamatic after a surge of bets from 9/2 into 5/2. It was the opposite story in the race itself with the Major getting up under the nose of the judge to deny the gamble. Connies Cross bagged third for the each-way money the bottle punter.

Tickets please.

Tickets please.

The race that concluded the meeting and another glorious season at Cheltenham was the Sporting Icons Evening With McCoy Ladies’ Open Hunters’ Chase. There was a market move for Fort George which saw its price tumble from 12/1 into 7/1 helped along by a £4500 – £500 each-way and also a decent bet for Rockiteer £2250 – £405 with the fractions. Those punters left it behind but so did the bookies when 2/1 jolly Current Event won with some ease. So that was it, another season over and another losing Hunter Chase evening a losing one for most of the bookies. They’ll no doubt be back next season, as will I, but in the meantime the diary now says places like Goodwood and Salisbury.

Thanks Cheltenham, it’s been a blast, now where’s my panama…..

I am now writing an exclusive ‘Tales From The Betting Ring’ for the monthly Racing Ahead Magazine. It’s available from all good newsagents or via their website http://racingahead.net/

(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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2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Dave Tyler on April 30, 2015 at 10:44 am

    Great stuff Simon. 13000 there I think for grass roots steeplechasing, Puts some of the commercial fodder into perspective.


  2. Yes it’s always well-supported and I think end the season at NH HQ with grass roots racing is very fitting. Thanks for your kind words.


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