SIMON NOTT: Tales from the Ascot betting ring
First impressions on a dank October afternoon was what a good crowd, rumoured to be about 20,000 and an astonishing number of bookmakers. I haven’t looked at last year’s results but they must have had it spark off as there was an almost Royal Ascot number contingent of layers.
Business looked to be brisk for the opening Hope And Homes For Children Rous Stakes, at least it was with Kyle and Michelle betting on the Star Sports pitch number two in the back row. The trouble was for them and the other bookmakers was that the money was all one-way traffic for John Gosden’s Waady backed from an early skirmishes 15/8 into ‘tips on’ 10/11 at the off. The bookmakers’ mettle was certainly tested with a one horse book. Those that left the ledger lopsided were rewarded with the shock 33/1 victory of Ronald Harris’ Just Glamorous. To be fair most of the ring would have settled for the 7/1 runner-up Sir Robert Cheval but a proper result is always welcome, especially in the first.
I took a wander around the ring but held on just long enough to see one layer hop off his stool, ask the pitch in front ‘How much did you get on it?’ then stick his head into the computer before the clerk had chance to answer. Some bookies just can’t help being bookies!
Further down the line Paul Gold on one of the Pickwick-Bevan pitches was cook-a-hoop, he’d had computer problems, had to stand the jolly for much more than he wanted and got lucky and copped the lot. Not so chuffed was the back row firm who had a skinner for all they took. ‘Not chuffed?’ I hear you cry, yes dear reader, they had taken the princely sum of £81 on the race, trying for their lives. Not only that, they’d given a lift to a friend of the winning trainer who told them the winner had been quietly fancied but didn’t heed the advice. ‘I only needed to have a tenner on’ rued the bookmaker. Oh well, we all know it’s easy after the race.
There was another odds-on shot to contend with in the Gigaset Cumberland Lodge Stakes where the French raider Waldgeist was backed from 4/5 into 4/7. Not all eyes were on the favourite though. There had been a whisper for Nick Williams’ two runners at Fontwell in the morning so the cry of ‘He’s here’ was a bit of a surprise. Unless that is of course you don’t have runners in Group Three flat races often and you’ve ever driven from George Nympton to Fontwell. He may be the genius of said hamlet and in attendance but nobody that backed Williams’ charge Flying Tiger at 33/1 was rewarded for their investment. That said I’m sure the yard would have been very happy with fifth with prize money down to sixth. Even happier were the connections of the winner of the race Danehill Kodiac who emulated the previous race victor by making all. It did look as if the jolly had come to collar him close home but stick his neck out to hang on to win gamely. The bookmakers were once again over the moon, it appears none more so than Festival Racing’s Andrew Smith who is said to have a leg in the beast. He was seen accompanying the winner back, first raised in celebration, with his daughter Oliva leading but at time of writing a tilt at the ring had not been confirmed. Happy days for all involved.
After getting the first two short ones beaten it might have been asking a bit much for the bookie treble up taking on Blue Point in the John Guest Bengough Stakes. Those that did had little hope as the even money favourite went clear at the distance. Anyone that stuck it up the jolly might have had a glimmer of hope as the field closed, but in reality to the impartial observer the winner was never going to be caught, still ¾ of a length up at the judge.
Nobody on a stool was going take liberties with their winnings in the 18-runner totescoop6 Challenge Cup (Heritage Handicap). 16/1 winner Accidental Agent was another welcome result for the betting ring though not everyone got their whack. That included Kyle on the Star Sports pitch who won less than £100 on the race. You don’t have to lay them many times at that price, and incidentally you could still have had 20/1 with him at the off, come racing, there’s still value to be had.
Despite the presence of another short one in Eternally business seemed to be a little lighter in totepool British EBF October Stakes. ‘Not easy to lay’ was the report from a few books on the rails. The jolly was 5/6 at time of asking and had eased slightly to 10/11 at the off but the layers seemed reluctant to go evens. A decision that might have regretted in hindsight, despite adopting the day’s largely successful tactics of making the running the filly was swamped close home. She ultimately had to settle for third place being 20/1 winner One Master. Regardless of potentially lower field money that was a result in any bookmaker’s language and with a competitive handicap to finish they weren’t going be giving it back.
Simon Nott is author of Skint Mob!: Tales from the Betting Ring