SIMON NOTT: Tales from the Cheltenham betting ring
CHELTENHAM SUNDAY: The weather was back to sunshine, the readies and clobber dried out, so all well in the ring at Cheltenham for Sunday of the November Meeting. Having said that, there were several firms who had decided to head to Fontwell or give Sunday a swerve altogether, boss Ben in the latter camp. Going by turnover in the opening Velcourt Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle they weren’t bad judges. Business was timid to say the least. There appeared to have been a wholesale gamble on Evan Williams’ Wild Magic in the morning from 8/1 into 7/2. That move no doubt influenced the drift on original jolly Melrose Boy which went off at 11/4 and went on to win as it liked, the gamble unplaced. The books had little option but to chase the favourite out so cost them plenty. A bad start.
A story did reach me between races that is typical ‘bookmaker’. A bookie who shall remain nameless received a phone call to say their elderly mother had fallen, thankfully unhurt. The layer was of course relieved but also a little annoyed, ‘It’s Cheltenham, she could have at least waited until after the last or better still, tomorrow!’
Just three ran in the Racing Post Arkle Trophy Trial Novices Steeplechase despite there being £1,565 prize money on offer for fourth. Once again business was modest, the 6/4 second favourite North Hill Harvey won the race which ensured we had a small cop in the book.
Of the five that went to post in the Shloer Steeple Chase it was Fox Norton that was sent off jolly. It was quite humorous to see a trio of possibly well-refreshed lads running around with £600 begging evens while the 5/6 was splintering into 4/5 all around them. That price looked exceptional value a few minutes later as Colin Tizzard‘s hotpot hosed in unchallenged. At least there was no bookmaker anywhere cursing ‘I should have laid those lads evens’. Nobody likes an aftertiming bookie.
The Unibet Greatwood Hurdle was of course a competitive betting heat. Sadly rather than relish the challenge the punters appeared to zip their pockets and join the ranks of the Royal Standbacks. There was a bit of a move for The New One, a member of staff jumped off the stool and availed himself of the 8/1 with the fractions each-way with benevolent Barry of the Pinno firm. ‘I’ve tucked up the Tash’ he joyously proclaimed, ticket waving in the air. Sadly premature as it turned out, Elgin won the race at 10/1, The New One? Where every ‘clever’ each-way finishes, fourth.
Beaten a whisker!
Martyn of Leicester must have had a good race because he found time to come and moan about our very own Ricky. That’s now ‘Ricky the Racereader’ – at least with Martyn. According to he of Leicester it was Ricky’s fault that he lost £1,400 on the second race. ‘He told me the jolly was nowhere, I started counting the money then it sprouted wings and got up to be second and land the bogie forecast’ Or words to that effect. Luckily Ricky was elsewhere at the time so blissfully unaware of the weight of blame on his shoulders.
The running of SkyBet Supreme Trial Novices’ Hurdle was delayed due to low sun. Nicky Henderson’s Dame De Compagnie was initially uneasy in the market drifting to 11/8 but that price dropped with the temperature and the sun, eventually going off at tips-on 10/11. However it wasn’t the favourite but Slate House that had his backers raising the roof winning at 5/2, while the jolly finished stone last.
The concluding race of the meeting, the High Sheriff Of Gloucestershire’s Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race was a competitive betting heat with several horses backed but to very modest stakes. Vocarium was the one combined weight of money saw shorten from 7/2 into 11/4 but it was 4/1 Crook’s Peak that won the race delighting those who had been hollering ‘Go on Dickie’ and not so much the bookmakers paying out with slightly numbing fingers. Let’s do it all again in December.
Simon Nott is author of Skint Mob!: Tales from the Betting Ring