SIMON NOTT: Tales from the Cheltenham betting ring (Saturday)
Saturday’s card, supported by a record (for the meeting) 18,320 crowd, kicked off in style with the randoxhealth.com Handicap Chase where all 16 ran. There was a buzz about the race with decent bets being called along the rail. One firm were earwigged laying a grand each way Viconte Du Noyer at 12/1 while it was reported the clever money under the radar was on Coologue. With several being backed the feature of the market was the weakness of favourite Singlefarmpayment which drifted from 9/2 to 11/2 and support for Cogry backed from 9/1 into 13/2. As is often the case when a ‘mystery’ punter has a lump on, Viconte Du Noyer ran very well for a very long way. That fact that will be testified by the wear on the shoes of the plucky bookie who laid the bet due to his pacing around during the race. Singlefarmpayment ran a cracker so dispelled any theories that someone knew something about his well-being. Running well as it might he had to settle for runner-up spot behind the easy winner Cogry, this time money did talk, luckily no lumps and not with Star.
In stark contrast to the first, the Masterson Holdings Hurdle attracted only four runners and very little of interest from the punters. It was a shame for the ring that there didn’t appear to be any lumps flying around for the jolly Bedrock despite it being an 8/15 shot. For whatever reason the odds-on backers were keeping their powder dry, they got it right as 9/4 second-in Twobeelucky won. To add insult to injury 25/1 chance Arthington mugged the jolly for second close home.
There was one defection from the 16-runner Randox Health Handicap Chase to make it 15 and three places each way betting, though I’m pretty sure not due to the bookmakers paying one to pull out as I overheard one ‘expert’ proclaiming down in the ring. Once again with a tricky race to get stuck into the punters appeared to relish it and do just that, get stuck in. The bookmakers were reporting brisk business all along the line. The was an early move for Double W’S but then the real money came in for Paul Nicholls’ Le Prezein supported from a ‘Burlington Bertie’ 10/3 into its SP of 5/2 favourite. Those jolly backers almost lifted the stands roof willing their fancy up the hill as it did sole battle with Foxtail Hill to the line. The duo went hammer and tong, matching strides but it was Sam Twiston-Davies on the latter who ultimately galvanised his mount to victory scoring by a neck at the judge for a 15/2 victory.
17 went to post for the Pertemps Network Handicap Hurdle so once again plenty to interest the punters and four places each way. The had been a move for Harry Fry’s Whataknight in the morning which remained popular, the Star Sports team had an interest in Its’afreebee with the firm’s PR guru Luke owning a leg though if he backed it he didn’t let on. The book was shaping up nice and tidily when a punter came in and asked for £14,000 – £1,000 each-way Holly Bush Henry. He was of course obliged, but the book was no longer a book just one big loser. That given all eyes from the firm on the rails were on that gelding, by the time Kyle and Andrew were satisfied that though running well the bogie wasn’t going to be placed all other eyes were on the 5/2 favourite Thomas Campbell. Our guys joined in watching just in time to witness the jolly run on up the hill to victory from 40/1 dream bookmakers result Milrow.
It was a perplexed Andrew that greeted me on rails when I asked how betting was going in the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars Novices’ Chase. He told me that there had been an initial move, 7/4 into 5/4 for Alcala which meant that the book had the gelding a bad loser. The perplexing bit was that despite the price bouncing back they couldn’t take a dinar of any significance out of any of the others. Once the race got underway the boys on the pitch would have settled for Two Taffs the second-in which looked the likely winner entering the home straight. Looks can be deceiving though, Dan Skelton’s charge was dismissed as ‘soft’ by some in the press room as it appeared to throw in the towel, not relishing the scrap that awaited him if he wanted to win. That lack of relish for battle left Jamie Snowden’s 9/1 shot Double Treasure to power up the hill to victory to the delight of the bookmakers celebrating what was an excellent result.
It was back to modest fields for the penultimate Junior Jumpers Novices’ Hurdle Race in which Daryl Jacob rode 6/5 favourite Calett Mad to victory which had the books getting the readies out again before they’d really had time to tidy them up. One thing I did notice was that punters betting in-running on the race were prepared to bet huge odds on a long way out, have they never seen what that hill can do to horses in a finish? I anticipate many badly burned clicking fingers before the season is out. The winner made it at treble on the card for the Twiston-Davies yard.
There was a time in my early days working for bookmakers that there would be a mass exodus before a concluding bumper. Not any more, especially as there was a chance of the aforementioned yard making it a four-timer in The Jockey Club Venues Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race. Their charge Gaucho was a double-figure price before racing but opened at 9/1 on course, the ring cautious, clipped to 8/1 at the off.
An 8/1 shot won the race, though not that 8/1 shot, Fergal O’Brien’s Herecomestheboom landed the spoils, a middle pin in the betting so probably a small winner for most of the books and an excellent conclusion to the first meeting of the season. There’s so much to look forward to.
See you all back here again in November.
Simon Nott is author of Skint Mob!: Tales from the Betting Ring