SIMON NOTT: Tales from the Newbury betting ring
Newbury Dubai Duty Free International Saturday
I’d made a right ricket turning up in a winter coat, the weather at Newbury was glorious and there were plenty in attendance to enjoy it. There was a bit of a buzz about the opening Wedgewood Estates EBF Novice Stakes mainly because there had been a stick on. OK a stick-on might be a little melodramatic but Roger Varian’s Sam Gold had been backed from 7/1 into 7/2 in the morning but was little more than steady on course. The books appeared to be doing brisk if not lumpy business, well most of them. Bo Brown who bets as West End Racing was lolling about with sidekick Ian AKA Ricky in the rear echelon rather than his traditional front line pitch.
He hadn’t charitably decided to give the others a go but had been frustrated by traffic chaos which beat him getting to pitching up time despite his local knowledge of rat runs. ‘We were so close to where we wanted to be’ lamented Ricky AKA Ian. His loss was my gain as Bo had plenty of time to reminisce and told me an excellent story of days gone by at a dog track. It goes like this; there was a bookmaker whose habit was to have a drink at the bar between each race to bolster his nerve before the next skirmish with the punters. He always left a young Bo minding the bag, as was his way. On this particular occasion no sooner had Bo taken his position on guard the bookmaker was back. OK he could knock them back but even this was too quick for him. Bo enquired as to the change of drinking routine. The bookmaker replied that he’d been walking through the bar area when an arm went around his shoulder with a hello from a vaguely familiar face. The bookie shared a pleasantry along the lines of, ‘Oh hello, um, I haven’t seen you for a while’ to which the vaguely familiar face replied, ‘Oh shouldn’t think so, I just got out after doing 14 years for murder’. The bookie hadn’t felt thirsty after that and legged it as soon as he could wriggle from that enveloping arm. Funnily enough Bo remembers he didn’t feel thirsty again for the rest of the evening.
The first race here would have been gutting for the backers of the gambled on Sam Gold. It got going all too late finishing with rapid late headway, it must have looked like getting up to someone on the exchanges because I’m told it touched 1/33 in-running but was still, an albeit rapidly diminishing, head down at the line. 7/1 winner Fennaan would have suited the layers. One bookie appeared to have been having it off prior to today, Peter O’Toole’s newly acquired light board now being supported by two matching black bungies. Ostentatious.
Any money that stayed in the hods didn’t stay there long when 4/9 jolly Emaraaty made short work of division two of the Wedgewood Estates EBF Novice Stakes winning in a way that makes betting odds-on maidens look clever. There were a few groans in the press room when 13/2 Desert Encounter beat 9/2 favourite Second Step into second in the Dubai Duty Free Legacy Cup Stakes, not from the books though, they seemed happy enough basking in the sunshine.
The feature race of the day, the Dubai Duty Free Mill Reef Stakes was busy in the ring as you might expect. There had been money for Enjazaat backed from 6/1 into 9/2 and Grand Koonta 16/1 into 9/1 while Invincible Army and James Garfield were steady at the head of the market. ‘Two just losers in the book, One and Five’, offered Joe Oliver on the lower rail. Sadly for him it was Five, James Garfield that won the race under Frankie Dettori. Any bookie will tell you that anything Frankie rides on a Saturday is well-backed so invariably no good. ‘Best priced 7/2 into 10/3’ was Rocky on the rails summing up. So that’s nibbled at and no good but it’s doubtful anyone was sticking their necks out too far, apart from the horse that is, clocking up a new 2yo course record over the trip.
As far as the bookmakers are concerned the less said about the Dubai Duty Free Handicap the better. You could hardly have had a worse result with three of the four 8/1 co favourites (of four) filling the first four places, Brorocco first home.
The Dubai International Airport World Trophy Stakes never really took off down in the ring ‘There’s not a dollar to be taken’ bemoaned one layer. That was certainly true about Take Cover, best priced 11/2 in the morning but chased out to 8/1 on course led by an even bigger drift on the machine. This was one occasion when ‘they’ don’t always know, David Allan burst out of the stalls on Take Cover and was never headed, beating the 9/2 jolly Cotai Glory into second place so a bit of respite for the books.
The Dubai Duty Free Finest Surprise Handicap boasted a short one, 13/8 Weekender, under that man Frankie Dettori again. The Frankel colt looked all over the winner with a furlong to go as Frankie came with a wet sail but then just couldn’t get past Ryan Moore on the Queen’s filly Daphine who ran on to win at 8/1 much to the joy of the layers. All hats in the ring were being doffed to her majesty as they snapped their elastic bands around the day’s winnings.
Racing matters do seem trivial at times though. I was talking to bookmaker Dave Hazell during racing who informed me that fellow West of England bookie Mike Smith, who trades as Dick Reynolds and is well known on the Point to Point circuit, has been seriously ill in hospital. Dave told me that Mike’s had surgery and is now hopefully on the mend. Wishing you a speedy recovery Mike, we hope to see you back on course for the forthcoming point season.
Simon Nott is author of Skint Mob!: Tales from the Betting Ring