[dropcap]F[/dropcap]irstly we’d like to wish everyone a very happy and healthy 2018. New Year’s Day at Cheltenham started wet but thankfully had cleared up a bit by the time the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle got underway. There was a tip flying about for Onefortheroadtom early but anyone that got involved at 5/1 would have been more than a little concerned at the alarming drift to double that price in places at the off and were quite right to be as it turned out. The money came instead for Aye Aye Charlie from 6/1 but most notably Tikkanbar backed from 9/2 into 3/1 favourite. That money turned out to be the sharpest, with Neil Mulholland’s charge landing the gamble. First blood of 2018 to the punters, well you’d think so wouldn’t you, Lofty committed the once cardinal sin of calling home the winning jolly. He’d gone for in the book, the result being it was a fair winner. Outrageous!
Only five went to the post for the Watch Live Racing on Betbright.com Handicap Chase but betting was brisk if modest.
There was very little action in the way of big bets or price movement though Lamb Or Cod had been nibbled at 16/1 and backed into 12/1. At the off the book looked a little more orthodox with 15/8 jolly Vyta Du Rock the bogie though most wouldn’t have also had the rag a loser too but that’s the way the money came in. The two losers finished first and second, the market leader hosing up. There was no crowing from pitch this time, all back to square one.
The sun had come out by the Betbright Dipper Novices’ Steeplechase, so much so that the same people complaining about the rain were moaning about the glare! Lofty had said in the video we posted on twitter that he wanted to get Yanworth in the book.
Well, all the best laid plans and all that, despite being 15/8 when the majority of the ring were 7/4 at one point we couldn’t give Yanworth away. At the off Ballyandy was the bogie for four figures, largely down to a decent bet as they were off. Sometimes you just get lucky. Yanworth just held off the late surge of the betting ring’s dream result Sizing Tennesse but the firm won over a 15/8 shot that should have been the worst result in the book. When luck goes your way you have to accept it graciously.
Nobody anticipated the Betbright Best For Festival Betting Handicap Chase at around 4/1 being a big punting heat but it turned out to be quite lively. At the start of betting one of the short ones was Ballyhill at 5/1, by the off it was 9/1, at the line it was the winner and the best cop in the book. It had swung our way again. The runner-up Shantou Flyer has been well-backed from 12/1 into 8/1 so a bullet dodged though would have been a taker not a loser.
The Betbright Casino Handicap Hurdle was another heat similar in market with Arthur’s Gift heading the early skirmishes at 3/1. Play stopped briefly while brollies went up as icy rain threatened to deter the punters. It didn’t though and another decent betting heat ensued with Arthur’s Gift in its place as the worst in the book, at least it would have been had Red Rising not deposed it as favourite at the off. The bogie was beaten turning for home then Boyhood got the better of jolly Red Rising up the hill. Once again luck was on Star’s side, despite the winner being backed from 7/1 into 11/2 it was a fair winner in the book.
Colin’s Sister and Wholestone dominated the early betting at around 9/4 each of two for the penultimate Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle. Then disaster Lofty screamed out for ‘RDT’ as all systems crashed into ‘The Blue Screen Of Death’. Engineer Russ was there in a flash and assured the team that the problem wasn’t terminal and all was up and running in no time. In all the drama the two market leaders still couldn’t be separated in the betting going off at 9/4 joint favourites. It was a different story at the line however Wholestone trounced them all with Lizzie Kelly on 4/1 Agrapart separating the jollies in the frame.
The winner was a loser in the book but nowhere near as bad as it could have been. Unless an unforeseen catastrophe lurked in the concluding EBF Stallions & Cheltenham Pony Club National Hunt Flat an unlikely winning day seemed assured. Feature of the beating was the weakness the early jolly Volcano. It opened at 15/8 then drifted to 3/1 before one of the High Street firms stepped in to back it just before the off. That’s quite rare these days.
Needless to say heads didn’t rise above parapets when in front on a day the firm could have been losing untold bundles. Whatever happened the first day of 2018 on course was going to be a winning one. Acey Milan’s pillar to Post victory dented the profit but didn’t ruin it.
Simon Nott is author of Skint Mob!: Tales from the Betting Ring