AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

CHAMPIONS DAY ASCOT: Tales from the ring

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen the early morning alarm went off to get me up in time for Ascot I expected to look out of the window onto Storm Brian Armageddon. Thankfully the worst hadn’t materialised in Devon or on route up the motorway. It was windy at Ascot but thankfully nothing that might have put racing in jeopardy which was just as well as we had a terrific afternoon’s racing in store.

Betting was brisk in the opening Qipco British Champions Long Distance Cup with punters and price beggars getting Kyle and Dave on the Star Sports pitch under the cosh. The ones the punters wanted to be on at the pitch were Duretto and Stradivarius with the jolly hard to get from the Saturday crowd. The office had been in touch though and had Order Of St George losing them over £100,000. You know that it’s a good result for the book when the crowd are hushed as one takes it up at the business end of race, even more so when those nearest to you start peering into their racecards. 25/1 chance Torcedor looked all over the winner, the books set for a cracking start to the day. They were about to keep pretty much most of what they’d taken and be able to crack on with the next race with very few to pay.

The layers had just about enough time to think just that when caller Simon Holt started to get excited, Ryan Moore had galvanised a run out of Order Of St George and powered home to collar the gallant outsider 50 yards from the post. Gut wrenching for connections of the vanquished but the vast majority of the crowd in the betting ring were in raptures. ‘We thought we had that’ was the comment from the Bob Stock joint, echoed all along the line.

No time for pondering what might have been there were queues of happy punters to pay out and the Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes to get stuck into. One punter had already got stuck into Star with an £11,000 – £8,000 on course wager on favourite Harry Angel, there were other decent bets for Tasleet £5,000 – £350 each-way (that’s 14/1 with the fractions, come racing) and £5,000 – £800 each-way Quiet Reflection in another race of brisk business with the trade backing the jolly at the off. Once again a result was on the cards for the ring but this time the cup wasn’t snatched from their lips. Tony Bloom’s Librisa Breeze winning at 10/1 wasn’t quite a ‘right result’ but the jolly getting beaten was enough for most. Incidentally, the winner was tipped up at 16/1 by recent interviewee Andrew Mount in his column.

The business was also brisk though not quite so lumpy on the Star Sports pitch in the QIPCO British Champions Fillies & Mares Stakes. The favourite Bateel was a very warm order with plenty of money going on forcing the price from 9/4 into 7/4 with a grand and a monkey laid at the top price on the joint. Hydrangea winning at 4/1 under Ryan Moore was hardly what you’d call a turn-up for the book but beating Bateel into second saved another huge pay out.

The Queen Elizabeth II Stakes (Group 1) (Sponsored By Qipco) was arguably the most anticipated race on the star-studded card. Ribchester was the steady if slightly weak favourite allowed to drift from 7/4 to 2/1 but Churchill was also expected to bounce back under Ryan Moore and nibbled from 5/1 into 9/2. Once again, the punters were queuing up get on at times but chunks were not forthcoming on the pitch, number one on the second line. One punter came to the joint and asked which one ‘Antonio’ was on. There were furrowed brows as the racecard was searched for clues, then Dave on the stool twigged it, ‘Ah you mean Frankie’ admittedly it wasn’t obvious but of course you need to be astute to work for Star. The punter did indeed mean Frankie and wished to have his fiver on whatever he was on. 14 fivers was duly placed on Persuasive and the punter went off happy. It appeared that this novice was not alone in wishing to put his faith in Dettori as by the time the combination passed the post the winners in front of Ribchester the price had contracted to 8/1. There had been money for the winner but once again the bookmakers copped.

Business had gotten even lighter around the Star Sports pitch betting on the Qipco Champion Stakes but elsewhere people were very happy with the business. Further down Tatts I had a chat with Bristol bookmaker Richard Tovey betting under his dad John’s name. He was happy with what he had taken and the business so far. ‘So Far’ was how Peter O’Toole described how he was winning ever the cautious one, and correct to be so as it turned out.

There are times in racing when the bookies look past their personal losses and cheer an astounding performance, after all you won’t find a bigger plethora of sportsmen anywhere than in the betting ring. The vast majority of them would have given back with interest what they’d won on Persuasive in the previous race but when Cracksman absolutely destroyed his field under Antonio, sorry, Frankie winning by seven lengths. In hindsight his price of 13/8 favourite was the value of the week, but of course hindsight would be a priceless commodity, so bearing in mind most layers would have done their cobblers over the winner there were plenty them allowing themselves a cheer at what was a wonderful performance.

After the dust, or rather heavy sod, had settled and a lucky racegoer just won a draw for a car in the parade ring, the bookies were probably still in front and there was just a big handicap to finish. All 20 ran for the Balmoral Handicap (Sponsored By Qipco) with Lord Glitters sent off 3/1 favourite. His backers must have been thinking what the hell the jockey was doing while bookies rubbed their hands then Daniel Tudhope came from last to first with an amazing run to win by a neck.

While it was another jaw-dropping performance the bookies weren’t cheering this time, they’ve all got to eat you know.

Simon Nott

skintmobSimon Nott is author of Skint Mob!: Tales from the Betting Ring