I jumped at the chance to go racing for the first time since Cheltenham. BHA Covid-19 test completed, certificate issued, request to HWPA accepted and I imagine am the envy of plenty of readers, back on the turf.
Arriving at the course was a strange experience though. A no entry sign where you’d normally come in, a brace of men in masks asking for your name halfway down the lane. Once parked up, there was a hand sanitizer for a top up before a visit to a tent to have my temperature checked by a masked lady. All clear to go, goodie bag with sandwiches and a coke collected, ‘racecard’ handed out and I was good to go to the Press Room in front of where the rails bookies should be.
On entry I got a ‘What the hell are you doing here’ or words to that effect from one quarter, but Luke Harvey was as cheery and friendly as ever. Some things rarely change on course. Except they had of course, no punters and no bookies. There did appear to be a gaggle of in-running twitchers across the course on the public land. I’m not sure what they could see of the first though.
Racecourse security speak to in-running punters positioned on a public footpath running alongside the farside at Bath Racecourse.
Prior to the opener the office reported good support for Princely in the 3.10, Faene Queene in the 4.50 and Rock Of Fame in the 5.20.
2:10 – Tadwick Handicap (Class 6) (4YO plus) 5f
When I excitedly told the office that I was here and that I’d like to know any movers, they didn’t expect much lumpy business. It was a nice surprise then to hear they’d laid £6875 – £5000 Awsaaf and £9000 – £1200 Toolatetodelegate in the first especially when they were both beaten behind 11/5 winner Cappananty Con.
2:40 – British Stallion Studs EBF Novice Auction Stakes (Class 5) (2YO only) 5½f
It appeared the punters were keen to get stuck in after all. The office reported that they only wanted to be on Jamie Osborne’s charge Hot Scoop in the next. Bets included, £4125-£3000 x2, £6875 -£5000, £3250-£2000 and £1375-£1000. The colt won fairly comfortably under Nicola Currie returning the more orthodox 11/8 favourite.
3:10 – Siston Handicap (Class 6) (4YO plus) 5½f
Next up and a more competitive looking heat but it still didn’t stop the 5/2 favourite Grey Galleon winning. It wasn’t that cut and dried as far as the office business went. They laid two bets of note, runner-up Princely £6666- £2000 each-way and Englishman £4800- £400 to keep things interesting. Watching the races with just a sprinkling of people in attendance is quite an unusual experience. you can hear each individual person, generally stable staff, calling their horses home, the volume and urgency increasing as the horses approach the line. Trainer Roger Teal told Luke Harvey on Sky Sports Racing that the visor had done the trick today, despite missing the racing I’m guessing the regular on-course bookies would have been starting to be a little glad they couldn’t come today.
3:40 – Swineford Handicap (Class 4) (4YO plus) 5½f
Of course, it always turns and it did in the next, William Jarvis’ Michaels Choice winning at the 10/1 was what would have looked like a fair result for the bookies on-course and off, but the winner had been 16/1 early on. Richard Hoiles commentary was wasted on such a select crowd and no doubt enjoyed telling us all that Show Me The Bubbly had popped her cork. Another that failed to sparkle was the jolly Real Estate, the office had laid £8250 – £6000 so one punter would have had little to celebrate.
4:15 – Saltford Handicap (Class 4) (3YO only) 1m
The intrepid in-running twitchers would have got their first real close up of a horse as the 1m start was in front of where they were congregating. They wouldn’t have seen much of the ding-dong at the business end where the 5/6 jolly Motamayiz had a battle royal with 14/1 result What An Angel though. The favourite got back up snatching a neck victory from the jaws of defeat under Jack Mitchell which no doubt delighted the punter that bet an even £6000 with the office.
Between races these two jockeys took the time to walk the entire course. It could well have been a hint into the winner of the last. The trouble was, all masked up, knowing who they were was proving tricky.
4:50 – Bathwick Maiden Stakes (Class 5) (3YO plus) 1m
The maiden was landed by 16/5 silver-ring priced winner in A La Voile but also a bet of £10,000 – £2500 each-way on Tawtheef stayed in the hood, someone certainly expected Marcus Tregoning’s gelding to run better than the sixth place he did. On the other hand, some modest shrewdie money came in for third placed 12/1 shot Faene Queene including a bet of £2750 – £275 each-way. Between races I went off in search of Luke to try and find out who the two jockeys who had walked the course were, but couldn’t track him down, the plot thickened.
5:20 – Woolley Handicap (Class 6) (3YO plus) 1m 2f
There was drama in the stalls when Derek Le Grand got himself into all sorts of trouble and had to be extricated from them before being withdrawn. Rock Of Fame was one of the those the office marked up as being well backed and so it continued, bets included £800- £1500, £4000 – £7500, £800-£1300, £3636- £5000. They all stayed in the office’s hod thanks to Magic Shuffle battling tenaciously to get the better of the jolly in a photo, a head too good when examined by Guy Lewis. One other bet of note was £14,000 – £2000 each-way Marie’s Gem who finished third to squash the fly into the ointment of the race.
5:50 – Stockwood Handicap (Class 6) (4YO plus) 1m 3½f
By the last I was still none the wiser of the identity of the two jockeys who made the effort to walk the course, neither James of the Post or Luke off the telly could positively identity either which was a shame. Then late on, Luke came up trumps with two identities after ‘some research’. Talk had moved on though, a drone had been spotted, apparently flown from private land by three men accompanied by a bloody great dog. You have to feel for the twitchers. The suspicions, although unverified were that the drone guys were enabling in-running punters with their pictures. If true, the chaps hiding in the hedge had been well and truly gazumped in the technology stakes. Those in-running guys are triers though, you have to hand it to them.
The lucky last went to odds-on jolly Competition under Tom Marquand winning easily landing bets of £2500- £5000, £4000 – £6000, and £1666-£2500. There was an interesting bet of a monkey each-way at SP for Galileo Jade. As for the two lady jockeys? Isobel Francis finished third on Sellingallthetime at 25/1, was I on? No. Oh and the drone, a non-runner for the last, maybe like the bookies lightboards the batteries struggle with eight races!
Views of authors do not necessarily represent views of Star Sports Bookmakers.
Simon Nott is author of:
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