AUTHOR: Lewis Williams


I can’t remember the last time I was at a racecourse and it wasn’t cold and wet, not this year anyway. When I set off from Devon just before six this morning it was cold and wet, so I dressed accordingly. That included a very fetching thermal vest, a birthday gift from my mother-in-law, it was bound to be even worse 250 miles or so up the motorway at Aintree, writes SIMON NOTT.

I wasn’t looking forward to the trip either, in years gone by I’ve had a moan up about the seemingly continuous 50 mph limits on the motorways after Wolverhampton, making the last leg of the journey seem endless. Well, I got it wrong on both counts, the roadworks are gone and in some places five lanes have made the travel up so much easier. When I stepped out of the car, an hour or so earlier than expected, it was warmish and dry. Amazing, a double up before racing began.

1:45 – Close Brothers Manifesto Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) 2m4f

Most people’s coats were off before the first. The rails were in a bit of shade though so the team, Nick, Hannah and Lofty kept theirs on fielding bets from the punters. Let’s hope the sunshine lasts until at least the back end of Glorious Goodwood, not too much to ask is it, surely all the rain we’ve had must be variance.

Betting was steady in the first punctuated by three decent bets, £2000 – £500 Ginny’s Destiny, £2400 – £2000 Grey Dawning and £5000 – £2000 Il Etait Temps, which prompted Lofty to tell me that they had a good book. Meanwhile Stevie G who comes up to have a chat every Aintree did so again today, with his brother. Stevie was telling me about his connections to the Westcountry, he once played for Bridport for the princely sum of £7 a week. We won’t mention Weymouth, ‘they slung me out’ he remembered with a grin.

Meanwhile, out on the turf the sunshine didn’t appear to agree with the jolly Grey Dawning, he could only manage third behind Il Etait Temps, which won nicely. He returned 3/1 which meant the team managed to lay him under the odds, but was still the bogie in a good book that lost £2000.

The office got in touch after the first. They told me, ‘Fairly open betting heat Ginnys Destiny best backed with us including £3000 at 9/2.’

2:20 – Boodles Anniversary 4-Y-O Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m1f

Next up and business remained what Lofty described as ‘steady’ but there was no strength in depth. There were two decent bets though, both £4000 and both on Sir Gino, at 11/8 and 5/4. ‘I wanted to get that one in’ beamed Lofty, looking at a red glowing figure of £11,019 as the field set off. Over in one of the Star Sports betting shops they saw interest in Kalif Du Berlais laying bets of £1250 at 8/1 and £3750 at 15/2.

Well, what can you say, the rain might have stopped but the rot hadn’t for Star Sports on course. Sir Gino won the race, despite looking second best in running alongside Kargese. The winner returned 11/10 the book lost £11,019. Ben called and was pleased to hear that there had been some decent bets, but not so chuffed that they had won but to be fair he never gets too upset about those sorts of things. Lofty, was happy he didn’t get it for more. Still, the sun was shining and everyone was still happy despite doing £13,000 after two heats.

Things didn’t go too well in the office either,the winner was favourite after all, here’s what they told me ‘We laid £2.5k Kalif Du Berlais at 8/1 early, since then and despite the drift it’s all been Sir Gino, which goes off bogie’.

There was an interesting story emanating from the race further down the rail. Christian White who bets as Macbet told me that a bag man asked him for £20,000 the eventual winner ‘at any price you like’ almost as they were running. I asked if he’d laid the man, he laughed and replied ‘No, as soon as I heard that, I wanted to be on!’ We can guess that Nicky’s ‘are back!’

2:55 – William Hill Bowl Chase (Grade 1) 3m1f

With that in mind it’s probably best to mention the £10,000 – £4000 Shishkin laid alongside a £3000 – £1000 Corbetts Cross both quite early on in the next. That was it though, two good bets to take I’ll grant you but the rest of the money bet was modest.

This time things spun around Star’s way. Gerri Colombe the 9/4 favourite won the race, while the rest of the ring let out a collective groan, Lofty allowed himself a little smile, OK raised one corner of his mouth. The book had clawed £5500, all the sweeter as it was over a market leader. Shiskin was fourth, maybe talk of a Henderson resurrection had been a little premature.

The office got in touch and told me, ‘Corbett Cross was popular including £50,000 – £15,000 plus support for Shishkin probably on the back of the previous winner.’

3:30 – William Hill Aintree Hurdle (Grade 1) 2m4f

Next up and there had been excitement in one of the Star Sports betting shops this morning, they’d £40,000 – £20,000 Bob Olinger to a punter. Funnily enough, the same horse was subject to the first decent bet of the race £9000 – £4000 on the rails with Hannah, Nick and Lofty. As the horses went to post the only other half decent bet of note was on Impaire Et Passe to the tune of £550 – £500. Other business was steady enough. At the off the state of affairs was the same with Bob losing £7500 in the book.

We were treated to an absolutely fantastic race. At first glance it looked like the gamble had been landed by the Bob Olinger punters as three horses flashed past the post locked together, the jolly, Bob Olinger and Langer Dan with the bogie on the nearside. The slo-mo replay told a different story with the nod favouring the jolly on the far side. Lofty has already been calling for a Stewards Enquiry, and got one, called just after Impaire Et Passe had been called the winner by a nose.

The winner copped £2200 in the book so it was heavy stakes for the firm on the result of the steward’s deliberations. Those deliberations appeared to take an age as punters that had backed the winner queued to get paid, though understandably they got a little agitated as time drew on. Of course, it also buggered up betting on the next too. True, the Foxhunters wouldn’t have been the liveliest betting heat, but there are only seven races on a card so understandably the ring wants to get to work.

After a good quarter of an hour or so the announcement came that the result stood. With that Lofty let out a sigh of relief and Hannah and Nick got to work taking bets and paying out.

The office waited until the result of the Stewards then told me, ‘Despite early interest in Luccia including £4000 at 9/1, it was about Impaire Et Passe, including a bet of £50,000 at 5/4’

4:05 – Randox Foxhunters’ Open Hunters’ Chase (Class 2) 2m5f

It was a bit of a surprise when a punter had a £24,000 – £2000 Spyglass Hill and another had £12,000 – £4000 Its On The Line. And there was me saying the big backers wouldn’t be interested. Turning for home in the race, Spyglass Hill was already beaten and On The Line looked in trouble, so much so that Lofty declared. ‘If this wins, it’ll be ride of the century!’

In case you are wondering, despite being 75 years left to run, ‘Ride of the 21st century goes to Mr Derek O’Connor for his never say die efforts on Its On The Line in the 2024 Randox Foxhunters! The rails lost £12,000 and the office reported: “plenty of bets but a small loser”.

News from one of Star’s betting shops was a bet of £50,000 – £5000 over Gaboroit which unseated at the 12th.

4:40 – Close Brothers Red Rum Handicap Chase (Premier Handicap) 2m

Going into the penultimate, coats we’re back on and Star Sports were losing £17,000. There wasn’t going to be much chance of getting out on the day here. The only bet of note, and very late was £10,000 – £2000 Sans Bruit, which unsurprisingly was the only loser in the book. The office reported “nothing huge but Saint Roi the bogie”.

As the field lined up set off, it started to rain, lightly but rain none the less. Mushes were going up, as out on the turf the were having a few goes at getting started. I don’t know about getting out, sinking deeper into the mire was more like it. ‘Relentless’ was Lofty’s only response at Sans Bruit bolted up under Bryony Frost, and the rain fell harder. £27,000 down with one race to go.

5:15 – Goffs Nickel Coin Mares’ Standard Open National Hunt Flat Race (Grade 2) 2m1f

Betting on the lucky last, otherwise known as the ‘getting out stakes’ was conducted in proper rain. So I still can’t remember the last time I wasn’t wet at a racecourse this year, so much for the sunshine lasting until Glorious Goodwood. Lofty and co had long since given up hoping to win on the day, but an £18,000 – £9000 Baby Kate gave them the chance of getting some back. At the off, that was about it, Star versus the punter.

The WhatsApp message read ‘Thank God for that’ I’m not sure the big fella had a hand in Diva Luna’s 13/2 win but the firm would take it. They’d only lost £18,959.88 on the day, it’s just as well bookmakers don’t take bets any more isn’t it! They didn’t have to sweat too much on the last but you start to believe they are all going to win don’t you!

The office’s last message can’t be described as upbeat. They concluded the day telling me; ‘Getting Baby Kate beat meant we at least ended the day with a winning race, but overall poor first day at Aintree’

All that’s left to worry about now is where Lofty is taking us to dinner tonight. We’re back tomorrow, hopefully well fed and on the front foot.

Thursday’s results from the Racing Post:

Views of authors do not necessarily represent views of Star Sports Bookmakers.

Simon Nott is author of: Skint Mob! Tales from the Betting Ring
available on Kindle 



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