AUTHOR: James Dowen

SIMON NOTT BETTING BLOG: Cheltenham Wednesday

With the flat getting most of the focus and the crowd nowhere near the size of the teaming Festival, Cheltenham was a relaxing place to be.

Of course, relaxing isn’t what’s ideal when trying to make a book on the rail so it was hoped that the crowds that did turn up were all punters.

One that certainly was a punter was previous betting people interviewee Alan Potts who came to the join shortly before the first. Luckily for the bookies his two intended bets had been scuppered by non-runners and depleted fields.

1:30 – Kingston Stud Handicap Hurdle (GBB Race) (Class 2) (4YO plus) 2m 4½f

The opener saw fair business despite the modest crowd, not all of it the sort you want to take though. A known ‘sticker on’ went down the line backing Bold Plan taking the 7/1 and 13/2. Ed and Lofty ducked it while they got stuck into the favourite Captain Morgs.

Ed told me that they got the favourite in cheap which was handy, but they still laid Bold Plan at 6/1 which duly landed the gamble at that price. The book did a oner but the guys at least got the favourite in the bag at the right price.

2:05 – Matt Hampson Foundation Silver Trophy Handicap Chase (Grade 2 Limited Handicap) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (5YO plus) 2m 4½f

The Heavens opened as the books got to work on the next. The punters weren’t what you’d describe as a hardly bunch. Hiding away under the stands the odd brave soul nipping out to have a bet. This wasn’t lost on Ed who goaded them, ‘Come on you cowards.’ There were several bookmakers who weren’t cowards, no mush at all for young Archie on the Bevan joint or Pinno next to Star Sports.

Of course, the professionals Ed and Lofty were nicely covered. Sadly, the race was ruined by the rain, though the firm dodged a bullet when the 11/5 ( yes I know ) favourite, Stolen Silver won the race and the book did just £84. Mind you, they are here to get a few quid and so far those few quid seemed elusive to take let alone win.

2:40 – Citipost Novices’ Hurdle (GBB Race) (Class 2) (4YO plus) 2m 4½f

The rain stopped by the third and the race came to life, though probably not because of. The type of punters who bet the £1875 – £1000 Pull Again Green and £4500 – £2000 Royaume Uni aren’t usually put off by a bit of wet weather. That made the book, the guys set to work betting around it.

There was decent money for Latitude backed in nibbles from 33/1 into 14/1 while Call Of The Wild was steady but only to small money so a good winner at the off. Turning for home it looked to be a race but ultimately the favourite beat the second favourite. It wasn’t all bad though, by the off the winner was copping £178 in the book.

📈 Over in the Star Sports office, Dave Jolly told me: ‘We saw interest in first two races but numbers dropped off for this one, adding the first two Cheltenham races were on TV then Newmarket dominated. We Only laid the favourite here £2000 – £1000 £3500 – £2000 a couple of times and £1500 at 6/4. After it bolted up he chipped in, ‘Different Cheltenham but same result!’

3:15 – Arkells Brewery Nicholson Holman Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase (GBB Race) (Class 3) (5YO plus) 3m 1½f

I spotted a familiar face at the joint prior to the fourth; Alan ‘The Beard’ Francis who is one professional punter that has been around on course since I started working for bookies back in 1989. I went to say hello as well as, if I’m honest, an earwig, but he wasn’t having a bet. I told him that I’d seen Alan Potts earlier as indeed had he. He then namedropped the treble of shrewdies in saying that John Noakes was also here. John ‘The Baptist’ is rarely sighted on course these days but used to have it on in lumps at the jumping tracks in years gone by. Both Alan the Beard and John The Baptist have been approached for #BettingPeople interviews but have so far declined.

The book took one bet of note, £1200 – £600 the ultimate 13/8 favourite Mint Condition from a shrewdie who’d rather remain nameless. The jolly had to settle for second place behind 17/2 winner The Bull McCabe, the shrewdie and the crowd got their money’s worth though then runner-up was tenacious in defeat but ultimately found one too good.

3:50 – Weatherite Handicap Chase (GBB Race) (Class 2) (5YO plus) 3m 2f

A punter had £6000 – £2000 Mister Malarky in the race before the penultimate. That was sticking out like a sore thumb. The only other bet of note was for Fergal O’Brien’s Captain Cattistock to the tune of £2400 – £300. In the event the guys were unlucky to run into it, O’Brien’s charge won, with the bogie back in second. The rest of the field money ensured that the winner copped a monkey despite the £2000 pay out but the cream was snatched from the team’s lips.

4:25 – Safran Handicap Hurdle (GBB Race) (Class 2) (4YO plus) 3m

This was a day when the bigger punters decided to have a go, at least with Star. Eddie Dark on the front of the pitch took a bet of £6000 – £3000 Last Royal. He and Lofty were happy to get it in the book, but not so happy to see the price tumble from 2/1 into 5/4. At one point during the race it looked as if the subject of the gamble was the only one in it.

The breather it appeared Nick Scholfield was giving to his horse was ultimately it capitulating as the field closed. It then seemed as if Philip Hobbs’ Pileon was going to land the spoils only to be mugged on the line by Gary Hanmer’s 16/1 charge Wbee, winning on a nose. The difference was similar in the book, the winner was about a score better than the runner up and copped about £3000.

5:00 – Cheltenham Pony Racing Authority Graduates Handicap Hurdle (Conditional Jockeys And Amateur Riders) (Class 2) (4YO plus) 2m 1f

The Lucky last was delayed by just over a quarter of an hour, which appeared to prompt several punters on their way. I got the Yankee of pro-punters up though when Andy Lowrie shouted over that he couldn’t hear the loudspeaker over my trousers, blimey these were quite tame today, still Andy’s a good lad and a great judge so he can say what he wants. In the meantime, I also got a message from Armaloft Alex that John The Baptist had agreed to do an interview, but only if Alan the Beard did one first, a very big price. That was a fair vicious circle but I’ll work on it.

Over on the pitch, Lofty said that they ‘Snapped the elastic bands around the winnings’ and had bet nice and tight. The book had two losers, sadly one of them was 5/1 chance Koi Dodville which won for David Pipe under Jack Tudor. It wasn’t enough of a loss to dent the book too much though, the firm enjoyed a good winning day, they were all smiles as they packed up and will be back tomorrow.


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