EXETER TUESDAY: SIMON NOTT reports from Exeter – one week until the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival it was a case of smaller skirmishes in the ring but smaller fish taste nice to punters and bookies alike. Talking of fish, it was the right weather for them. An absolute deluge hit the course.
It was a meeting for the hardy at the GG.co.uk sponsored card up on Haldon Hill, as they set off down to the start for the first the weather looked set to wet for the afternoon.
2:15 Follow ggcouk On Twitter Conditional Jockeys’ Training Series Handicap Hurdle
The Racing Post Westcountry correspondent had tipped the jolly Philip Hobbs’ Smarty Wild for the race. Colleague Andrew King present in the Press Room was a little agitated at the drift from 6/4 to 9/4 after being ‘quite strong’ in the morning. He changed his tune when the jolly bolted up, quite so, an arm’s aloft double ‘Aye Aye’ of a celebration that threatened to lift the clouds. It sometimes makes you wonder what ‘they’ think they know out there in exchange land. A group of schoolchildren, some dress in jockeys’ silks, swamped the podium to present the trophy, impervious to the rain, great stuff.
2:45 gg.co.uk Cheltenham Festival Tips ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle (Div 1)
Paddock judge Ken Pitterson napped up Robert Walford’s Walk In The Mill in the next, the 13 runners kicked up clumps of turfs as they were sent off for a trip of 2m 7f in the Devon mud. I asked if anything had happened down in the ring. ‘Yes, it’s rained’ was the reply from one bookmaker huddled under an umbrella. It didn’t look like a bumper day in the ring. Sadly, for Ken, 5/2 favourite Walk In The Mill didn’t win but did manage third. A shade quicker was Paul Nicholls’ 3/1 winner Truckers Lodge who foiled an Internet overnight gamble (double-figures to shrapnel into 7/2) on Unwin Vic. The former getting the upper hand under Lorcan Williams after an extended tussle after the second-last.
3:15 gg.co.uk Cheltenham Festival Tips ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle (Div 2)
There were no strong predictions from the assorted members of the press prior to the next. The market revolved around a trio of horses, Evan Williams’ Present Value, steady at around 11/10 then clipped into evens at the off, Paul Nicholls’ Danny Whizzbang (pictured below), punted from 3/1 into 2/1 and the easy to back Truckin Away 9/4 to 7/2. ‘They’ knew this time, Harry Cobden got the money for Whizzbang’s backers kicking clear on the run-in. The going was changed from good to soft to soft shortly after, no big surprise to sodden punters and bookies queuing to be paid and paid out. No surprise either that one lot appeared to be happier than the other.
3:45 GG Fast Results Handicap Hurdle
I felt for the benefit of the blog I should ask some of the layers if anything had happened in the ring as the horses went down to the start of the next. Jo on the Ivor Perry joint said ‘They’ve backed Bact To Black’, (7/1 into 5/1 ) they always back Bact To Black, every time it runs,’ then added with a grin, ‘They copped last time but luckily it wasn’t here’. Bo Brown was miserable, ‘It’s windy, I’m cold and I’m losing, I also have a cold if you’d like it’, that was a no, as was the answer to Ian from Jack Bevan’s question who asked if I’d like his opinion on Brexit.
The race itself was a lot more eventful, Colin Tizzard’s 20/1 shot Flo’s Boy Sam refused to race but luckily for punters was withdrawn by the starter, Rosemary Russet looked all over the winner then finished unplaced while 33/1 poke Firebird Flyers hit 1.01 in-running before being chinned by 10/1 shot J’Ai Froid under Max Kendrick. Phew, and all run on, or possibly aided by, a course that was fast resembling a ploughed field. They loved the fact a 1.01 shot was ‘gubbed’ on twitter, as they always do.
Shall we plant turnips, or spuds?
4:15 Weatherbys Hamilton Chase (Novices’ Limited Handicap)
King of the Jungle, Harry Redknapp has an interest in Nick Mitchell’s This Is It, Armaloft Alex said he’d introduce me if he was here, he’d make a great #BettingPeople interviewee, you can only ask, sadly, he wasn’t so I couldn’t. Ken Pitterson said the race looked impossible, betting reflected it at 9/2 the field. At the business end of the race Jonjo O’Neill’s Lithic under Jonjo O’Neill Jr looked to be looming dangerously. ‘Go on my cocker’ went up a cheer from someone who had hitherto failed to mention the horse, followed by a pitiful ‘please’ as it became apparent the gelding was reluctant to go by Billy Bronco, ultimately the 15/2 winner. Never show your hand too early punters!
4:45 GG Tips Handicap Chase
If you were watching the penultimate on the TV you may well have seen a lofty character jumping around in the vicinity of the winning post. If you did, you spotted Armaloft Alex celebrating backing a 33/1 winner. Kiwi Myth (pictured below) had been 33/1 when Alex was on in the morning, returned 16/1 on course when beating perennial runner-up 11/2 shot Big Time Frank. Our hero was cockahoop ‘I was never worried, the runner-up has had more seconds than a fat lad at an “all you can eat” Chinese’ It was quite amazing he managed to get that lot out given how breathless he was after hollering the winner home.
5:15 gg.co.uk Handicap Chase
Money in the ring for the last was sparse and what there was papier maché . Much of that was for Norse Legend backed from 7/1 into 9/2 but it was Simon Earle’s charge Kavanagh’s Corner that proved victorious under a determined ride in the gloom from Tom Scudamore at 7/2 with the gamble back in third. Alex had already left the course, that money will take some counting.
Next stop for this blog, the big one, Cheltenham. Not long now.
Simon Nott is author of:
Skint Mob! Tales from the Betting Ring