TAUNTON MONDAY: The course passed their morning inspection earlier than the scheduled check at 7.30am. We sent SIMON NOTT along to capture the atmosphere of an afternoon of jumping in Somerset.
I didn’t even bother checking to see if racing was on this morning, there had been a 7.30am inspection, I just assumed it was a formality to be on. The first person I bumped into on my arrival at Taunton was Clerk of the Course Jason Loosemore, not so according to him, there had still been snow laid on the course yesterday afternoon, the overnight rain was the salvation. That was the first result of the day.
The sun came out and I soon realised I’d worn too much clobber. I wasn’t the only one, the second person I saw on course was professional punter Steve ‘Rucker’ Noyce. He was dressed for sub-zero temperatures as is his way, definitely not a fashion victim. Rucker’s #BettingPeople interview can be found here.
For a Monday the crowd was a very good one with several ‘faces’ in evidence, Big Shaun, Alan ‘The Beard’ and Armaloft Alex all spotted before racing. Nicest of all to see, one of my old bosses Ivor Perry, 85 years young and very much retired from bookmaking but his son-in-law and daughter still bet under his name, on the number one pitch in Tattersalls.
1:45 Racing To School Novices’ Hurdle (Div 1)
Paul Nicholls’ Southfield Stone opened at 4/9 for the opening race but was very easy to back easing to 4/6 at the off. The drift was countered by a move for Evan Williams’ Bold Plan supported from 2/1 into 6/4. The money for the second-in proved inspired, Bold Plan won nicely from the jolly. It was a mixed story from the bookmakers. Robert of R&J said that the winner was the best-backed in the race and had to lay the favourite on the exchanges ‘just to only lose £200’ while Andy Williams of the G&T firm was chuffed to have laid a cash bet of £400-£700.
2:15 Racing To School Novices’ Hurdle (Div 2)
Professional punter Alan ‘The Beard’ came over for a chat prior to the second. He said that the Third Wind the, at the time, 8/13 favourite was 125/1 when it won last time. I asked if he thought the jolly was vulnerable today. He replied that he didn’t just that it had been too big previously. He’d be too modest to say but it sounded like his might have had a bit of a touch last time. I asked him where his sidekick John, a professional backer and also with a ‘The Beard’ handle, was, the answer came he was following the England cricket team. There’s still good money to be made in the punting game it seems. That was certainly true for those backed the jolly from 8/13 into 1/2 which won easily for Hughie Morrison under Richard Johnson.
2:45 Cheltenham Festival Preview Evening 8th March Handicap Hurdle
My mate and great judge Andrew Mount had put up Rosemary Russet in the third. I mentioned it to Armaloft Alex, he was already on. That’s always good news, great minds and all that. The market appeared to agree with the brace of turf sages. The morning 4/1 had been chiselled into 5/2 by the off. It wasn’t to be though, nothing in the race was able to make a race of it with Tiverton trainer Nigel Hawke’s Le Musee. The gelding won as it pleased, as commentator Richard Hoiles so eloquently described it ‘bolted up’ under Mr Kieren Buckley claiming 7lb and riding his second only winner. He’ll rarely ride an easier one. It wasn’t great for the bookies either, the winner was nibbled in the market 7/2 into 3/1.
3:15 Gold Cup Lunch 15th March Chase (Novices’ Limited Handicap)
The fourth race went to Spring Wolf. The winner was a big drifter on the ‘machine’ and subsequently the ring, 7/2 out to 6/1. Some bookmakers reported laying the winner at shorter odds to cash punters. Paul Metcalfe on the Jack Bevan (Est 1897) pitch laid a punter a £100 at 7/2, but then added he felt obliged to pay the gentleman BOG. He hastened to add that to anyone reading this, it was a one-off to an ex-bookie. Come racing, especially if you are an ex-bookie.
3:45 Evening With Tommo And Champ 29th March Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle
There was some intrigue in the fifth race, it included a rare French raider in the shape of Alain Couetil’s Presidente Line. Professional punter Rucker strode past the bookmakers to wherever he stands out in the country and said, ‘the top one (the French horse) looks best’. Then word came that the unusual entry was because the horse was to be sold to local buyers who were present to watch before they bought. All that a given the raider wasn’t the favourite at 2/1. The intrigue continued there because Anthony Honeyball saddled the odds-on favourite Duhallow Gesture. That yard reportedly recently temporarily closed due to some of the inmate’s poor health. It all added up to the French horse being a good thing.
Rucker dressed to go under the radar!
Well, it was nearly right. The money 5/6 into 8/11 would have suggested that the Honeyball yard being back in form. As illustrated in the previous race support or otherwise on the machine isn’t always right but in this case it was. The Honeyball yard enjoyed their first winner ‘back’ but the raider was still probably sold, it ran well and apparently touched a shade of odds-on in running before eventually finding the favourite two lengths too good at the line.
4:15 Southwest Racing Club Handicap Chase
Racegoers were treated to a thrilling finish in the penultimate. Paul Nicholls’ Touch Kick had been backed from 3/1 into 7/4 in the ring. For much of the race, the gamble looked like winning then appeared to be collared when under the cosh and just headed by Philip Hobbs’ 9/2 shot Diplomate Sivola over and after the last. Bookmakers that allowed themselves a little cheer thinking they’d got the stick-on beaten must have nearly choked on it when the jolly got back up under a determined ride by Harry Cobden winning a short-head decided by a photograph.
Touch Kick and Harry Cobden
4:45 Ladies Day 4th April Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle
There wasn’t a lot of movement in the market for the concluding conditional jockey’s hurdle. Armaloft Alex had been looking at the combatants in the parade ring and said that Linda Blackford’s Lady Wethered looked fit and at 50/1 was going to chuck a couple of quid each-way on her and beat the traffic.
The bookmakers would have been happy had Alex been right but sadly his paddock pick ran as its price suggested it would. Instead, the bookmakers’ day concluded in a nasty fashion, when 5/2 favourite Silver Quay won under Bryony Frost for her dad Jimmy. I know, Bryony Frost against conditionals, hardly seems fair does it. Oh well who’d be a bookie.
Simon Nott is author of:
Skint Mob! Tales from the Betting Ring