Buzzing, that’s what Cheltenham was, especially the betting ring before racing. Our Irish friends were back on mass. You really miss them and it was great to catch up, they are such a big part of the fabric of the ring.

Star Sports had two teams out, Ricky, Lofty and Oli on the bottom rail and Inlike Fynn, Ben Hicks, Tony and ‘lovely face himself, Kyle out of retirement ready to get stuck in.

1:10 – Markel Insurance Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle (Class 3) (3YO plus) 2m 5f

Whilst the ring was buzzing with good natured reacquaintance conversations, it’s fair to say that it wasn’t exactly rocking the joint type business for the first race. Inlike and co did take a grand at 3/1 An Tailliur from the floor but very little else of note. The one the public money was for was Fergal O’Brien’s charge Art Approval, 6/1 sliced into 3/1 during the live betting.

The punter that had the bag on An Tailliur suffered terrible luck, as despite the heroics of his jockey Kevin Brogan the partnership were parted shortly after the first. A couple of shrewdies put up Neon Moon as a bet, David Pipe’s gelding did look like doing the business for a few strides before fading, up where it mattered, the money talked, Art Approval justified support winning nicely. The on-course book copped over the 10/3 winner so it was happy days all round.

Ed Dark in the office said that there had been very little interest in the opener but what there had been was over the favourite so a good start over a well-backed winner for them too.

As the field was doing battle out on the turf, Ben, helping out on the joint, casually told me that two years ago he was riding in the race, and so he was, Royal Plaza a 100/1 chance that was pulled up. I’m guessing there weren’t many people taking bets that had actually ridden on the hallowed Cheltenham turf.

1:45 – Mucking Brilliant Paddy Power Handicap Chase (GBB Race) (Class 2) (4YO plus) 2m

People that have been kindly reading these blogs since I have started writing them for Star Sports might recognise Kyle, or ‘Lovely Face’ as Ben Keith christened him. Kyle used to be head of on-course for Star Sports but left and now bets for a living. Now, I’m not casting aspersions on his influence, but when I asked about the state of the book, Flynn looked a little lovingly towards Kyle then purred a tad sheepishly ‘It might look like we have gone for the favourite here…’ before trailing off. Indeed, the well-backed jolly Stolen Silver was resplendent in green in the ledger.

Market rival Editeur Du Gite had attracted a bet of £2000 – £500 so was the worst while Magic Saint, had also seen enough support to be losing in the book. In short, they had gone for the favourite. It’s a mighty long way up that Cheltenham Hill regardless if you are a participant or backer. I took the liberty of snapping the moment it became apparent that the ‘gone for’ 5/2 jolly wasn’t going the reel in, the absolute bogie 10/3 chance Editeur Du Gite. Ed in the office was less guilty but equally as unhappy, the office had laid £35,000 – £10,000 the first two home in their turn.

Inlike and Kyle and the moment of realisation…

2:20 – SSS Super Alloys Novices’ Chase (GBB Race) (Class 2) (4YO plus) 2m 4f

The third heat was a match and a very light betting race, but the one that’ll be talked about the most. My Drogo was sent off the 4/9 favourite and Gin On Lime 7/4, the two had been in close contention for most of the way around. Just as the pair approached the second last it looked to many observers as if Harry Skelton on the jolly were just about on top. Then drama as the pair independently crumpled on landing. Harry Skelton ended up parted from his mount but Rachael Blackmore managed to stay on board Gin On Lime despite her mount being effectively on her belly.

Her rival already loose in front of them, the combination had time to regroup and gather enough pace to jump the last and go on to win. Who needs big fields for great racing and drama? From a purely business point of view had they both fallen then there would have been queues of punters to pay out over a void race before being able to get stuck into the next. Oh, the on-course book lost a monkey over the second-in, not another losing ‘gone for’ favourite surely Inlike?

2:55 – Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase (GBB Race) (Class 2) (5YO plus) 3m 6f

The race before the penultimate always used to be the one where the bookies got to visit the ablutions, the punters went for a drink and the horses went around and around until the favourite won. Going on today’s evidence the betting public appear to be warming to the race. There was fair business from the floor including a bet of £10,000 – £800 each-way on Potters Corner when 12/1. A hedge bet from a fellow bookmaker no less, just like the good old days. Those bookies floormen know value too, they asked for the fractions, if you don’t know what they are or that you can often be laid them when betting on-course, have a little diversionary read here:

Whilst it’s rather unusual to get any hedge money these days, some things never change, after they went round and around and around, the 4/1 favourite Back On The Lash won the race under Sean Bowen for former #BettingPeople interviewee Martin Keighley. Luckily for the firm, but due to that out of all proportion hedge bet not the staff going for short ones, the jolly copped £79 quid in the win book and the places looked after themselves.

3:30 – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) (Registered As The Hyde Novices’ Hurdle) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (4YO plus) 2m 5f

The penultimate was where the firm got the, it all went horribly wrong and the wheels came off, double up. Things were going OK, Inlike laid a bet of £900 – £400 Gelino Bello which got the book going but then a punter came in with £5000 in readies for Blazing Khal at 4/1, bet laid, £20,000 – £5000. He then wandered further up the line and appeared to have a similar wedge at least once more. Despite rolling around a bit and bumping his rival at the last the gamble was landed with something in hand in what should have been a nice result in an up the front two race.

The winner was returned 9/2 which was extra galling. There is always a silver lining, the punter probably didn’t realise that he could have had all of his bet with Star, if he had he might have done and saved his shoe leather. I was going to mention that saving grace to Inlike and Kyle as they were trying to get £20,000 together but didn’t think it was the opportune moment. Things weren’t so bad for the firm overall as they took about £30,000 out of the top two in the office including a £20,000 bet eventual runner-up Gelino Bello.

4:00 – Valda Energy Novices’ Handicap Hurdle (GBB Race) (Class 3) (3YO plus) 2m ½f

The lucky last was a race where they bet 11/2 the field. The firm had to dust themselves off and get to work, after all, it’s not about the meeting but the bigger picture. The punters made the last book, Skipping Court and Samba Dancer were the two bogies in the book and neither favourite. Mc Alpine winning the race at 33/1 was a fantastic end to the day for the betting ring.

Hopefully most of them were getting a few quid. When I last looked, Inlike and Kyle were still counting out readies to pay the punter for the previous race. Rory in the office told me that they had taken a few monkey bets over the market leaders so a decent winning race to conclude. All of today’s action will of course pale into insignificance tomorrow, we’ll be here. Thanks for reading.


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