We’re back at Cheltenham! It’s been 19 months since the Festival before the pandemic though I’m sure it seems much longer to many; I know it does for me. I’m sure I’ve related pretty much every tale from the hallowed turf of Prestbury Park including before, during and after racing, so we’ll kick straight into today.

Lofty, Flynn, Tony and I were little short of distraught that Ben the boss was a non-runner for this meeting. Sadness can’t get in the way of business though, so the show had to go on without the gentle ribbing and reminding to hand out sweets from the boss. One person that was in attendance was Andrew King, former doyen of the Westcountry Press Rooms the Racing Post correspondent for the region, a terrific writer and a caustic wit, it was very nice to see him back on course.

Star Sports bet on the rail at this meeting. Their neighbour today was Bookie Baz and his oppo Tim Brown. Luckily for Star, Tim was down on the bottom rail on the other pitch. Anyone that reads his Twitter rants will know that he’d love to show Star how to do it – that said, it was better he was down out of the way. Having said all that, he is a nice chap, and it was nice to see him.

Tim Brown

1:55 – Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (GBB Race) (Class 2) (4YO plus) 2m 4f

The opening three horse heat wasn’t all that inspiring for the punters with just the three runners. Philip Hobb’s Camprond was sent off the 1/3 favourite though did attract a bet of £200 – £700 with Inlike Flynn on the rails. Davy Russell’s mount Mars Harper was the shortener in the race going off a 5/2 while the jolly eased to 1/3 at the off.

Those that took the odds-on might well have been getting a bit jittery as Davy Russell cruised to challenge the favourite with a double handful. Ultimately the combination flattered to deceive not finding a lot when the chips were down. Camprond went on to win by four and half lengths.

Over in the Star Sports office, Glenn Day reported that they’d taken a couple of grands, a monkey and £400 on the jolly so a losing race but not as bad as it could have been.

2:30 – Novices’ Chase (GBB Race) (Class 2) (4YO plus) 2m

Next up, Lofty said he’d gone around the clock and the book was a bit messy. By the off it was looking more traditional, the jolly a loser the rest winners in their place. There were no bets of note on the rails to report. It was slightly better in the office, Glenn reported a single bet of £4550 – £2800 (13/8) the jolly, which I should mention was Dan Skelton’s Third Time Lucki.

There were bits and pieces for others in the race too but still left the jolly losing getting on for five grand. The form book will show that it was Third Time Lucki under Harry Skelton winning at 11/8 from Buddy Rich by 8 ½ lengths but was really value for much more.

3:05 – 888sport What’s Your Thinking Novices’ Hurdle (GBB Race) (Class 2) (4YO plus) 3m

Down on the rails, the firm were enjoying refreshments, Caramel Latte for ‘Inlike’ Flynn, yes, I know, luckily, I didn’t have to go an order that, the shame. Anyway, the ‘firm’ fancied the 9/4 jolly Bardenstown Lad so were having a cheekier lean-up than a Caramel Latte. The business wasn’t huge, but it was brisk.

Brisk enough that the firm had the market leader winning £900 at the off. The shrewd team had got it right, they went for a horse that kept finding more under Sean Bowen and gallantly landed the spoils. At least Inlike had the decorum not to roar home the third winning favourite on the bounce in the earshot of his fellow cobbler-doing bookmakers. The winner was returned 85/40 by the industry, bigger than 2/1 or shorter than 9/4? You decide.

I feared the worst for the firm. Former #BettingPeople interviewee Andrew Mount tipped it up to his column readers at 11/2 last night. Glenn told me that it had been very quiet in the office and that there’d been no bets of note so they got away with it too. Hmmm, hold on, 11/2 last night, you could lay 9/4, should have gone in the book really….

3:40 – 888sport Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase (GBB Race) (Class 3) (4YO plus) 2m 4f

Going into the fourth, a firm on the rails that weren’t Star Sports had laid a bet of £10,000 – £1000 Torn And Frayed, Star Sports laid a bet of £2400 – £600 Danny Kirwan but surprisingly little decent money for the jolly Faivoir. That would have given bookmakers hope, at least there was opposition to the potentially fourth market leader on the bounce obliging. The market, at least that surrounding the favourite was right.

The race went to ‘The Master Trainer’ Chris Gordon’s charge Annual Invictus under Tom Cannon at 11/4. I had the pleasure of visiting Chris’ yard a couple of weeks ago so was particularly pleased for him and his team. Flynn and co were also pleased as the bogie Danny Kirwan was runner-up.

Annual Invictus, winner of the Novices’ Limited Handicap Chase

4:15 – Abu Dhabi Digital Exchange Handicap Hurdle (Class 3) (3YO plus) 2m 4f

The race before the penultimate was not the sort of heat you’d expect many lumps bet on the racecourse, and there were none, at least not with Star. I asked Lofty how it was, he could hardly splutter out the superlatives fast enough, it was ‘steady, busy, lively, there’s been flurries, it was good and he was pleased with it.’ Flynn was back on the front after copping £900 on a favourite, the game’s bollocks firmly clenched in his left hand, the right was for readies of course. Lofty was right, the book was a fair one, but his bins might need upgrading, ‘This one will do’ he proclaimed as the eventual winner scooted to victory, only for his vision to clear and mutter ‘Oh, it’s the jolly.’

And so it was, Nigel Twiston-Davies charge Guard Your Dreams, returned 16/5 favourite. The last price Star Sports laid on the rails was 7/2 which is a bit bigger. I was tried to ask Barry Pinno, stood next to the firm on the rails, what price he was at the off. He didn’t answer, he was rather forlornly digging into another wad of cash. Four winning favourites from five can do that to a man’s tank and demeanour.

4:50 – Andy Stewart Memorial Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase (Class 3) (4YO plus) 3m 1f

The race run in memory of Andy Stewart was preceded by legendary Cheltenham warrior Big Bucks being led up the hill to cheers from the stand.

Big Bucks being led up prior to the race in memory of Andy Stewart

He looked as if he’d happily take part in the race itself. From a betting point of view there was very little doing in a race where the punters were allowed to make the book. Not enough of them found the winner Strictlyadancer despite being only 7/1. It was a cop in Lofty’s book even though one extremely vocal lady punter picked up £50 from Star Sports having backed the winner because she loves ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, who needs the form book!

5:25 – Foundation Developments Maiden Hurdle (GBB Race) (Class 3) (4YO plus) 2m ½f

Phew! The best race of the day was left until last. There had been a gamble on Brorson throughout the day, 20/1 into 4/1 albeit with a 40p in the pound deduction. That punt looked likely to be landed turning for home, then over the last even place money appeared to be slipping away. The jolly Top Bandit seemed to have made a winning move from the bookie’s dream, 80/1 chance Jetoile, just as Brorson found another gear and the gamble was back on.

Top Bandit had other ideas and dug in to hold on by ¾ of a length. The guys on the Star Sports pitch were stunned, Inlike had laid a punter a bet of £2800 – £1400 the 15/8 winner. That in addition to other bets made Gordon Elliott’s charge under Davy Russell the worse loser of the day and knocked the day’s business bandy. Still, the team are off for a Thai tonight, I’m off back down to the Shire, we’ll all be back tomorrow where it threatens to be a busy old day on the turf.


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