AUTHOR: davidstewart


I had to de-ice the car before setting off to Cheltenham this morning. At least that augured well for a dryer day of weather. Our accommodation looks more like a launderette than an abode; much of the kit worn yesterday was still damp despite an overnight stay on radiators.

All smiles on a brighter start to the day at Cheltenham…

By the time I got on course, the sun was beating down and all looked set fair for an excellent third day on the turf. Ben was in fine form checking to see if I was wearing socks, berating me for not wearing a tie – my wife says a tie ages me and I’d rather argue with Ben than Mrs Nott – and finally for wearing ‘unlucky’ green. My protestations that it’s St Patrick’s Day seemed to fall on unimpressed ears. At least he was still smiling after his cobblers were well and truly done yesterday.

📈 Prior to the four-runner first, Dave Jolly in the office reported: “We start the second half 2-0 down and with a disappointing field of four runners in the first. The market says it’s a close call, and Star customers are split with bets of £40k and £20k on Galopin Des Champs @ Evs and a bet of £25k on Bob Olinger @ 6/5 – the former is also popular in a few large multis.”

📈 Toby at Star Spreads: “Very slow start to the morning so far. Sellers of Distances, both 1-2 and 2-3, they’re looking for tight margins. We actually want big distances, there’s a first this week. Also got Sellers of Double Numbers, meaning we want winners with higher cloth numbers.”

1:30 – Turners Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) (Registered As The Golden Miller) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (5YO plus) 2m 4f

Only four went to post for the opener which was effectively a match. The race wasn’t short on drama, the favourite Galopin Des Champs looked set for a famous victory, jumped the last well then stumbled and fell, to the raucous cheers of a group of Herberts next to the joint.

That left 6/5 second-in Bob Olinger to coast to a default victory. Sadly for the book, it was topsy, the favourite was a good cop in the ledger, the winner blew £5000.

2:10 – Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (5YO plus) 3m

Next up, with plenty of runners to choose from and approximately 50% of the punters having started with a winner, it was a busy heat but stakes were modest. Dunboyne was the worst in the book, losing pretty much what the book held, just under £5,000. Third Wind obliging at 25/1 was an excellent result for the ring and the Star Sports book. It was win stakes back for the neck runner-up Alaphilippe under Star’s extended PIPPED offer. Backers of the 11/2 chance were refunded as a free bet up to £50.

📈 Toby Rose from Star Spreads (before the race): “Now much busier. Punters in their droves buying and selling the new distances after the inflated max result in the first. We still remain on the side of wanting bigger distances.”

📈 Dave Jolly in the Star Sports office told me: “Race two follows the handicap trend of lots of bets but far less turnover, but we did lay £12,000 each way Sire du Berlais at 11/2”

The bing-bong for a steward’s enquiry held up betting a little but there weren’t many waiting to draw over the winner. While the beaks pontificated the firm got to work betting straight and without the favourite, both markets proved popular, there were still 20 minutes to bet when it was announced the result stood and they had indeed weighed in.

Ben Keith interviewed live on ITV Racing this afternoon. When the going gets tough…

2:50 – Ryanair Chase (Registered As The Festival Trophy) (Grade 1) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (5YO plus) 2m 4½f

Allaho was the banker of the day for many and backed accordingly, the big hitters that bet into the office swung their punting axes into the firm to the tune of £80,000 – £130,000 and £80,000 – £140,000. They hit their marks in what was a bloodless victory for the jolly which won with some ease.

The biggest bet on course with Star in Tatts was £2000 – £3500 which, with other bets, added up to a £4000 loser. You might have been wondering why I haven’t mentioned Lofty recently. Can you imagine how miserable he’d have been yesterday with rain running down his neck? Yes, me too, so I didn’t bother going down there. He’d have been miserable after this race, too. The bottom rail with Martin at the helm lost £10,000. At least it was sunny, though.

The Cheltenham crowd…

📈 Dave Jolly in the office was stoical after the two lumps were landed, he said: “Not a great result we even laid the forecast for £10,000.’ It never rains as they say.”

3:30 – Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle (Grade 1) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (4YO plus) 3m

Old school bookmakers will recoil in horror when they see that there’s a loser in the book for more than the field money. Flooring Porter lost over £5000 in a book that held £4000. There were no bets of note, just weight of money. The bogie won so the payout queue was lengthy. Luckily, Ed Dark over in the office only had one bet to report, £20,000 on unplaced Champ which was handy on a day where handy news was rare.

4:10 – Craft Irish Whiskey Co. Plate Handicap Chase (Grade 3) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (5YO plus) 2m 4½f

It started to get a bit nippy as they bet on the race before the penultimate. Ben was still on the joint taking bets, but the punters were hardly rocking the joint to get on. That despite the aggressive pricing of the bookmakers in the very top pitches there was tremendous value to be had by backers, 1% a runner or less on the front row. Come racing.

The field money did start to add up as ominous-looking clouds gathered. Flynn was so pessimistic he readied the mush. I checked my weather app just to be sure, rain looked a big price but you wouldn’t want to lay it looking at the gloom. There was no gloom on the pitch after 22/1 chance Coole Cody did the business. Ed Dark in the office came through with the news they’d laid £25,000 at 7/2 the runner-up Imperial Alcazar.

4:50 – Ryanair Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2) (Registered As The Dawn Run Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (4YO plus) 2m 1f

The penultimate came alive on course, the punters piled in to get involved. They were tendering decent bets too, hundreds were common, fivers not so much. ‘Best betting race of the day’ was Flynn’s observation as the Euros and Pounds were wagered.

Down on the lower rail, Lofty’s team of seasoned veterans, of which he’s by far the freshest faced, laid €16,000 at 6/4 on Dinoblue. I expect Ricky enjoyed counting that lot out.

Then things kicked up a gear, the office reported a bet of £200,000 at 13/8 at around the same time as a bookies floorman had £5,000 on course at 6/4, followed by another £5,000 from another bookie. This was a stick on and Star Sports were taking it from all angles.

This was more like a Cheltenham Festival betting heat, by far the most exciting and best betting race of the meeting so far.

Ed Dark came on again, they’d laid a further £60,000 – £40,000 and £35,000 at 11/8, still 6/4 on course, including Star at the off.

Ben looked around with a big grin on his face and said: “If we can get this beaten, we could, could, get out of it…”

Love Envoi won at 15/2. There’s only one phrase suitable for results like that…‘AYE AYE!!’

A big win for Love Envoi…

📈 Toby Rose of Star Spreads appeared, as if by magic, from whence he may have been for most of the day to tell me: “A good day this side. It would take a lot for us to lose from here.”

5:30 – Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase (Sponsored By The JRL Group) (GBB Race) (Class 2) (5YO plus)

They bet 11/2 the field in the last, Inlike Flynn laid them both to chunks. Ben had taken the opportunity to split the joint and beat the traffic after the previous race Houdini get out.

Dave Jolly in the office reported bets £14k ew at 13/2 and £2.5k ew at 6/1 Frontal Assault.

When the worm turns it turns, Chambard winning at 40/1 was an absolute belter of a result to top off a great winning day. Who’d have thought it? Ben and co are not only back in the game but kicking on with the big one to come. Hold on to your hats, talking of which…

There is still time to bid for Big Mac’s hat with all proceeds going to the British Red Cross Ukraine appeal ➡️


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