AUTHOR: davidstewart


We’re Back! After a year’s hiatus, it was fantastic to be back in the betting ring at the Cheltenham Festival. The weather was glorious and everyone in high spirits and that before a Guinness was sunk.

All smiles on the Star Sports pitch

Star Sports bet on the bottom rail, Lofty, Ricky and Dave and pick three in Tattersalls with Kyle, Tony, Hannah, Inlike Flynn and Ben taking the bets. There was a real buzz about the place before the first so plenty of anticipation of a busy day.

Lofty and co…

📈 Over in Ireland, Star Spreads were gearing up for the Festival, prior to racing Bobby told me:As regards to Festival bets, buying of distances & 2-3s seems popular this year & also the favourites. So here’s hoping, for the most part, of a few close finishes & high priced winners.”

Louis, Bo and Charlie Brown with Ben

1:30 – Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (4YO plus) 2m ½f

Ben got up on the joint to bet on the first, the first punter up gave him a hug and had a ‘bottle’ £200 on Dysart Dynamo, Ben offered him a free cigar to which he replied I’d rather have 5/2. I’m sure he’ll enjoy the cigar.

A punter followed that up with £4500 – £2000 Constitution Hill, things were hotting up.

That topped up a £50,000 at 9/4 the same horse in the office in the morning.

📈 Bobby, Star Spreads: “We are offering a special on all races at this year’s Festival..SP Buyers Bonus, Winners SP added to the 50 Willie Mullins unbeaten 3rd string, Bring On The Night is a popular outsider as a result in the opener.”

The Cheltenham crowd watches on…

The office also laid £40,000 – £20,000 Dysart Dynamo, but Constitution Hill was the absolute bogie for over £130,000 in the office and £5700 on course, it was showing 7/4 around us but as they were lining up Ben was still smashing into it at 9/4. Bets were thick, fast but relatively modest. The first race is often a bit quiet, today was busy. Unlike the roar as they set off, then booed after being stifled by a false start, but doubly amplified second time around.

The firm only needed Constitution Hill beaten. So much for that plan. Let’s just say it was a great start for the punters who backed the bogie, a winner by just the 22 lengths.

📈 A 22 length winner was not great news for Star Spreads’ Bobby … “A good start to the meeting for the punters and sadly for us distance buyers. The first favourite bolting up in the Supreme…is that a sign of week ahead?”

2:10 – Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase (Grade 1) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (5YO plus) 2m

Ben was kept busy and commented that it felt like a higher than average stake per bet. Over in the office they laid a bet of £55,000 – £20,000 Edwardstone, on course it was all about Rivière D’Etel until a punter came in for £22,000 – £2000 each way Magic Daze late on which brought the two up together losing around £14,000 each on course.

📈 Dave Jolly in the Star Sports office reported: “Similar level of bets to the first which is encouraging – anything outside the front two would be a great result”

The runners and riders during the Sporting Life Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase…

Edwardstone, the 5/2 favourite, won in much the same manner as the winner in the first. It was a good result for the on-course book which won about £5000 but over in the office and across the firm it was another bad loss in the book.

📈 Bobby at Star Spreads was a bit gloomy: “Dejavu in the Arkle as the British favourite wins easily..more good news for favourite & distance buyers.”

2:50 – Ultima Handicap Chase (Grade 3) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (5YO plus) 3m 1f

Some things in racing always stay consistent. One of them is Lofty. During the lull in betting, which was this handicap that appeared to be too hard for the punters, Flynn got a text from our hero on the bottom rail, it simply read: ‘This is fun’. Close your eyes, you can picture his face can’t you ha ha!

Things were pottering along nicely when a punter came in for a £9000 – £1000 each-way fly in the ointment Death Duty which made that selection the absolute bogie.

📈 Glenn Day in Star HQ added: “We took most bets but lowest turnover race so far – with an 8/1 the field handicap – we won’t get our money back here”

📈 Bobby at Star Spreads: “Quiet on the betting front as regards to big bets for the Ultima Handicap as Corach Rambler comes from last to first”

Priced at only 10/1 the winner Corach Rambler could have been a bad result but copped about £3000 in the racecourse book.

Corach Rambler wins the Handicap Chase…

3:30 – Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy (Grade 1) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (4YO plus) 2m ½f

Honeysuckle in the Champion Hurdle really was the first obstacle of the meeting for the firm. With two fancied horses winning the first two heats, it meant before betting got underway there was already half a million quid running on to the first-day banker.

Ben hopped on the joint and got to work, betting with and without the favourite in two markets.

Ben Keith getting stuck in at the Star Sports pitch…

He was working hard but it was a bit of a shocker when he asked Flynn when the Champion Hurdle was, he seemed quite pleased when told it was this very race.

Business really came to life, on both markets. So much so that Ben wanted me to film the punters fighting to get on. Sadly copyright won’t allow us to post that sort of action. Grand and two grand bets were flying in for the jolly, hardly surprising when they could get on at 4/5 and the big screen showed 8/11 available to those punters not lucky enough to be here.

The 4/5 finally capitulated but the punters kept coming, bets £8800 and £6000 at 8/11 were accommodated as the horses made their way to the start. Blimey this was like the old days, we just needed a good old fashioned result.

📈 Dave Jolly in the office told me: “All the late money with us is for Appreciate it, but with so many multiples involving Honeysuckle, again we are hoping something from further down the betting steps forward.”

Honeysuckle bolted up, the bookies looked quietly into the hods as a jubilant crowd roared.

📈 Dave Jolly told us: “As Ben has reported, Honeysuckle cost us £700k: the search for our first winning race at the Festival continues…”

Rachael Blackmore does it again…

📈 Bobby from Star Spreads wasn’t overly thrilled either, telling us:
“Honeysuckle lands the Champion Hurdle for the 2nd year running & continues a good day for favourite & distance buyers…No race winner under 2 lengths so far at the meeting”

The queue of winning punters was huge, I jokingly told the people at the back they’d best hope there’s some money left when it’s their turn. Nobody laughed at one of my favourite old jokes. Ben wasn’t laughing either.  He had been in good form all day but enough was enough. He grabbed his coat and hopped off the stool to try and catch the last of the box buffet before Inlike had to pay £15,200 in readies to the winning £8800 punter.

4:10 – Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle (Registered As The David Nicholson Mares’ Hurdle) (Grade 1) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (4YO plus) 2m 4f

Telmesomethinggirl was the bogie as they set off for the race before the penultimate. Ben was back on the joint, I’d done him a disservice as he’d gone to see Lofty and team on the bottom rail not the buffet box!

Marie’s Rock sprang a welcomed 18/1 surprise which as far as the course book was concerned was a couple of grand back in the right direction.

📈 Glenn Day was happy too, saying: “Finally! We’re off and running”.

4:50 – Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Registered As The Fred Winter) (Grade 3) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (4YO only) 2m ½f

The penultimate saw plenty of business but in greatly diminished volume. There were many more fiver and tenner bets than previous races. The betting saw Gaelic Warrior extremely well backed from 15/8 on course with Star Sports. As they went down the jolly was losing over £7000 but the biggest bet had been £800 at the top price.

A chap came to me to say he’d enjoyed my piece on asking for the fractions. He’d just backed the last winner down at the bottom of Tatts and had availed himself of them. It hadn’t been all plain sailing on the fractions front, he asked for them with a book on the rail and was told ‘Take the price on the board or go forth and multiply’ or words to that affect. Don’t be put off by that though, most will lay you [fractions blog]

Racegoers watch the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle…

📈 Glenn Day in the office told me: “We’ve taken £6000 on Gaelic Warrior at 13/8, £1000 Brazil at 8/1 plus plenty of other £1k and 2k’s the favourite.”

At the off, after the third false start of the day, the jolly was losing just over £7000 with HMS Seahorse bad for a monkey in the on course book.

📈 Glenn added: “With another strong favourite, we have another six-figure loser”

10/1 chance Brazil beating the jolly by a long looking short head from the 13/8 chance got a heartfelt roar from the ring. They needed that reversal in luck, especially after it looked like another well-backed short one was likely to land the spoils in running.

➡️ There was a sting in the tail though for the office. All stakes on Gaelic Warrior were refunded (up to £100) as he was the first qualifier under the PIPPED offer this week. The only horse to be beaten a length or less on the day and it was a well-backed favourite …… how’s your luck? MORE ON THE PIPPED PROMOTION AT CHELTENHAM CLICK HERE

5:30 – Ukraine Appeal National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys’ Novices’ Chase (Grade 2) (GBB Race) (Class 1) (5YO plus) 3m 6f

68,567 people came racing today, a new record. It felt like most of them were betting too.

Just six runners in the last didn’t really seem like Cheltenham but the punters were happy to get stuck in all the same.

📈 Going to the off of the last, I had an ominous message from Glenn in the office, it read: “One Horse book – anything but the favourite please”

The last race was a very good betting heat on course, nearly £7000 in the bag, the book looked lovely, Stattler for just under a grand and Run Wild Fred losing a monkey. At least that was until a floorman for an Irish bookie came in as they were running and asked for £1500 at SP Run Wild Fred. He got it.

2/1 second-in Stattler was too good for the jolly, the firm copped an unexpected bit extra, Glenn gets to sleep tonight and we’re ending day one well down but poised to bounce back.

The last was run in aid of the British Red Cross Ukraine appeal. For those that don’t know, the late John McCririck was a friend of the firm and is fondly remembered by Star Sports. His wife Jenny ‘The Booby’ is auctioning one of his old favourite hats for the same cause. Bidding is taking place on Twitter until the off of the last race of the Festival Here’s the link if you’d like to bid:

📈 The final word from Glenn was: “Despite a decent end to the day, there was no way back after Honeysuckle landed so many early trebles – we go again tomorrow”.

📈 Star Spreads concluded: “Last race was very quiet just a small buyer of Vanillier on the 0-100 binary which was a loser for the punter.

I suppose the biggest thing on the day is any buyers of Marie’s Rock in the 4.10 50 index at 9 would have earned 50 points plus an extra 18 on our SP buyers Bonus offer as it won at 18/1″


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