AUTHOR: Star Sports Content

SIMON NOTT: Cheltenham Thursday

CHELTENHAM THURSDAY: SIMON NOTT reports from day two of Cheltenham’s April Meeting. It doesn’t seem two minutes since the congestion and (as it turned out) carnage of the Festival plus threats of day two being postponed due to the weather. Fast forward a few weeks later, the course was set fair for seven races on good ground.

If you’ve never been to Cheltenham then the April Meeting is a good meeting to start with. Even more so on a glorious day like today when you can start thinking of summer. The racecourse, built with the Festival hordes in mind, is a place even a very respectable crowd, as was todays, can comfortably rattle around in and enjoy the facilities. That’s not so great for bookmakers, there was a semblance of two rows of them in Tattersalls but nothing compared to the amassed ranks doing battle In March.

First surprise of the day was seeing my old mate Peter O’Toole stood at number two pitch on the front row. Peter can be found betting in rings up and down the country but usually in slightly more modest positions. Closer inspection revealed that today he was representing the rapidly rising on-course empire that is the Sid Hooper organisation. The 5/4 favourite Indefatigable won the first, which was no good for the layers.

I did hear of a £1000 cash bet on the rails in the second. Sadly, for the bookmaker that laid it, the money was for the second winning favourite of the day, Paul Nicholls’ Kupatana. One saving grace for the beleaguered firm that did their dough, it was Paul Nicholls’ 3,000th jumps winner of his career, some landmark. Was it any consolation for losing on the race? Probably not. What possibly hurt the bookie more was if Philip Hobbs’ charge Little Miss Poet had not clobbered the last it might well have won instead. Casual racegoers and your hack alike were delighted to see a bit of history made in our presence though.

The bookmakers allowed themselves a cheer when Sunshade won the next at 14/1 beating better-fancied in the market 11/2 chance Augusta Gold. The latter looked to be going best approaching the last but didn’t have the toe of the winner after it. Anyone near Buckingham Palace might have heard a roar too. Not because the bookies were that loud, but its winning owner, The Queen, would have been delighted to have a rare Cheltenham winner, especially as she bred the mare too. I mentioned jokingly in the Press Room that the owner wasn’t spotted in the ring, apart from on banknotes. Veteran Racing Post correspondent Andrew King piped up ‘That’s cliched enough for you, you’d better stick it in your blog’. I’m here to please Andrew!

At first glance Bridget Andrews winning on 11/2 shot Goodnight Charlie in the next looked like a fair result in a tight betting heat. Closer scrutiny of betting revealed Caroline Fryer’s charge had been well-backed from 9/1 into its SP. Getting 4/1 joint-favourites beaten is rarely bad news though.

I was talking to a senior lady punter who usually has her husband in tow. She confirmed he was here but had sent her to the betting ring to bet his fancy. She lamented that she’d not been allowed to take a beer from the bar to where he was sitting on the lawn. She added that that the racecourse are very strict and that she’d seen ‘drug dogs’ sniff out two suspects on the way in. She went on to say that due to searches she’s not even allowed to have her quite legendary, in some quarters, hip flasks with her anymore. She made her way back to her husband’s vantage, then turned with a smile and remarked, ‘They didn’t check my Lucozade bottle though!’

If it had been going the way of the bookies for the last couple of races. They were brought back down to earth with a bump when the ironically named Havingagoodtime, if you’re a plying your trade in the ring at least, absolutely trounced her field under Rachael Blackmore. It had looked like a competitive heat, but you’ll rarely see an easier winner on this racecourse.

I had a chat with racecourse photographers Steve Cargill and Francesca Altoft in the Press Room, apart from great snappers, Steve used to be president of the HWPA (Horse Writers & Photographers Association) and while Francesca has just been elected onto the committee. If you missed rising star photographer Fran’s #BettingPeople interview, here it is

I bumped into Lofty’s mate Claire prior to the penultimate, her family had done a Lucky 15 and had all three up so far which included The Queen’s 14/1 winner. Now they needed Happy Diva for a nice few quid. If the previous race had boasted the easiest winner of the day then this was the most dramatic. Not to mention gutting if you were part of Claire’s bet. Over the last Happy Diva was going head to head with Whatduhavetoget, looked to have just got the better of that battle only for both of them to be mugged in the shadow of the post by 11/1 chance Northern Beau. Unfortunate, for the Lucky 15 but a very handy result indeed for the ring. That is apart from Barry ‘Pinno’ who reported ‘doing his money’ on the winner, you never can tell.

The lucky last was a big-field bumper, not the ideal race to get stuck into, unless you know something of course. I was still talking to ‘the Tash’ when a punter came in for £150 each-way Early Morning Rain at 16/1 (he didn’t ask for the fractions so didn’t get them, don’t know about fractions, read on).

The horse didn’t win, wasn’t even placed, but ran very well for a long way as they tend to do when backed like that. Mystic Dreamer won at 11/2 beating the 3/1 jolly into second. Probably a ‘taker’ or loser for most books, though as with Pinno in the penultimate, you never can tell. I wasn’t going to risk asking either. One thing you can tell is that when Ian Bartlett is commentating, the mic would have been still swinging as he legged it to his car ‘parked nice and close’. The king of the fast getaways – one racing certainty you can bank on, but sadly not bet on.

Simon Nott

skintmobSimon Nott is author of:
Skint Mob! Tales from the Betting Ring