CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL FRIDAY: SIMON NOTT reports from the Star Sports pitch at the Cheltenham Festival. The firm were hardly in a great position going into the final day, so the seven races on Gold Cup Day would define the week. Just like the stock markets this week …. volatility guaranteed.

There’s always a buzz about Gold Cup Day, and so there was today, pandemic fears not hindering people’s enjoyment of the turf.

1:30 JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1)

Betting on the opener started with a bet of £8000 – £2000 on Solo about an hour before racing.

Unfortunately there was nothing of that size bet afterwards so at the off Solo was sticking out a very red four figures in the book at the off. The office has been busier laying :

Goshen £55,000 – £20,000
Allmankind £80,000 -£20,000
Aspire Tower £130,000 – £20,000

The last hurdle fall of Goshen will probably haunt poor Jamie Moore for years to come. It was desperately unlucky for him and his backers. Burning Victory picked up the spoils winning at 12/1 which was an excellent start for the books even if not a satisfying result given its nature, I won’t bore anyone with cliches about being there to be jumped etc.

2:10 Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)

Next up the first big handicap of the day, where they bet 11/2 the field.

Betting was a lot slower so I had a quick look on Twitter, it’s hard to comprehend the number of people, no doubt talking through their pockets, commenting that Jamie Moore somehow jumped off or fell on purpose. Give up betting now the lot of you.

Back to the County Hurdle, it was a lot busier when it used to be the ‘getting out stakes’ on the Thursday. Betting on a race like this, several losers are inevitable, you just have to hope you miss them.

At the off the book has four losers for over a grand, the worst Stolen Silver for nearly three and a taker with three grand held. Not clever but plenty of horses running for the firm.

At the last there were plenty with chances but at the judge 11/2 favourite Saint Roi trounced them, needless to say he was one of our losers too.

2:50 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)

Next up the race that has been a bookies benefit over the years with some big priced winners. Another heat that was wide open in the betting, opening 9/2 the field.

Betting was once again slow but a punter did come in with £300 Ramses De Teille at 14/1. David Pipe was at all three of the Star Sports sponsored preview nights I was at and each time gave the gelding as his best chance of the festival.

Between races video emerged which exonerated Jamie Moore on Goshen, the horse fell because of a freak tangling of horse shoes as it landed over the last.

Betting was once again slow but a punter did come in with £300 Ramses De Teille at 14/1. David Pipe was at all three of the Star Sports sponsored preview nights I was at and each time gave the gelding as his best chance of the festival.

Judging by the amount of people smoking around the joint during the race it’s hardly surprising people don’t seem worried about catching Coronavirus.

Monkfish won the race at 5/1 in a desperate finish. Despite being one of the short ones it copped nicely in the book. Before the result of the photo was called the BRM warned that their might be a Steward’s Enquiry. The books held up payment waiting for a bing-bong which never happened.

Next up the feature race of the meeting.

3:30 Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1)

A punter started the book off nicely with a bet of £4800 – £600 Kemboy.

Then it didn’t really take off, for some inexplicable reason the punters were standing off from betting on the feature. With 10 minutes to go ‘Inlike’ Flynn and Steph were trying to call punters in as opposed to just about coping as you’d expect.

You can’t double guess this game, a punter came in with £10,000 Al Boum Photo at 10/3. That made up for the relative lack of business but it also meant an extremely lopsided book.

At the off it looked like this.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Al Boum Photo winning is what you call a bad result in this game. Flynn has performed miracles over the last two days to dig the firm out of trouble but £30,000 down with three races to go was going to be a challenge. We weren’t celebrating in the same style as Paul Townend, put it that way.

4:10 St. James’s Place Foxhunter Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase

The firm needed the big punters, largely conspicuous by their absence, to come out of the woodwork for a final hurrah. You can get out of a £30,000 run if you can’t take it. The total field money for the Foxhunters was 10% of that.

It Came To Pass romping home at 66/1 skinned the book, it was 80/1 hawking on the board. The trouble was it was the smallest field money of the whole meeting. Another nine needed like that to break even on the day, time wasn’t on the firm’s side!

4:50 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (Grade 3)

The penultimate offered some chance of getting some back. One punter had £12,000 – £3000 Greaneteen, another £8000 – £2000 Chosen Mate with 10 minutes to go. The trouble was, the joint was hardly rocking with punters keen to get on.

At the off the hod held just under £9000 with the bogie Greaneteen losing a little more than that with Chosen Mate for £3000 and Lisp for £2000. In short, the firm needed a result similar to the last race.

The 7/2 favourite Chosen Mate wasn’t it but at least wasn’t the absolute. The day was realistically beyond recall, just now a case of trying to get some back going into the last.

5:30 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle

It was a weary team that got to work on the last, one more effort to try and rescue something of the day.

With just over £2000 taken and 12 minutes to go the battery died which meant no prices could be displayed, not ideal but soon resolved by RDT. In the meantime the crowd in the vicinity of the pitch appeared more interested in singing football songs badly than betting.

With a few minutes to go, crowd still vocal, a bookmaker had £100 each-way Everybreathyoutake at 80/1.

Down at the lower rail Lofty messaged to say they’d laid £150 ew Big Blue at 100/1. Were the punters grasping at straws to get out or were they backing super dark plots?

As the last false start was greeted with a boo of the meeting the book held just over £4000 with a handful of bad losers. A hit and miss book with just a hope of at least finishing the meeting with a winning race.

25/1 shot Indefatigable getting up in the last stride was a near £10,000 turnaround in the book’s favour. Everyone on the firm was grateful for smaller mercies. A small winning race to end the meeting the fortunes of which, on the pitch at least, rested on one £10k bet in the Gold Cup. As Flynn said, ‘It’s been emotional’.

Hopefully we’ll be back for Aintree.


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