CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL THURSDAY: SIMON NOTT reports from the Star Sports pitch at the Cheltenham Festival. The books made a late rally yesterday but it was only back to square one on the day. Still work to be done at the halfway point.
I was talking to bookmaker Neville Emery before racing. It seems Flynn wasn’t the only one to perform the great escape as far as mounting losses went yesterday. Neville has a similar story, more than happy to lay a chunk he got ‘out’ too. Lofty and the senior ranks were betting next to him today. Great to hear the good guys (the bookies) got their money despite JP bagging a four-timer.
1:30 Marsh Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)
Back up in Tatts and there’s a definite buzz in the air. You can feel the enthusiasm, there are more people and more bets. Smaller bets than yesterday in the opener but this one is much more competitive. The only bet of note was £2700 – £600 Samcro struck fairly early on in proceedings.
Russ has headed back to Star HQ after two days at the on-course coal face so it was Steph and Tom facing the punters in Tatts, with Flynn steering the ship, proudly donning a replacement for his stolen titfer.
At the off the book had two losers Faugheen and Samcro both for four figures.
The race produced the closest head-bobbing finish of the Festival so far. Even the machine didn’t know, a photo between 14/1 Melon and 4/1 Samcro the difference a three grand swing. The slo-mo wasn’t much help either but gun to our heads it looked like Samcro, and so it was, by a nose, the bogie, ridden by Star’s brand ambassador Davy Russell. A great finish but not a great start for the firm.
2:10 Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)
Next up and betting 5/1 the field, time to fill the hod and hope the Cheltenham hill sorts us out a result.
Flynn decided he wanted Welsh Saint and The Storyteller to be the two losers in the book. Not an easy task as the punters have to actually back them but you don’t want to tear it up then get them in. The first decent bet struck was £3600 – £600 Welsh Saint which was handy for Flynn’s plan.
During the race, a punter came in the back A Plus Tard later on, he had £2000 on. We checked it of course, he wasn’t offended.
Back on the current heat the biggest single bet The Storyteller was a carpet but at the off the two were the worst with four other losers. My old boss Jack would not have been happy with that book but with a no hedging policy you’re at the mercy of how it comes in especially betting a little over 1% a runner and the places overbroke at 87%, come racing for value.
Sire Du Berlais winning at 10/1 was a small cop in the book, which could have been worse given its place in the market.
2:50 Ryanair Chase (Grade 1)
Betting on the next had already been given a kick start with the £2000 bet A Plus Tard taken during the previous race.
A punter came in with a bet of £4000 – £2000 Min, an excellent start getting the front two in the book.
Then a £20,000 – £10,000 Min followed by another £2000 A Plus Tard at 15/8.
It wasn’t all the front two though, a bookmaker came in for a £10,000 – £800 Riders Onthe Storm, that’s 12/1 with the fractions, come racing.
Those bets all added up to a very good heat as far as punting goes, very nice to get a lively on-course market to get the blood pumping.
At the off the only loser in the book was Min for just over £14500 with the possibility of copping a nice few quid should the Gambling Gods bless us with a real turn-up.
Min just lasted home a fast diminishing neck from 16/1 chance Saint Calvados. Where’s the result when you really need one? That was a real chance to kick on, but instead the firm was now wallowing in the mire, £16,000 down on the day. Looking on the the bright side, there was a bigger hole to pull out of yesterday.
3:30 Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle (Grade 1)
Next up, the office called, they’d laid £30,000 at 9/4 Min in the previous race and £280,000 – £20,000 each-way Penhill in this race. Flynn was hoping the big punters would find their way to us to back Paisley Park.
A punter came in with a £400 – £600 Paisley Park, then another, this time with £10,000 at 4/6, proper job. As with yesterday you need to field the cash to keep it.
Someone obviously wasn’t thinking the jolly was a good thing, the team on the joint got a shock when the £400 thrust into their hands was for City Island at 20/1 not the favourite.
A punter came in with a grand each-way Summerville Boy at 9/1 quite late on.
And they were off with the jolly losing nearly £8000.
Finally, they smiled at us, the Gambling Gods answered the bookies prayers as Lisnagar Oscar won to a stunned, virtually silent, crowd. The only noise were from bookmakers roaring home the 50/1 winner.
‘Just a monkey down now’ beamed Flynn, still resplendent in his new hat. It’s amazing how much chirpier the calls of ‘Win or Each Way’ are from the bookmakers’ when the hods are full.
Most had forgotten what a ‘result’ felt like and were keen to kick on.
4:10 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase (Grade 3)
Despite the setback, the punters were keen to get stuck in. Lofty messaged to say they’d laid a grand each way Deyrann De Carjac down on the lower rail while the top pitch attracted bets of £600 and £300 at 10/3 Simply The Betts.
A punter had a £10,000 – £350 Mr Whitaker, that’s 28/1 with the fractions.
The was a gamble apparently taking place on Death Duty backed from 16/1 down to 9/1. They left us out even though Flynn was following the market not ducking it.
It was a shame the gamble wasn’t landed because Simply The Betts winning cost the firm £7000 and put them right back in it. Looking on the bright side, at least the Mr Whitaker bet was win only. There’s always a bright side.
It was great news to hear that Lizzie Kelly had walked away from what looked like a very nasty fall at the last.
4:50 Daylesford Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2)
Betting on the penultimate the punter that bet £2000 – £600 the last winner reinvested a grand on Minella Melody to get the book started nice and quickly.
The race didn’t really pick up as a betting heat until they were going down, a punter had a £10,000 – £400 Emma’s Joy while a couple more punters had carpets on the jolly. Then £5000 at 4/1 Colreevy and another bet £2000 Minella Melody at 3/1. At the off the off the firm were right up the buffers the front two, as the brollies went up and the rain began to tumble.
Concertista didn’t just win but bolted up, the firm won far more than they were entitled to given the SP of 9/2 and were back in front, just, with one to go. That one, a 5/1 the field race.
5:30 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase
They wanted to be on though, two bets in quick succession £5000 – £900 then as it was cut a further £5000 – £1000 Le Breuil to the same bookmaker hedging.
The punters kept coming, backing plenty of horses with fair sized bets. ‘It’s quite lively’ offered up Flynn wiping the cream from his flake adorned hot chocolate ( yes, I know, the game’s gone! ).
All the previous bets were dwarfed by a late bet of £30,000 – £5000 Champagne Platinum, followed by some trade money the same horse.
At the off Champagne Platinum lost just short of £35,000 and Le Breuil just under £7000, the rest winners!
Aye Aye Milan Native, a huge result for the book, another winning day pulled from the brink again. Bring on Gold Cup Day.
Simon Nott is author of:
Skint Mob! Tales from the Betting Ring