CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL THURSDAY: SIMON NOTT reports from the Star Sports pitch on day three of the Cheltenham Festival. After a disaster on Wednesday it needed to be Turnaround Thursday, Moving Day or just pure Divine Intervention. Call it what you like, we were in at the deep end now.
There wasn’t much joyous banter over dinner last night. Describing Wednesday’s losses as lumpy would be doing the dent in the book a disservice. The sun came out as betting got underway for the opener. A celestial sign it was going to be Turnaround Thursday or the Gambling Gods having a bit of fun with the layers?
1:30 JLT Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)
There was going to be no easing in before finding out. One of the first bets in the book was £180,000 – £60,000 Defi Du Seuil. Late on Ben laid another £10,000 at 3/1 same punter press-up.
When you are part of a team and it’s not even your money you get that sick feeling deep in your stomach as the absolute bogie looms up to challenge looking certain to win. £210,000 lost on the winner to just one intrepid backer. Turnaround Thursday suddenly didn’t look quite such a good moniker or quite so likely.
2:10 Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)
Next up all eyes were on favourite Sire Du Berlais, it opened a tentative 9/2 but was soon chiselled into 4/1 probably a mixture of bookmaker nerves and punters anticipating the connections having a good day.
The suspected stick on didn’t happen but Ben did lay £80,000 – £5000 Notwhatiam at the death.
The only good thing about the favourites going in like it’s easy is you begin to get numb to it. Luckily the big money didn’t come in for Sire Du Berlais but it still stung the hod for several four figures more.
2:50 Ryanair Chase (Grade 1)
Five of the field priced between 3/1 and 7/1 should at least ensure that the book laid a few horses. Of the rest of the field there were plenty that looked to have lively outsider chances.
Everyone loves Bryony Frost, but not quite so much if you are a bookie doing your money and she wins depriving 33/1 runner-up Aso from winning and stopping the rot. Of course, as everyone loves Bryony they all back her, Frodon obliging at 9/2 was the absolute bogie.
3:30 Sun Racing Stayers’ Hurdle (Grade 1)
Next up another banker to get stuck into. Paisley Park had been as big as 2/1 in the morning so the 11/8 on-course had to be laid if possible.
It wasn’t, the public just wanted to be on Faugheen. The biggest bet laid was £5000-£1000 but pure weight of money had it losing almost £16,000 in the book. The office on the other hand were full up with the jolly. It’s times like this you really need a ‘funny one’ to pop up for you.
What do you have to do to get them beaten? Paisley Park looked beaten, was written off, ‘it’s beat’ said one of the staff who’d best remain nameless. All eyes were on the bogie who was being fended off by 33/1 shot Sam Spinner, a result at last? Then from the realms of ‘also rans’ back in the field the jolly appeared from nowhere, full of running. Hearts sank on the pitch then a mistake at the last gave Sam Spinner another chance to save the day. The jolly was just too good for them. It was a decent winner in the course book but a drop in the six-figure ocean of office money losses.
4:10 Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate Handicap Chase (Grade 3)
Onto the race before the penultimate, no longer teetering on the financial precipice but gazing up from the financial abyss. This being a handicap surely there’d be a dark one to come and at least turn the tide but the layers must have been feeling like King Canute, Ben was.
So much so he’d had enough and took an early bath before they set off. A bet of £10,000 – £960 (with the fractions, come racing) made Spiritofthegames the bogie with favourite Janika a small loser for good measure.
What a ride by Lizzie Kelly winning on Siruh Du Lac. There had been decent money for the combination 11/2 into 9/2 but for whatever reason they missed us out. We looked to have copped on the race but the absolute each-way bogie finishing third made it yet another losing race. Great to see the Genius of George Nympton Nick Williams and Lizzie Kelly land another Cheltenham prize but little help to our plight.
4:50 National Hunt Breeders Supported By Tattersalls Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2)
Epatante was weak on the machine and touched 15/8 and 2/1 in places on course. The one the punters wanted to be on was Posh Trish. You know when it’s going horribly wrong when the office come on with multiples rolling up and copping.
You know what they say about London buses? 50/1 Eglantine Du Seuil besting 66/1 Concertista and 40/1 Tintangle. A one-two for Willie Mullins, a glimmer of hope for the books and I bet that none of those were mentioned at any preview night!
5:30 Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase
After just one reversal the punters appeared to have had the wind taken out of their sails. Betting on the race started promising enough laying £5500 – £1000 Any Second Now early, then business shrank to a trickle and stayed that way, the smallest take of the day. Right in the hole we laid a fellow bookie a hedge bet of £5000 – £150 ew Rogue Angel, that would be the test of if our luck had really changed.
Rogue Angel finished unplaced but our luck hadn’t changed. The bogie Any Second Now won the race for JP, the final nail in the coffin of a terrible day. It’s going to take the best day of results in the history of bookmaking to win on the week tomorrow, but of course we’ll have a go.
Simon Nott is author of:
Skint Mob! Tales from the Betting Ring