CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL TUESDAY: SIMON NOTT reports from the Star Sports pitch on day one of the Cheltenham Festival. The weather had turned with a vengeance – testing conditions on course but how testing would be the trading be on day one between bookies and punters? He reports all the action – race by race.
Not the ideal start to the Festival with the rain teeming down on the betting ring, dampened even further by news that Wednesday could be abandoned if the forecast of high winds proved accurate. No time to bemoan our luck though it was heads down and straight into the opener.
1:30 Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)
Betting was steady but fairly modest then right in the hole Ben laid £120,000 – £20,000 Klassical Dream. Watching it storm up the hill was an absolute nightmare start to the meeting, soaking wet, and down untold. The office fared better laying £100,000 – £25,000 ew Al Dancer but a disaster of a start none the less.
2:10 Racing Post Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)
There was nothing for it but to get stuck into the next. The office got the ball rolling with a £90,000 – £20,000 Glen Forsa. Mercifully the rain eased so the cash punters started to roll into us in the right and proper manner. One had £25,000-£1000 each-way at 25/1 Articulum the worst of four losers at the off. By pure chance winner Duc Genievres wasn’t one of them but the place bogie popped up in third which was very nasty indeed.
2:50 Ultima Handicap Chase (Grade 3)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the punters make the book in 6/1 the field races like this. It’s a case of pricing them up and let them come at you.
Betting was understandably lighter but when you are doing your money it’s nice to fill the hod. The office reported laying a bet of £112,500 to £12,500 each way Give Me A Copper.
We laid £10,000 Up For Review at the death, no time to react until the third messy start of the day that saw boos in reaction from the crowd. There was no booing from the joint when 10/1 Beware The Bear won, the rot had stopped, along with the rain. For the time being at least.
3:30 Unibet Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy (Grade 1)
For the first time today, with the sun now out, the joint was rocking as the punters got stuck into a competitive Champion Hurdle.
A punter came in with £1400 at 9/4 Apple’s Jade, not huge but nice to get to get the book started.
Then it all happened, commission agent money for Buveur D’Air on Course £220,000 – £80,000 then the office called with the message ‘strap yourselves in’ £220,000 – £80,000 each way and £137,500 – £50,000 the same horse. Cheltenham just kicked in.
Then a cash punter came with £3000 in readies for Apple’s Jade at 15/8 and they were off with Buveur D’Air losing £600k.
It was the green and gold colours that passed the post clear but not the ones the punters expected. 16/1 Espoir D’Allen absolutely bolted in. The bogie had fallen, thankfully unhurt, out in the country, with 20/1 Melon and 80/1 Silver Streak making up the places, it was an absolutely tremendous result for the ring, back with a bang.
4:10 OLBG Mares’ Hurdle (Grade 1)
Next up one of the bankers of the meeting, but it was £160,000 – £20,000 each-way Roksana the first bet the office reported. Star Sports have had some stick from some quarters regards their each-way terms, I’m not sure how many of the knockers would fancy that one in their book. Cash punters were keen on the jolly, on course at ‘tips on’ 10/11, with grand bets coming in.
‘It’s harder to lose than win!’ Betting Without
With no big bets on the jolly either in the office or on course Ben topped the ring at 10/11 and evens. At the off, the cash book was losing £16,000 on Benie Des Dieux.
It only takes a short while in racing for your fortunes to change dramatically. Just as the jolly appeared to coasting to victory it crashed out at the last leaving the absolute bogie in the office to win and cost the firm £200,000. It did’t help that a punter roared the winner home directly in Ben’s ear. As the rest of the ring were working out how much they had copped Ben was ruing his luck.
Meanwhile the drama of the race even overtook BREXIT on twitter with Ruby Walsh trending in the UK over tonight’s crucial vote in the House Of Commons. That’s just how big the Cheltenham Festival is.
4:50 Close Brothers Novices’ Handicap Chase (Listed)
With news of an 8am inspection coming through and a fiendishly tricky handicap to bet on there was a lull in proceedings. Money was steady in the penultimate but the office had gone quiet. Once again the punters made a book littered with four-figure losers but plenty of winners too.
Baz grafting while his oppo goes camera-shy.
A cash bet of £6000-£1000 A Plus Tard ensured that was going to be the bogie, that before another £6000 – £1000 made it the big loser in the book for £24,000. Ben had plenty of time to come to terms with doing another bundle as the 5/1 jolly sauntered up the hill to an easy victory. Bookmakers were still double-checking that it had indeed been a handicap as the queues of winning punters snaked back to the stands. Talking of snakes. It was another one on the card for us 🙁
5:30 National Hunt Challenge Cup Amateur Riders’ Novices’ Chase (Grade 2)
The firm were awaiting a deluge, not from the heavens but big-hitters for either Ballyward or OK Corral in the lucky last. The office called, they had come in but with £90,000 to £15,000 each-way Discorama and £120,000 – £10,000 each-way Jerrysback. A cash punter topped up ‘Disco’ with a £5000-£1000 on-course.
At the off there were two losers in the on-course book Discorama and Ballyward for £8000 and £4000 respectively.
Hearts were going up the hill in an eventful race, getting Discorama beaten, despite doing it on the places was like winning. Talking of which, the figures will have to be crunched today before we know how it ended up. What a snakes and ladders board of a day. Let’s hope the wind holds off for tomorrow. Phew.
Simon Nott is author of:
Skint Mob! Tales from the Betting Ring