CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL WEDNESDAY: SIMON NOTT reports from the Star Sports pitch at the Cheltenham Festival. After a false dawn on Tuesday it really did look as though Wednesday’s card could define the week. Two Irish bankers, both forecast odds-on, in Envoi Allen and Tiger Roll had the power between them to swing the scales irreversibly to punters or layers. Which way did they swing?
I went down to the bottom rail fairly early to see how Amy Christophers was getting on with Lofty and Co. Amy likes a bet on the football but horses are out of her comfort zone, but gee’d on by turf regular Steph King betting on the firms top pitch she was keen to give Cheltenham a go. Amy has worked at the Cheltenham Festival before but it was in the Centaur not the proper betting ring so it was an eye-opener for her but one she was enjoying.
1:30 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)
Up on the top pitch poor old cap less Flynn was getting stuck into trying to lay Envoi Allen. A punter was accommodated to the tune of £5000 at 4/6 early then laid a bet of £10,000 – £1200 each-way that’s 8/1 with the fractions…. come racing, The Big Breakaway. Just before the off the office called, they’d laid a thumping £80,000 – £120,000.
At the off, the on-course book had two losers, The Big Breakaway the worst.
Looking on the bright side, The Big Breakaway was just out of the frame. Apart from that glimmer, Envoi Allen not just winning but strolling to victory, was an absolute disaster.
2:10 RSA Insurance Novices’ Chase (Grade 1)
The book was started off well when a punter had £7000 – £2000 Allaho then another had £6000 – £1500 on Champ. It was time to get stuck in to the rest so Steph and Russ got their heads down fielding punters cash.
Another punter came in for Champ, this time £1500 at 7/2 then another with £1500 for Minella Indo at 3/1. Just as they set off the office called, they’d laid Champ £175,000 – £50,000. An old fashioned result was required.
We didn’t get an old fashioned result, but what we did get was one of those Festival moments that will be waxed lyrical about for years to come. How Champ won from where it was half way up the hill was astonishing. It has to be said that those working for Star Sports would have rather it hadn’t cost them untold bundles in the process, including losing £13,000 in the on-course book, but still wow.
2:50 Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)
There was nothing for it but to get stuck into the Coral Cup, the biggest bet was £7000 – £500 each-way Alfa Mix but enough sustained money for the jolly Dame De Compagnie to make it a loser for £13,000, there’s a pattern emerging, at the off. The office called having laid £140,000 – £10,000 each-way Thosedaysaregone.
Too much of a pattern, Dame De Compagnie won and Thosedaysaregone placed. It’s not easy to keep smiling when the joint is rocking with punters delirious with joy screaming at the top of their voices. You have to of course, Russ and Steph paid each and every one of the lengthy queue with a smile, well sort of smile, in a grimacey kind of way. £27,000 down on the pitch after on three races.
3:30 Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase (Grade 1)
The only way out was to keep fielding money. Next up Defi Du Seuil at 4/11, a punter was soon in with £4000 at the price. That was pretty much it though in a race where the punters stood off.
Politologue winning easily at 6/1 at least meant the £4000 stayed in the hod. Had the worm turned?
4:10 Glenfarclas Chase (Cross Country Chase)
Next up, Tiger Roll, another odds-on shot. This time in a race where they run around and around and around until the favourite wins. Bookmakers’ staff like the race though, it means they have plenty of time to nip off to the loo and still be back with a circuit to go. It didn’t take long, a punter came in with £10,000 cash which he had on Tiger Roll at 5/6. At least if you are holding some money you have chances. It wasn’t all one way traffic for the jolly though, Flynn stuck his chest out when a punter asked for £5000 – £350 Might Bite saying “it can’t win” – that’s 14/1 with the fractions, if you don’t understand fractions read all about them here.
Just as they were lining up to set off another punter came in, this time with £5000 for Tiger Roll at 4/5.
Another false start later and they were off with Tiger Roll losing £15 shy of £12,000.
It was hard to know if the pressure was getting to Flynn or if he was still mourning his Peaky Blinder cap.
You could not make this game up, even though there some that say we do. As we cheered Easysland to victory, the office reported laying the winner to the tune of £90,000 – £30,000 each-way.
Forever looking on the bright side, at least the staff got to use the loo and something other than the favourite won. Lofty’s mate Clare turned up with some coffees too. The on course pitch now only losing £7000 with two races to go.
4:50 Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)
As the firm got to work on the penultimate with renewed vigour, Ian on the Pickwick-Bevan joint started calling ‘On the last’ I was going to correct him but when I got to him, I was slightly too close for comfort as it turned out. Glistening at the end of his nose was a pendulous dew drop, swinging by an ever extending thread of snot. Given the current climate of Coronavirus fear, I concluded that drop could contain all manner of biohazard so backed off before it disconnected from its perilous anchor.
Back to the Boodles, business was brisk but very small. At the off, Blacko was the absolute bogie for £2971 which was more than the book held.
Aramax winning at 15/2 added to JP McManus’ amazing day on the turf and clawed back another carpet for the on-course book.
5:30 Weatherbys Champion Bumper (Grade 1 Standard Open NH Flat Race)
Appreciate It opened 15/8 which caught the punter’s eyes with bets of £500 and £550 at the price. Then another monkey, the pitch was sounding like a PG Tips advert of yore.
Flynn was determined to take on the Mullins jolly, so went 2/1 despite the market leader being a £5000 loser. The punters came in again, the 2/1 held firm the same price as the machine, no commission, come racing. Then the board battery died.
But not for long RDT to the rescue just in time for a punter to come in with 1500 euros which brought the liabilities to £10,000 and still he kicked on. A punter came in with £2000, and still the price stayed there then £700 at the price, that was enough, the last favourite stood to lose nearly £18,000 that was enough.
And still they came in. Here’s how the book looked at the off.
Ferny Hollow collared the jolly up the hill. What a comeback, who dares wins! We’re back tomorrow.
Simon Nott is author of:
Skint Mob! Tales from the Betting Ring