CHELTENHAM FRIDAY: SIMON NOTT reports from the Star Sports pitch in the betting ring at Cheltenham. A Friday afternoon after the night before – the perfect antidote to politics overload. It was perishing cold and business was hardly ‘The Festival’ levels but there was certainly enough action to get the blood pumping.
Friday morning saw a nice retreat from the fallout from Thursday’s election. Where better to seek sanctuary than the turf? Prior to racing it was lovely to meet up with previous #BettingPeople interviewee Peter Freeman. For those that don’t know Cheltenham Super Fan, Peter’s amazing story, you can watch it here
I read somewhere that it was Christmas Jumper Day today so entered into the spirit. It’s a shame hardly anyone else did, still it was easy to hide under my jacket, besides, it was parky enough to necessitate wrapping up anyway.
At festival meetings Star Sports bet on the rail and in the number three pitch in Tatts. At ‘off’ meetings like today’s it’s just on the rails. Lofty has just got back from a tropical holiday to celebrate his bullseye birthday so elected to help out in the betting shop. This left stalwart workers Flynn and Michelle working the rails pitch.
12:10 British EBF ‘National Hunt’ Novices’ Hurdle
The first heat of the day boasted an odds-on favourite, Nicky Henderson’s Chantry House, but it proved very hard to bet in the book. Punters were coming in for eachway alternatives. So much so that at the off the short one, 5/6 not 4/6 was a winner for £66 in the book. Flynn gave a wry grin rather than an Aye Aye when the jolly won.
12:45 International Decorative Surfaces Novices’ Chase
The first race was a quiet betting race, it certainly didn’t warm Flynn up, for the second he pulled rank, sent Michelle to the front to take bets then pulled on her fluffy pink mittens to keep warm!
There were only five for the punters to chose from with Nicky Henderson’s Pym the market leader.
Despite drifting in the face of support for both Stony Mountain and Rockpoint there were a trio of ‘bottle’ £200 bets for the jolly. Rockpoint punters knew their fate before they’d have liked when it planted itself at the start and refused to race.
This time the favourite was in its place as the only loser in the book, for four figures too. Watching it draw away to win wasn’t great viewing but looking on the bright side, the firm were only doing half of what they could have been.
1:20 Catesby Handicap Hurdle
I don’t like to be negative but business was purgatory – the book fielded less than a monkey in total. The biting wind and competitive nature of the race to blame. Luckily the 8/1 winner Repitio was a small cop in the book as opposed to runner-up Oakley which was the absolute bogie for more than the hod held.
There was one bit of excitement when a cash punter came with £2000 for West Approach in the 2.30. He was laid at 9/2.
1:55 CF Roberts Electrical & Mechanical Services Mares’ Handicap Chase
Next up just the five runners but a lively, if modestly staked, betting heat. There was money for all the runners, at the off Chequered View was a loser with Parlour Maid the absolute bogie, the rest winning. Further up the line there were a few complaints from staff suffering from passive smoking. Apparently the more the offending firm do the more they smoke. Jolly Zara Hope winning at 5/2 would have no doubt got them reaching for their Bics and spluttering respectively. We, on the other hand, were alright Jack.
2:30 BetVictor Handicap Chase (Grade 3)
Try as you might it was hard to get away from election chit chat. On course Corbynista Dave ‘Swampy’ Clarke (pictured) was bemoaning his man’s political demise. He then confided he was going to console himself by backing a winner, What A Moment his fancy in the next, adding should it be successful he was going to buy a red star for his hat.
Of course the book already had to bet up to the £9000 – £2000 struck early. That was never going to happen but Flynn did his best to get as many other horses in the book as he could, the pink mittens no handicap to his key tapping skills. Unfortunately, West Approach was the only one they really wanted to be on. At the off the book didn’t make great reading.
Sadly for the shop that sells red stars for comrades, they were deprived of a sale when What A Moment failed to trouble the judge. On the other hand 5/1 Cogry was a good winner in Star’s book, mind you, they all were, bar the bogie.
3:05 Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase
There was very little of interest in the penultimate but enough money for the front two to ensure they were both three figure losers with Easysland the absolute. The form book will relate that the field went around and around until the favourite, yes Easysland won. What it won’t relate is it did so to the soundtrack of a couple, one either side of Flynn in each ear roaring ‘Go on Easy’ in a pitch higher and higher with every stride. Nasty.
3:40 Citipost Handicap Hurdle
The lucky last couldn’t come soon enough for those with feet like ice and numb digits (those gloves may look pretty but they are hardly thermal ). The wind sliced through the rails and the sparse smattering of punters still lurking.
There was a tip flying around late on from a well-respected bookie’s rep for the unstoppable Fergal O’Brien’s Goodbye Dancer. What can I say, he knew! Some punters knew too nibbled at in the market but they left Star out. With the the jolly Ask Ben, the runner-up, the only loser in the book, the last race was a cop in the book. Time to thaw out those fingers. See you tomorrow.
Simon Nott is author of:
Skint Mob! Tales from the Betting Ring