FESTIVAL TRIALS DAY CHELTENHAM: SIMON NOTT reports from the Star Sports pitch at Cheltenham on Saturday. It was Festival Trials Day and plenty of clues were expected for the big meeting in March but more immediately was it the backers or layers that got the upper hand?
12:40 JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle (Grade 2)
As well as being Festival Trials Day it was also Cheltenham bookmaker John Hughes’ 65th birthday. Happy birthday John from all at Star Sports. His day’s betting started well. Nicky Henderson’s Monte Christo was the well-supported jolly in the six-runner opener backed into odds-on from 5/4. Those favourite backers had plenty of time to come to terms with doing their dough. The gelding was beaten long before the business end of the race, won by 6/1 chance Galahad Quest trained by the Genius of George Nympton, Nick Williams under Harry Cobden.
That winner was a second welcome surprise to the ring, the first being Star’s boss Ben turning up to bet, an unusual outing at a non Festival meeting.
A punter surprised us between races by wandering up and having £2,000 in readies on Boss Man Fred at 2/1 in the 2.05 at Doncaster. Always feel free to ask to bet the ‘aways’ if you are coming racing.
1:15 Timeform Novices’ Handicap Chase
The second heat was described by Lofty as ‘lively but we don’t have a good book’. One glance showed five losers in the book, the worst being Champagne Court.
The winner Simply The Betts was one of the smaller losers in the book but a loser none the less.
1:50 Paddy Power 45 Sleeps To Cheltenham Trophy Handicap Chase (Grade 3)
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, anyone under the age of 10 that counts ‘sleeps’ to an event needs a jolly good telling off. However, the sponsors have pulled up the readies so I suppose they can call a race what they like! Let’s hope betting was brisk in return for their investment. ‘It’s a bit quiet’ was Lofty’s summing up of Star’s business on the rail. Ben had long since retired to the warmth of the box.
The money picked up as the horses went down. At the off Lalor was the absolute bogie for four figures in the book. ‘Just the way it came in’ was Lofty’s defensive reply when it was pointed out the jolly Warthog was a winner in the book.
The eventual winner 8/1 Cepage was a good result but Lalor ran well enough to keep bookies pulses racing all the way up the hill.
Between races the horse the punter backed at Doncaster was beaten so his £2000 stayed in the hod which was handy.
2:25 Paddy Power Cotswold Chase (Grade 2)
The feature race of the day was a proper betting race with punters keen to get involved. They left it a bit late though. Almost at the off the firm laid £1625 – £1000 and £1300 – £800 Santini and £2000 – £800 Bristol De Mai. Those bets ensured an old-fashioned up the front two book with an older fashioned result required.
We were all treated to a tremendous ding-dong finish. Sadly for the betting ring and our book in particular it was between the principals (the rest nowhere) with the absolute bogie, 13/8 favourite Santini in front at the post. The away punter’s cash came in handy paying out, the only saving grace being the bets were stuck at the rock bottom prices.
3:00 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2)
Betting on the next, the punter that won £1625 on the previous race, came to draw, but his grand stake in his pocket and spun the winnings up on King Roland at 7/4.
Another punter topped it up with a grand at 6/4 in the hole. At the off King Roland was the bogie for well over £4000.
It did look turning for home as if King Roland was going to ruin the day, but ultimately proved no match for 4/1 winner Harry Senior. Another result for the good guys, which is us. While getting to work on the race before the penultimate news filtered through that Warthog had to be put down as a consequence of its injury. It’s always horrible to lose a horse, sincere commiserations to the David Pipe yard and all connected with the horse.
3:35 galliardhomes.com Cleeve Hurdle (Grade 2)
Paisley Park was a solid 4/6 chance but hard to lay to any lumps, let’s cut to the chase, there were no lumps for it but plenty of cumulative money none the less. There were plenty of others horses bet in what was a nasty each way race but the win book was ultimately a good one with the favourite the only loser.
As bookie Dave Pipe used to say, ‘You can’t eat value’, Paisley Park won nicely, as did favourite backers as we gave some of the winnings back.
4:10 Steel Plate And Sections Handicap Hurdle
The mist started rolling into an already murky Prestbury prior to the lucky last. If the plan from Flynn and Lofty was not to get too involved, that was scuppered by a cash bet of £4000 – £400 We Run The Night.
There was nowhere near enough volume of money to bet up to that bet. At the off the book had We Run The Night losing almost £4000 with John Constable another loser for £700. Certainly not clever bookmaking.
Back On The Lash winning at 13/2 was the cherry on the cake of a winning day. Next stop the Festival. See you all in March.
Simon Nott is author of:
Skint Mob! Tales from the Betting Ring