EXETER TUESDAY: SIMON NOTT reports from Tuesday’s Exeter card on Tuesday – Haldon Gold Cup day in the West Country. “It may be a local boy thing, but the new National Hunt season really does seem to have started once the Haldon Gold Cup has been run.”
Haldon’s flagship meeting of the year always attracts a large and enthusiastic crowd and today was no exception. I arrived early to ensure a spot to pitch my laptop but was still a distance behind some of the bookies keen to get to work. Even Baz ‘The Tash’ Pinnington made the journey down from way up north, that tells you the anticipation from the bookies. If you’ve not met the Tash, here’s a link to his #BettingPeople interview.
1:10 Join The Coral Bet & Get Club Novices’ Hurdle
The opening race featured a hotpot in the shape of Paul Nicholls’ Cat Tiger which was backed from evens to a 5/6 to steady money. Very little else in the market attracted much business. Two out it looked as if the jolly was going to win as easily as the market suggested it would but Welsh Saint had other ideas and fought all the way to the line. The favourite eventually prevailed by a neck, though did have to survive a steward’s enquiry before jolly backers could draw. Most bookies would have lost but one elated layer called me around to have a look at his book, overs for £380, that’s the game, as my old boss Jack Lynn used to say, ‘come on all of you’!
It was very nice to see bookmaker Peter Haughton in attendance today, he had a turn for the worst at the last meeting here, that’s an understatement, he had a heart attack. He was telling me today that had it not been for the quick thinking of the on-course medical team that got him straight to hospital the outcome, some stents and a rest-up in hospital, could have been much worse.
1:40 D & S Commissioning Novices’ Hurdle
Racegoers were treated to another excellent finish in the next, backers of 4/1 shot Harry Senior would have fancied their chances as he appeared to have shaken off all-comers, only for 5/2 chance Sporting John to find a rare old turn of foot to mug the long-time leader on the run-in. It wasn’t a huge surprise that owner JP McManus didn’t make the trip but had he been watching on the TV and backed the winner he certainly got his money’s worth of excitement.
2:10 Coral Haldon Gold Cup (Grade 2 Limited Handicap Chase)
The feature race of the day, only third on the card, saw six runners go to post and featured spirited betting down in the ring. Well, sort of. The punters only wanted to be on three of the field of which Janika was sent off 5/2 favourite. ‘They bet three, and they finished Un, deux, trois’ bemoaned one bi-lingual bookmaker after the jolly obliged for Nicky Henderson under Daryl Jacob to bag the £30,947 prize money. It may be a local boy thing, but the new National Hunt season really does seem to have started once the Haldon Gold Cup has been run.
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I felt a bit bad earlier. I’d been warning people who said that they were visiting Haldon for the first time that they needed to wrap up warm, warning them about the notorious weather. Two of them turned up sweating and evidently overdressed as the sun shone prior to the first. By the fourth my ode to caution had been vindicated as the bookies mushes went up and the rain came down.
As the books were betting on the next in the rain the cry went up ‘If anyone sees that Ian [works for Jack Bevan] can you ask him when the ‘there definitely won’t be any rain today’ is going to turn up.’ The punters up on Exeter Racecourse are a hardy bunch though, certainly not put off by a bit of drizzle as they waded into Colin Tizzard’s Padleyourowncanoe, from 13/8 into 5/4. I was going to say the name was topical, but the rain wasn’t that bad. Approaching three out the gamble looked likely to be landed but the gelding made a bad blunder, Robbie Power did well to stay on board but put paid to its chance of winning. The jolly’s misfortune appeared to hand 2/1 second-in Commodore Barry a penalty kick. Isabel Williams on 14/1 outsider of the field Virginia Kick had other ideas and outbattled the latter to win by three quarters of a length and deliver the bookies the ‘result’ they had been hoping for.
3:10 ‘The Smart Money’s On Coral’ Handicap Chase
Next up was a very competitive looking 13-runner handicap, but one that went to the first three in the betting. Jeremy Scott’s Orchardstown Cross came with a smooth run to take the run by the scruff of the next but arguably got there a bit soon but kept on well enough to win, returned the 5/1 joint favourite. I had been tipped Robert Walford’s third placed other joint favourite Le Boizelo prior to racing then forgot to back it. He could have been a bit unlucky because James Best lost his whip just after three out when responding to pressure.
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You wouldn’t have guessed that the penultimate was a handicap given the betting 11/10 and 11/4 the front two. Nigel Hawkes’ hat-trick seeking filly Guardia Top was sent off the favourite. For most of the race it seemed that anyone who backed the jolly had been very clever spotting one that was more than good for its 7lb penalty. Just as punters were counting their potential winnings and bookies their losses it became apparent that 11/4 second-in Those Tiger Feet, which had been under the cosh for some time, wasn’t going away. David Bass’ tenacious insistence that the gelding was dossing was repaid when the penny dropped and Kim Bailey’s charge, which dwarfed the jolly ran on, albeit off a straight line to win a hard-won victory.
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The lucky last was a 14-runner handicap hurdle but it looked a bit thin in the betting ring. I was down talking to Armaloft Alex when I overheard a punter saying he was chuffed he’d just cashed out a potential £10,000 accumulator for £800 that ultimately lost. He then added that he was having his first cash bet of the day. That’s what the betting ring is up against these days. On the plus side, the rain had stopped and there were punters, just not so many as earlier in the day. One of the two ‘rails’ bookmakers had already left, maybe he got his, and left. Philip Hobbs’ Sandy Boy was sent off favourite, for the race which concluded in drama. Over the last and on the run-in it looked like jolly Sandy Boy was about to win when the gelding careered across the track interfering with Quiz Mater and Doctor Look Here which left the straight running Heavey to win at 11/2 under Robert Dunne, the jolly under Richard Johnson unplaced. A dramatic conclusion to an excellent days sport up on Haldon Hill.
The National Hunt season has now started!
Simon Nott is author of:
Skint Mob! Tales from the Betting Ring