AUTHOR: Star Sports Content


[dropcap]I[/dropcap]t was a very chilly start to Saturday with the frost covers still coming off as punters were coming in, though I don’t think the meeting was in doubt. It has to be said there was a ‘thin’ feel to the track for a Saturday. The bookmakers were thin on the ground, even Julie Williams who bets on pitch three gave the meeting a swerve, maybe because the fields were also thin, last in the series of ‘thins’ was the size of the crowd, though they could well have been keeping warm in the bars.

You couldn’t blame the punters for keeping their money in their pockets for the opening JCB Triumph Trial Juvenile Hurdle. Apple’s Shakira looked a certainty against her three opponents and went off accordingly short at 1/10. One punter did have £200 on with Star Sports on the rails but there was no sign of the legendary folk of yore, the ‘Plastic Bag Man’. Back in the day these fellows existed and used to pop up from time to time with several grand in readies to play up on a prohibitively priced one. I suppose these days they tap a keyboard instead, such a shame. Two Hundred Quid man copped though, the jolly won with the minimum of fuss, Barry Garaghty pulled the handbrake half way up the hill so most books that bet on the distance would have copped. Incidentally, the 1/10 looked value when the Tote paid 1/50 to their customers.

There were just four runners again for the second heat, the Ryman Novices’ Chase but this time they were more evenly matched and made for a good betting race. The feature of the market overnight had been support for Jameson backed from around 11/4 to a solid 15/8 on course. Betting was reported as steady but that jolly Movewiththetimes was hard to get with a lack of lumpy punters wanting to get involved and eased from 5/4 to 11/8. Two out it appeared the short pair were in trouble and that Lizzie Kelly may do the business for the ring on board 9/2 shot Nick Williams’ Coo Star Sivola. Just when they settled for that the 10/1 outsider of the field Kalondra came, saw and conquered. Christmas come early for the layers, but due to the poor business few were happy with their ‘whack’ on the race.

The bookmakers didn’t have time to bask in the warm glow of winning plus it was a bit too early to snap the elastic bands around the winnings before the Junior Jumpers Handicap Chase. That a given, they just got stuck into what looked like a tricky race for the punters. It might have seemed that way for punters too because, once again, business was reported as modest at best, poor at worst. By the off the best-backed horse of the race, though not quite favourite, was Kerry Lee’s charge Gino Trail supported from 4/1 into 7/2 Bun Doran remained the 3/1 jolly. At the business end of the race the layers had no chance and were soon giving back the winnings from the previous heat when the money for the Lee horse proved spot on, the favourite chasing the gelding home for good measure.

Next up was the Caspian Caviar Gold Cup Handicap Chase with over £68,000 to the winner and it should have been a race to enjoy and savour in the memory. Sadly it was one to try and banish, David Pipe’s Starchitect had gone for home and looked the likely winner then broke down badly on the flat. To be perfectly honest it appeared that this seasoned Cheltenham crowd of national hunt racing enthusiasts lost all interest in the race thereafter. Guitar Pete won the race at 9/1 to very little more than polite applause. It was something that can never be avoided in our wonderful game and always so heart-breaking when it happens. Everyone’s thoughts with David Pipe and connections of Starchitect.

Despite the upsetting events in the previous race the world keeps spinning, Lofty and Andrew got to work in the, once again four-runner, Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and basically ‘stuck it up’ the front two in the betting, in other words both the short ones losers. It was a brave move but one that paid off when 3/1 Kilbricken Storm got the better of 7/4 favourite Count Meribel close home despite running right across the track up the hill to the line.

The penultimate and feature of the day, the Unibet International Hurdle boasted a small but quality field and what a race it turned out to be. As My Tent Or Yours won the race after a tremendously hard fought head-bobbing finish commentator Simon Holt, who had played a blinder this afternoon, called it ‘a race to lift the spirits’, he was spot on. Andrew on the rails described the race as ‘compelling’ though Lofty did have to point out that the winner, although uplifting, was also the bogie despite being a 5/1 shot, it was just how the punters made the book and is how the mop flops sometimes.

The lucky last, the OLBG Mares’ Handicap Hurdle, boasted the biggest field of the day but the poorest business and as Andy described it, was ‘dead’. Punters appeared to have had enough and once again retired to their favourite bars or headed for early baths. The 7/2 jolly Momella won the race and made a dent in whatever profits there might have been in layers books but in the bigger scheme of things it made little difference to what had been a rather unspectacular day of business but with huge highs and lows out on the turf.


skintmobSimon Nott is author of Skint Mob!: Tales from the Betting Ring