CHELTENHAM FRIDAY: Simon Nott reports from day one of the November Meeting at Cheltenham direct from the Star Sports pitch. Would there be as many twists and turns in the ring as in the Cross Country Chase?
12:40 Markel Insurance Amateur Riders’ Handicap Chase
As is the tradition at the first day of any big meeting the bookmakers feared the worst. Some didn’t like the card, the crowd looked ‘a bit thin’, and for the first time Lower Tattersalls had been opened at this meeting, though only a trio of intrepid layers bet there. Apart from that, all was well in the betting rings.
Worst fears founded, betting in the opener wasn’t very lively. The crowd did look a bit thin, and those that did come to back horses were either keeping their powder dry or betting a little too responsibly. One known ‘shrewdie’ came in for what admittedly was a tiny bet for him on 33/1 chance Bosco Di Alco. Some of the staff hopped off their positions and followed him in. Their money, as his, was left in respective hods, the grey slipping up on the bend. Sadly the race was not without further incident, the ominous sight of the screens still up at the second-last as the presentation to the connections of 9/2 winner The Young Master took place.
1:15 Swanee River Supports Countryside Alliance Novices’ Handicap Hurdle
They were still up after the running of the second heat too. 33/1 winner Red Hot Chilly was an excellent result for the betting ring, trainer Fergal O’Brien and jockey Paddy Brennan. When I say the betting ring, I meant most of them. Ben nearly spat his Snowy Mini Yule Log Bite (yes I know it’s a bit early) when he looked into the screen expecting to see a nice cop in the book only to see a loss of over a grand. Star Sports had laid a fair bet at 40/1, the hedging policy ensured it was a loser despite its SP.
1:50 BetVictor Handicap Chase
Swings and roundabouts they call it. Ben laid a £5000 – £700 Doitforthevillage and took plenty out of Movie Legend at a similar price in the next. When crowd roared home 9/4 jolly Bun Doran to victory the majority of the ring fell silent. Star Sports rarely roar one home (Lofty was on the lower) rail but Ben did allow himself a smile.
2:25 Steel Plate And Sections Novices’ Chase
Talking of Lofty, things were ticking along nicely down on the bottom rail where Lofty and the ‘Star Sports Seniors’ were tapping away powered by Werther’s Originals and eons of experience. They were ‘just winning in the day’, as you’d expect.
Back up in Tatts with the ‘Youth Team’ things had hotted up. Ben had laid a £4500 – £1000 Count Meribel with the exception of much else. The general consensus after the race was ‘how did that win?’ – for those that didn’t see it, the bogie survived what looked like a race-losing blunder at the second last to not only get back into the race, but up to win by a neck. It will take some heroics to prevent that not being ride of the meeting by Mark Grant. The bottom line was that the firm had done the thick end of £4000 though and whilst the idea is to win it would have been churlish not to admire the performance.
3:00 Glenfarclas Cross Country Handicap Chase
The feature of the penultimate Cross Country race was the weakness of Tiger Roll in the betting drifting from 9/4 to 3/1 with all the punters wanting to be on Josies Orders the jolly alternative. Those that decided to lay the Tiger got it right. Likewise those that follow the oft-used mantra that these Cross Country races are races where the field goes ‘around and around until the favourite wins’ got it right too, albeit with a smidgen of excitement on the run-in where Fact Of The Matter briefly made a race of it with 2/1 favourite Josies Orders, but ultimately flattered to deceive.
The ‘Snowy Mini Yuletide Log Bites’ were proving popular with neighbouring bookmakers licking their wounds as well as their lips.
3:35 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 2)
The racecourse announced that today’s crowd had been a record one for the Friday of the November meeting. After early concerns the crowd did indeed look healthy, the bonus was they came out of the woodwork for the lucky last. The bigger bonus was that not many of them wanted to on the 7/2 winner Coolanly with us, that despite being the final leg of Paddy Brennan’s treble, 9/4 Pym in second would have been much worse so blessings were counted on what was still a losing day. Pickwick-Bevan’s board behind us pretty much summed up the day!
Under the cosh but still in the game! See you tomorrow.
Simon Nott is author of:
Skint Mob! Tales from the Betting Ring