CHELTENHAM NEW YEAR’S DAY: Simon Nott reports from the Star Sports pitch at Cheltenham on New Year’s Day. Just a few hours into 2019, how did the skirmishes between punters and bookies work out – race by race.
I’d like to start the first blog of 2019 by wishing a happy and healthy New Year to everyone, I won’t add ‘prosperous’ because someone has to pay for Ben’s penchant for fine dining!
One of the things I love about racing is to be able to indulge in wearing some outlandish clobber. It’s amazing what you can get away with on racecourses over the year. Having said that, it’s a bit disconcerting when your own mum makes negative comments about your wheat coloured corduroys you asked her to by you for Christmas. I was looking forward to giving them their maiden runout today at Cheltenham today. Of course, such strides aren’t going to turn a head at the home of loud tweed and dazzling male trousers.
The same can’t be said for the services on the M5, I was only half way across the car park for a quick comfort break that I became a little self-conscious as my attire attracted some incredulous glances. It’s not dented my enthusiasm for dressing up for the races. Besides, today paled into insignificance to the looks my salmon pink corduroys got at an Evesham working men’s club during the screening of an England game a few years back.
12:15 Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Listed)
There were quite a few usually familiar books on the missing list at Cheltenham. No, not fallen foul of overzealous new year celebrations but Exeter being on took the Westcountry books. Some were non-runners altogether while others sent their second-teams, no offence to the second teams who I’m sure were performing admirably.
The first race of the year boasted an easy in the market odds-on shot in I Can’t Explain that opened at 4/5 before easing to 5/6. Lofty described the business as small and steady. At the off the jolly was the only loser in the book in the traditional manner. There’s nothing a ring full of bookies like to see more that a horse winning by half the track when it’s not the odds-on shot in front. Fergal O’Brien’s Jarveys Plate left them for dead, though the favourite did manage a poor second place. The standard of cake at the Fergal O’Brien yard can be expected to improve tomorrow morning on the back of the performance, a great start to the year for him and the good guys, that’s us of course.
Even better as it turned out, when I went back to check-in with Jamie and Lofty it transpired that a credit client had come in very late for a fairly hefty, though sadly not to be disclosed, lump on the market-leader, so it was the double ‘Aye Aye’.
12:50 Join The BetBright Racing Club Handicap Chase
They bet 7/2 each of three for a while in the second, though Some Chaos did end up the clear 9/4 favourite for what Lofty described as ‘an avalanche’, later downgraded to a ‘large snowball’ of late money for Michael Scudamore’s charge resulting in another ‘one loser’ book for Star Sports. That money stayed deep in the bookmaker’s hods but most firms would have recycled most of it back to backers of the 7/2 winner Beware The Bear of which there were many.
1:25 BetBright Dipper Novices’ Chase (Grade 2)
Only four went to post for the next heat but betting was tight at around 11/4 each of four. Lofty was very upbeat about the business and declared that ‘we’ve been around the clock, just like the good old days’. Sorry to anyone that wasn’t around in the ‘good old days’ when I last checked their exact location was still a bit of a mystery. As with the previous race, by the off the market had sorted itself out and there was a clear favourite in On The Blind Side at 9/4. Punters that got involved in that little punt never looked like winning. The jolly yielded the rear to nobody throughout the race finishing 78 lengths last. Sadly for the book, the only loser in it wasn’t the favourite but 5/2 second-in Defi Du Seuil, for a thick four figures. Turning for home Lostintranslation was just ahead of the bogie. Head of on course Jamie wasn’t worried, declaring with some authority that the Philip Hobbs charge ‘would find nothing’.
I’d already written the scathing rubdown he was going to get in this blog in my head as the worst in the book went clear having seemingly won the tussle. Then much to everyone on the firm’s delight I had to swallow my, yet to be typed, words as Lostintranslation battled back up the hill to win by over a length. Jamie knew, it was all coming up Star Sports.
2:00 Download The BetBright App Handicap Chase (Grade 3)
Give Me A Copper, withdrawn while 8/1 in the betting, caused the ring a few headaches in the next. Not least because it reduced the number of runners to seven so losing a place pay out, something that would need to be explained to disgruntled punters several times, never fun. On the plus side, the book had two bad losers at the off, middle-pins Ballyhill and Born Survivor. That was very handy when the well-backed (but not with us) 3/1f favourite Aso won the race and the ring gave a collective groan, the book copped again.
2:35 Simplify Horse Racing Selections With Betfinder At BetBright Handicap Hurdle
As is often the case with the big handicaps, the punters make the book, they did here too. At the off there were a handful of small losers and a brace of ‘takers’. Dan Skelton’s Aux Ptits Soins the 5/1 favourite was one of the losers, it won, the book had its first losing race, but damage was limited. Lofty was getting a little short on patience. Punters were still trying to draw over the third in the previous race. He was especially grumpy about the guy that was disgruntled that the place terms on his ticket hadn’t changed, in his pocket 🤔
3:10 Dornan Engineering Relkeel Hurdle (Grade 2)
The young lady captured by ITV Racing cameras having a sneaky drink from a pair of moody bins had gone viral by the penultimate. Judging by the sporadic bouts of singing around the racecourse she wasn’t the only one having a top-up! It was all in good fun though.
Back on the Star Sports pitch betting had been brisk. The two that the punters wanted to be on were Old Guard backed from 9/2 into 7/2 and the jolly, Wholestone, that despite being a little easy in the market drifting from 11/8 to 6/4. They were modest and bad losers respectably at the off. With two to jump the worst was feared, the two worst in the book fighting it out, then salvation came in the shape of 8/1 Midnight Shadow who mugged them both going on to win nicely. ‘Best result in the book’ grinned Lofty, yes, grinned.
3:50 EBF Stallions & Cheltenham Pony Club (Listed Standard Open NH Flat Race)
The market in the concluding bumper was volatile with several horses backed in and bouncing again. There was an early move for Fearless supported from 9/2 into 7/2. One young workman jumped off his stool and asked a major layer for hundred each-way ‘fair price’. He got a sideways look but was laid, then called back when the benevolent bookie found a moody score amongst the bottle. Not the ideal way to endear yourself for FP favours. Lofty feared that the race would be run in the dark. Those fears proved unfounded. As far as the book went apart from a couple of rags taking out untold bundles very little damage could be done to what had been a good day, that included the 7/2 winner Glory And Fortune which was just a small loser. A good start for the Star Sports on-course team, a good winning day.
Oh, and Fearless? Run out of the places close home. That’ll teach him!
Simon Nott is author of:
Skint Mob! Tales from the Betting Ring