The 2014 Cheltenham Festival – With apologies to no one

Two things I absolutely cannot abide, – gloaters and past posters. Me? I truly fancied Lord Windermere and Very Wood  – I just couldn’t get on. Never mind though, I won an awful lot of money on Friday, you’ll be thrilled I know. Can’t wait for the girl at the Bank to ask me where I found it, like they always do. Love a bit of amateur detective do the Banks. Taking a break from fixing the Libor rate I guess (Go on then, make my day, sue me!).  ‘just closed a big arms deal’ my normal response always gets a laugh from the people in the queue as they crane their necks to find out what I’m doing. Typically the tellers look a little nonplussed, moaning that the heads aren’t pointing the right way whilst people tut and nod.

Was this an outstanding Cheltenham? Well, I suppose it was in many ways. I’m not going to blow sunshine up JCR’s backsides, because their cheques stopped arriving. However, they do seem to have a clue about putting on a classy event well and not over charging. I don’t see £35 in advance as draconian for such an event. Of course, there will be a few cheapskates who think they should charge a tenner. (Could stand on Cleve Hill for free?)

There are a few gremlins, like a big screen in the Centaur that keeps breaking down and clears the place quicker than a fire alarm. Or the catering mob that doesn’t appreciate the Champagne bars are full of nobs- and they don’t do plastic at £83 a bottle. Minor gripes aside, it’s an extremely well ordered event. Take for example the race starters, I don’t think anyone could fault the skill involved in wearing a trilby like that in the wind, whilst despatching 20 runners off, when someone’s always trying to jump the gun. Professional gripers moan there’s too many races, and – or  people there, which is an odd complaint. Could always go to Kempton of an evening if it’s space you crave, and tumbleweed you like to see through the betting ring

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What’s it like being a Bookie? I know you lot think it’s a doss, we turn up and win, but the reality is considerably tougher. Sure, Cheltenham is riddled with Bookies – that’s what the people come to engage with in the main. Midweek Racing, however, is dying a death. Crowds are very sparse and by extension so are the Books. Personally I haven’t attended a midweek event other than Ascot, which is but a mile away. If I can’t turn over a minimum of £1000 a race, it’s not worth me standing, and it’s down to £300 midweek at some events. You see people expect me to lay them a fair bet, and compete with firms following exchanges to £20’s. It’s a recipe for failure. If I opened my shoulders as a layer at most of these events, there’s no amount I could and would lose. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining, I’m just trying to put you in the picture. http://www.justgiving.com/racetrackbookie.org.mugs

It’s true a lot of people bet on their phones, and it may also be the case that the new signals will make that easier. What’s the outlook for the track Bookie? In truth it’s poor. It isn’t helped by tracks doing deals with remote gambling outfits like Bet365 with free wi-fi for their customers. Before you lambast me for appearing to lag behind the times, let me give you a reality check. Major Bookmakers and Exchanges bettin remotely, ie not at the track, paid Cheltenham to provide free fast internet so people at the track could bet with Gibraltar. The same amount in fee terms as 15 racetrack Bookies. Indeed racecourse Bookmakers contribute to JCR’s coffers in pitch fees alone over £400,000 a day through the Festival. And a lot more if you include their entrances, marketing fees and so forth. Should BetVictor get the same privilege for the same consideration as 15 little Bookies? I’ll let you decide. Were we consulted before the deal was struck, or our fees reduced to compensate us? No. Going forward, I believe tracks ought to consider very carefully the long term implications on Betting for every penny of revenue they seek.

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On the plus side, I’ve always found JCR a thoroughly professional outfit, and I mean not to unfairly single them out. It’s true they have invested a great deal in wifi, and all things have to be paid for, and their profits stay in the sport, which is praise worthy. But if it’s a revenue exercise, then we shouldn’t be paying so much when we’re taking record low monies. JCR were the first to employ a senior manager who’s brief is to look at just such matters, and to understand and engage with us. They were also the first group of tracks brave enough to assist us in standardising the each way terms, in banning pitch linking and renting. These are positive steps, and I’m a fan of their style. In raising the subject, I’m looking for all tracks to involve their Bookmakers in every commercial deal they undertake. If that is, they value their betting rings and the valuable income we both generate and bring in.

Anyway, what’s with these jockeys? You know the ones, the jumping types with the easy life, the show offs – crashing through rails, flying through the air into hedges, diving onto tarmacs, then leaping up declaring ‘I’m fine, just a few broken bones – where’s the horse?’ I mean Jacob tries to walk back to the weighing room, rattling – what’s that about heh? As for Walsh, deliberately rolling under his horse, a party trick for the legally insane. I’m a bit of a horseman myself, I fancy I would have rolled away artistically and waved to the crowd. As for McCoy hobbling around on the telly – he’s just trying to get the odds up. I’m on to your game 🙂  Seriously though, we are rewarded with bravery and commitment of the highest order out there, the last two years ample proof of the value of these pilots.

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I did the morning line on Friday to get the free breakfast, and for those of you who were watching with the sound down, I told you I loved handicaps, I do my own hair, and I was going to rob you senseless that day. Can’t be fairer than that in a Cheltenham, that needs moving to Christmas thanks to the Casinos. I mean my Old Man and Bookies like him turned the place into a hell on earth for punters. What happened to our ruthless streak? Horse Race traders at the big firms must be pulling their hair out at the hefty margin erosion from money back specials, as they follow the orders from clueless Marketing types. In what other industry would we witness such gifts?

Gold Cup day, fortunately, didn’t follow last year’s script, when you all got fat on me, giggling and laughing as you left. In truth, if Stevie Wonder took up Bookmaking – he’d have won on the Friday. The ambulance won twice. The Stewards panel,  backs to the cameras for their big TV appearance on the Gold Cup enquiry, had the Bookies on tenterhooks hoping a 20/1 chance actually won a Gold Cup. Over the next week I’m sure we can look forward to Bookies PR reps, telling us they won 12 billion this week, – in £10 bets. That’s nearly a hundred wagers.

I want to talk to some of you about your dress sense. It’s not just that you get dressed in the dark, it’s that you shop in TK Max with a blindfold on too. I know you’re potless and the thought of buying a pair of strides over £20 fills you with horror, but I say this – if you’re poor, try not to show it. As for the rah rahs in tweed? Haven’t ANY of you realised why it’s always in the sale? One day you’ll notice people prodding each other as you strut past.

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As for the berks wearing the Guinness hats on St Patrick’s Day? Or the equally delightful and tasteful orange scarves the fillies give away for free outside? I wouldn’t have them as cat litter, but that’s just me. You enjoy. People love a freebie

Chump Bookie award of the week goes to Greg Hughes who bets number one on the rails. He’s paid a fortune to bet in the best pick, which should afford him to bet well. Instead he delights by offering exchange odds. Odd business plan. He managed to clear out the top 8 firms below him on Friday, all departing to various corners of the track to escape this particular terrorist. And yet, he would have cleaned up on Friday, doubtless spent the evening telling his Missus ‘mine is de only way.’   To clear up all doubt, every Bookie won, even the daft ones. Good luck Greg.

Ride of the week goes to Rishi Pershad of Channel 4, who trained for months how to cling on to a racehorse – after the saddle has slipped. Rishi won’t be using his balls for anything other than ballast for the next 8 months..

A brief plug for the BHA. Fudging the only contentious issue which could mar the great event – taking a 12% punt on Last Instalment not winning the Gold Cup. That would have made the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Thanks also to the punters in the excellent Centaur, many of whom came up to shake my hand and take me on , bet with my lasses, fart and leave. It really is the smelliest place I’ve ever been in. If anyone is going to Japan in the near future can you bring me back those little white face masks they rock around in? We took a little over 2000 bets a day, a little less than usual because The Lord decided he’d give us sunshine and wreck my turnover inside. Thank you God, normally you’re a Bookie aren’t you?

A mention for those same punters for the good spirit in which they handled adversity, and for not a single instance of anyone short-changing us. When you take nearly 10,000 bets that’s something to say for the honesty of folk. Fine, I came off best this year, I’m sure none of you would begrudge me that? (Except the heckler at the back – yes, you!) Remember though, many Bookmakers jumped off the Grandstand last year when 4 favourites obliged on Gold Cup day. As to those of you who came up to me and asked after Faugheen, Sire De Grugy and Balthazar’s King had all won at short odds how much I was winning? I think the slates have definitely fallen off of your roofs.

A mention to my ‘Betting Babes’ – Naomi, Kat, Jenny, and Vicky for their hard work in extracting, with a smile, every penny stitched to each punter, some by force. – I thank them for their hard work. Yes, sex definitely sells – stand and oggle away. At least we don’t look or act like a machine, and you get a real life horse to cheer on. Surely better than 3 lemons.

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Well done to all the ‘lesser’ trainers for their success – deserved for sheer enterprise, especially the Moore’s for their guts in taking on Sprintre. I hope we see more horses going their way, because the practice of cotton wooling and avoidance tactics which has characterised this great sport over the last three months deserves exactly what it got at the Festival. Failure. Short field Arkle’s aren’t my thing.

To all my pals in the gambling commission, – yes the mob who think it’s fair game to back a dead horse in running, now on their annual 11 month break before it gets around to billing dopes like me, I want to give the following assurances on my compliance. Yes, I asked everyone if they were drunk, if they were putting on a bet for anyone else, and if they might be inebriated. I went even further than that though, – I made sure I had a pile of self exclusion forms, so anyone who was doing his cobblers could ‘wave the white flag.’ I’m a good boy.

Yes, Cheltenham is THE Festival – See you next year mugs

Author: Geoff Banks Racing

UK's Leading Independent Bookmaker. We pay our tax and Levy to British Racing as an Approved Betting Partner. And no begging a proper bet here, large or small stakers welcome! Text, phone, APP or website. Private Client Wagering at its best. :)

7 thoughts on “The 2014 Cheltenham Festival – With apologies to no one”

  1. Just read the Cheltenham piece, great read as always. Particularly like the dress sense advice although it would appear that not all readers did.

    Like

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