Goodwood worries me. I don’t have a straw boater. I don’t have a gaudy yellow and red tie. My girlfriend isn’t called Caroline. I don’t drive a caravan. I’m a bookmaker. Any one of these marks me out as undesirable at Goodwood.
I chanced it. I find the road to Petworth prettier than the Midhurst option. Both riddled with caravans. Average speed 8mph. All blithering idiots in volvos rolling about the planet with their rickety little houses. Give me a cyclist – anything but this.. The forecasters predicted rain all week. So I left my raincoat. I took my bookie trilby and dark shades.
I’d forgotten nothing. I was well prepared. Except for my entrance tickets. I rang the Goodwood office – I’m a huge telly star, I says. Sort me out please. Ehm, sorry we’ve never heard of you? Are you a student? Yes. I’m a war veteran, Chairman of the preservation of FOBT’s and President of the old European Republic.
They gave me a ticket to the Silver RIng. Which sounded nice.
I wandered past some 200 ring bookmakers to my betting position on the rails – every one of which had the favourite at 11/8. This seemed odd in an open market? Then I remembered two key rules..
1. Betdaq sets the prices for British racing
2. Any bookie that stands a favourite at a major racing festival for any more than 60p is officially barking mad.
I’m made of sterner stuff. I stood up, set my trilby in a rakish way, and smiled at some random blonde. She nudged her boyfriend. He checked his wallet and scowled back. The feature race was the Lennox. I stood the favourite for a reasonable sum. And lost a reasonable sum.
Goodwood is terribly pretty. And quite confusing. They seem to race away from you, hug trees in bits, perform loope de loops. Races are only declared over when the favourite wins. It’s quaint, and appealing. especially if you like jockeys with sunny dispositions, like Ryan Moore.
I rang the office on the way home. ‘not much in it – we stood the Lennox favourite. That was us.’
Wednesday was much betterer. The forecast was rain, so I wore my fantasy island white suit . I entered the track past rows of bookies with number three at 7/2. perhaps the boards were stuck? Bear in mind before you reach for your Bet365 APP – these guys rival exchange odds, carry murderous loads of equipment into tracks, stand out in all sorts of muck and vilified in the press regardless of the fair bets they lay. I disapprove of exchanges on track, but surely they deserve your £2.50 each way more than Gibraltar 365?
I set out to stand the favourite in the Sussex Stakes. Trained by Aiden O Brien. He must have the cleanest backside in Ireland, it’s kissed that much 🙂 He stables Galileo – a kind of Irish superballs – . Not much can touch his offspring. O Brien for facilities, cash – and for sure his talent at getting them ready. His horses dine on smoked salmon. Race three times, are the greatest he’s ever trained and retired to stud at 18 months. He’s had 20 winners from 80 starts this year and leads Richard Hannon who’s had nearly 800 starts by a modest 4 million in prize money. it’s an unequal struggle. As a matter of public interest, the practice of cherry picking picks racing’s pockets too in Levy terms.
Anyway I had a sneaky fancy for a lively outsider in Godolphin’s Ribchester. This made the Gurkha value to lay at 15/8. No 7/4. I meant 13/8. Actually 11/8. Tremendous value! I stood him for a lump. And lost a lump. Ribchester got lost somewhere on his second loop.
I rang the office. ‘Lost.’ They pronounced. Stood the favourite for a chunk. They lost a chunk. There’s a pattern developing.
Champagne I thought. That’s the ticket. Pleasant oblivion. Everyone will want to hear my sob story. I headed for friends in Goodwood’s lovely, well managed and staffed champagne bar on the lawn. They still afford glasses for their best spending customers. I’ve always found it an oddity that certain racetracks, even the great and good of Jockey Club, are so myopically obsessed with plastic. Average charges of £75 for a class 5 champagne – served in cheap plastic beakers. It’s really hugely disrespectful to your best spending customers, and let’s be honest, poor business practice.
In addition, where’s the environmental concern in how we leave things for our children? A mountain of plastic dumped every year, because it’s cheaper than washing up. Ascot and York teach us one thing. Raise the bar on standards, is the only way..
I’m also fairly dissilussioned with business ideals of some tracks, based on the free sale of alcohol. Social yes, we all like to wind down. Unpleasant rowdy yobbos lagered up – no. Number of fights at Premier League establishments last year? None. Not a record the ‘Sport Of Kings’ can match! Tracks can and must put safety and equal consideration for all, above the easy buck.
One of these days the Gambling Commission are going to take a serious interest in the inebriated state of customers in betting rings, transformed by some tracks into giant pubs. Social responsibilty had better start taking a stronger lead in boardrooms, before licenses are examined, or worse someone is severely injured. I’ve seen some awful fights. I’m impressed with Britain’s racetracks and the organisations, yes it’s a feelgood experience overall. However, many of us would welcome a serious change in attitude based on the views of older patrons, members or families.
Anyway, I digress (on purpose). Thursday dawned – grey. Everything, including my blue suit looked grey. Horses appeared into and out of the gloom. I’m assuming Goodwood’s starter was in contact with the judge as every once in a while he’d cry ‘they’re off.’ We’d all stand about for several minutes until the favourite appeared out of the gloom at the half furlong marker. Queues for payouts also disappeared into the gloom. Big orange was the fancy for the feature Goodwood Cup. Jamie Spencer, famously departing from his normal ‘in the car park’ style, led pretty much all the way. I’d learnt my lesson and stood him for a modest amount. And paid out a modest amount.
I rinsed out my suit back home and rang the office. The cleaner answered. All the staff had left. Left before they were pushed I expect 🙂 I asked her to answer the phones.
Friday by contrast was a glorious day. A busting crowd, all jolly and happy at the weather, (forecast torrential rain.) Surely with my great skill I would wipe the smile of their faces? Bookmakers always win.
Except at the Festivals. I should have remembered as being loss leaders so savage for bookies these years. Naturally the favourite won the big race ta dum de dum. As did every other favourite bar one. By then even the punters had no room in their pockets for my dosh. Both here as in Galway I heard, as six more market leaders hosed up there. Several bookies were resuscitated by St Johns Ambulance staffers. Others staggered around bins competing with seagulls for scraps. A few jumped off the grandstand. Those that survived the fall were escorted back to their joints by security to finish paying out..
I was x rayed by Goodwood security for money before I left. Fortunately I’d enough petrol in the bottom of my tank to get home. It’s mostly downhill, and if the worst comes to the worst, I could hitch to a caravan..
Saturday, I woke to the Morning Line and a huge brawl between the excellent Graham Cunningham and a Brontausaurus from Middleham. Johnson was telling viewers, desperate to find out what would win the 3.15, that they really weren’t interested in that at all. I remembered he’d once worked for the BHA and I began to understand the slates had fallen off the roof. His views on outlawing racetrack concerts were equally funny. You have to hand it to Mark – he provided top value. Honestly though, I do admire folk in racing with opinions. Imagine a weekly show on the wonders of the horse and horseman. Fringe satellite fodder on mainstream TV. 47 viewers tops.
I entered the track to cheers from punters and sympathetic looks from St Johns Ambulance folk. The Stewards Cup followed a couple of obliging favourites. Recurring nightmare. I hate the bloody Stewards. The draw is all encompassing. I haven’t won on Goodwood’s bunfight since 1968. I was born in 1984.
Minding won a pointless race against horses rated 65 pounds inferior. Not outstanding, some comparing her to Ouja Board. Same eejitts who think Dancing Brave should now be rated 45. Shame she wasn’t trained by Kerry Lee. We’d have seen her at Ascot in a proper race. Not cherry picked for this farce and avoiding the men again. (And if anyone tells me Kerry is a jumps trainer..)
After the training gallop, Minding was ‘paraded’ in front of the stands. Moore never looked up once..
A blur of well fancied horses later, I strolled back to the bus stop. The car long since having packed up through fuel starvation.. I consoled my self with the thought my big betting competitors had spent their weekends working on ingenious offers like 10/1 Minding, or opposing Ryan Moore. That went well. An old guy gave me a fiver. I burst into tears.
My Saturday performance, nearly 2000 bets, lots of betting (sorry MJ) an absolute buffet of gorgeous crumpet, considerable turnover, considerable payouts.. Loss £108 – add expenses for the week, $4800. I came, I saw, I deposited.. I suppose also you could argue I ogled birds all day for £108. Better value than Minding
Goodwood is Glorious. It’s still a pleasure, well run and ordered, and despite the gap in my finances I look forward to it. I like the new management style. Years ago my Old Man told me he struggled to win there. This would have been pre-betting exchange days. The era of Harwood and Dunlop, and many alike. Now it’s Aiden o Brien in the summer and Willie Mullins in the winter. Bookmakers had better learn to bet better at these Festivals, and the pattern sorted out if racing is to prosper at all, as other sports do, from their best events. They cannot remain loss leaders.
ITV have to give me a job now. All this, and looks too..