Champions Day – The Bookies view..

 

 

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A few years ago the Emperor of Jockey Club surveyed his tracks in response to a grand plan from British Racing for a season’s end panto. Cheltenham seemed too bumpy and that of grotesque tweed, ohh no. Newmarket can’t stand kids, hard to find, even with Google maps. Kempton is quite simply a nasty little shack, full of dead flies. He decided he’d make more cash if they went along with the plan to create a season ending bash, at which the finest Port and cheese would, of course, be served. Ascot had been busy building a structure so vast in stature, it created it’s own weather pattern. If you’re going to have a jolly event, it’s important you have a Swinley Bottom. Or Bottoms.

Let’s get the humble pie bit out of the way-I prattled on, along with a few other lesser mortals, that the timing needed revision. The fact remains the whole shebang was saved by the very participation of one horse. Frankel. Had he not bothered turning up in 2012 i believe, the BHA think tank would have been meeting to reconsider upsetting the our froggie friends by moving it back a month. I still believe that’s the best option if we are to secure participation of faster ground animals, but I was outvoted by people wearing waist coats and deerstalkers.

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Anyway, they threatened Teddy Grimthorpe with violence, and Frankel duly turned up. The party was saved along with a few jobs at Great British Racing. Ascot was the right venue. It has the infrastructure, class and grandeur to organise an end of season bash and serves drinks in a real glass. It’s been blessed with much better weather over the last few years, and with that the arrival of some of the top equine stars to entertain us. We can all be a toff for the day at Ascot..

Even the French send over the odd runner. Foreign equine stars are my absolute pension. Ridden by Thierry’s and Moet’s. All who think they can turn in to the Ascot straight, 6 lengths back, and possibly win. Mais Non, Espece de Cretin..

I quaffed a few glasses and joined the great unwashed in the betting ring. and the big bets were flying about. £3000 and £2000 on Order Of St George and a number of notably lumpy wagers set the tone. It was down and dirty and they didn’t seem to care if I lost.. David Power gave me some fun money for O’Brien’s star. He’s no shrinking violet when it comes to betting. My eyes were stinging, not the kind of bet you get with the Supermarket operators.. St George wasn’t however the only one they came for, Stradivarius was popular and a few saddos backed the French runner.. I should have discovered betting in running..St George touched 33/1 with the Bot traders.

Whilst Harry’s thingy was popular in the sprint, one other horse swamped my book. A fellah I recognised as a warm order, stuffed £3000 in my hand and said ‘put that on horse 5.’  I checked the board. Tasleet – 14/1. ‘Don’t you mean Harry’s?’. No, I’m sure, Tasleet. To win 42 grand.

I threw the money into the bag as if i stood such bets every day of the week. I gave David Power an interest with a £10,000/£700 for being such a nice fellah. He didn’t bat an eyelid. I got on with standing the favourite for a threatening lump. The race looked all over at the two marker with Harry’s sauntering along, – to suddenly be pressed by this Hamdam thing..my big chance lay in the whip, Hamdam doesn’t take to the whip for his stars, two cracks and out, the order of the day. Fortunately. I survived the race this time, back in front.

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I spot Lord Gosden in the walkway, surrounded by 20 or so press folk. ‘Tell us what you had for breakfast John, for the fans you understand..’
‘well I’m rather partial to kippers’ JG replied, in his most aristocratic tone, and they all looked excited. scribbling away. The Gosden accent bothers me. I know John’s public school, and they don’t talk like that. He’s done a study course in phwah phwah and taken the Missus along, so they can converse appropriately.

What he can do, is train. If they stuck a Galileo in his yard covering everything we’d be celebrating 25 English group ones (or you English would) He also strikes me as rather a decent sort, batting for a bit of fair play.

Chapman was also in the ring. Wearing some kind of welly boots, and blanking me for dissing the Opening Show. Even though he was caught on camera dozing off by all 32 viewers. ITV is a paradox, their Opening Show is quite dismal, their afternoon show is, I have to say it, great. I think what they do so much better than Channel 4 is deliver it with style, if not with the Channel 4 quality of production, but that’s quibbling. Everyone looks smart, and everything is great. If you bought the ‘it’s great’ on Sporting Index, you’d be worth one Oppenheinmer…

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But Champions Day is great. And so equally have so many of this season’s flat events. In said regard, ITV is totally appropriate. There are those that say I’m hopelessly in love with Francesca Cumani, but that’s a total exageration..

Nice mix on ITV with the intelligent Weaver and Brough Scott brought back from the dead (literally) Cumani’s accuracy with horse action and Chamberlin’s style. Nice, it works for me. Chapman eternally entertaining, he makes me laugh and offers balance, but don’t tell him that, his ego is insufferable. Somewhere in the mix I hope they find jobs for Luck and Cunningham. If you’re committed to the best, then have the best in some capacity.

Viewing figures suggested a half a million, far short of the BBC ideal we were supposed to be treated to. Here you have to blame racing for its failures. Simply far too many opportunities for horses like Enable, Ulyssees and Cracksman to square off. You think it doesn’t matter? Of course it does. Far too often television companies showcasing this sport are presented with half the available participants for a top race. Too many group ones, too many countries failing to co-operate and not enough stars. Cracksman hasn’t raced since York, swerved the Arc and the Breeders and its a miracle if he trains on as a 4 year old it’s a miracle as right now he’s worth as much as his Dad. The National Hunt is in terminal decline because we ignore this cancer. A sport that denies the paying public the best squaring off can’t hope for top viewing audiences when the other channel is showing Manchester United vs Liverpool.

Cracksman strolls onto the field for the main event, balls gently swaying in the wind. Let’s deal with any blithering idiots reading this. If you think Enable would have downed this machine with her far more workmanlike Arc performance, you’ve taken total leave of your senses. He destroyed a top class field, as indeed he did in the Dante. This is the best I’ve seen since his Papa. He would have danced all over the filly. FACT.

I’m sure we can look forward to Enable and Cracksman squaring off as four year olds. Not.

I stood Cracksman for an appropriate amount, – and lost an appropriate amount. Ryan Moore, who’d been brilliant all day, when not under a microphone, drove Highland Reel up Sunninghill High Street. In truth his chances on rain softened ground were limited. The French nags were, predictably, hopeless, and Barney Roy, popular in the ring was held up at the back, and stayed at the back. Two Enables wouldn’t have beaten Cracksman.

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I deposited some more money with the punters in the last as the favourite came from another planet to upset the day. I enjoyed some of the Ascot atmosphere with friends before leaving, observing thousands having a great time watching a couple of nice bands. No trouble, well stewarded, a lot of very smart folk enjoying a well rounded event. And yes, Newmarket, children actually do go free. Were I to offer one suggestion to Ascot, it’s to install some kind of sub air system to Swinley Bottom, the one area that jeopardizes meetings and diverts runners.

It’s a success. I don’t say that about the National Hunt, expect a few broadsides, but its been an excellent flat season and I believe we are heading in the right direction there. Ascot knows its job and British Racing got this one right.

Pass the sherry someone? Will they make me a steward now??

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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