Good morning all,
Off to Worcester with Daren today. Looking forward to catching up with a few friends and some competitive racing. Not looking forward to getting out the car park afterwards.
Anyway, the second part of my Ascot tale on the main piece, plus a 33-1 shot that's worth a quid e/w as the selection today.
For the first two days the pick has been two hours. For the last three days, it’s three hours. So it’s an early breakfast at the hotel (Full English, obviously, the Cumberland sausages the highlight) and we get on the road.
The traffic, though is awful. Despite setting off with plenty of time, it takes us over an hour to do the 13-mile journey to the track and we get there with about twenty minutes to spare. Not ideal.
It’s Ladies Day, and they are already queueing to get in as we arrive. Picnics everywhere, but of course the problem is the saturated ground, which is not holding up well after two days of rain. It affects where we pick, and Alan (the boss, who comes down for the last three days) and I go on the back row.
But horror of horrors, by the time we’ve picked and set up, there’s literally rows of chairs and tables blocking the way to our joint. This is not good and spells trouble for business. If punters simply can’t get to you, they’ll go somewhere else.
We start betting and it’s slow to get going. Most tables want to have a drink and some lunch before they start thinking about the racing. Rumours are going round about the Queen’s hat though. After doing a score last year on a “certainty” that I was told (pink, my backside) her hat colour would be, I’m not getting involved.
Anyway, the ladies are starting to have their fivers and tenners on and of course, they want Frankie. “What’s Frankie riding?” is a cry you hear a hundred times on Ladies Day and today is no exception, We’ve got a huge table of Jamaican ladies to bet to, they’re all a right laugh and up for a fun day. They have about 10 bets each on every race, two quid here, three quid there, but they save their biggest bets for Frankie. And he doesn’t let them down, as A’Ali takes the first at 5-1. The ladies have their betting money for the afternoon now!
And business is saved for us as we have a huge slice of luck. Ascot is so busy that the picnicers have started parking in the walkways, which they’re not supposed to do. Indeed, they are moved on at the first attempt but it doesn’t take long before they’re back. One or two put their blankets down, then a couple more, and soon a trickle becomes an avalanche. The stewards are powerless to stop it and before you know it, we’ve got a new audience of about 250 punters right next to us, and we’re the first bookmaker they’ll bump into. It’s great news for us and for the Billy Bongo crew next door, who are good guys and I get on with really well. From nothing we now have one of the best picks in the enclosure. Very, very lucky, and for the whole afternoon, we’re really busy.
I’m already running out of change and it’s not helping that everyone wants to pay for £2 and £3 bets with £10 and £20 notes. It’s all for Sangarius, of course, and the roar as he goes clear at the furlong pole tells us there’s another big payout coming.
The change is now down the the scrap-ends. One of the Jamaican ladies has an odd amount to collect. “Have you got 50p to round that up to £30?” I ask her. “Honey”, she replies, “you can have whatever you want!” Much laughter from her and her mates. “You’re in there!” says Alan. I may well be, but I’m pretty sure my good lady would have something to say about it. Move on…
Fleeting may well be favourite for the next but no-one cares. The Frankie bandwagon is rolling now, and they’re all playing their winnings up. Tenners and twenties a-plenty for him and once again, he storms through to win at 4-1. The payout queue stretches as far as the eye can see. This is getting serious now.
“£250 Stradivarius mate.” At last, a three-figure bet on the week! It’s not the only one, we take another couple of £100 bets on him too and, of course, all the ladies are on for the four timer. He’s never going to be the sort that wins flashily, but by God, he takes some beating. More payouts.
By now word is filtering through of the liabilities some of the firms have given themselves. (I hear one big firm had liabilities of over – wait for it – £500 million if all six won. And that’s from a source that doesn’t bullsh*t me. Hence the inflated cashout offers people were getting at this point – better to lose ten million now that 500 million an hour later.) As such, Turgenev’s price is a fraction of what is should be. Laying 7-2 about a 14-1 chance is every bookmakers dream. In truth, we could have put up even money on the board and they would still have backed it. It’s a Frankie party now and everyone’s invited. I imagine every single bookmaker was in need of a change of underwear at the two pole when Frankie went clear on Turgenev. The roar was incredible. They’re all counting their money when Harry Bentley conjures up a run from Biometric late on and the roar goes quiet just as quickly. It’s replaced by a different roar, one from the bookmakers, who finally get a result on the afternoon (although it must be said, not a skinner – two people have backed it with us, one having £20 on, well done to you) and a sigh of relief from the big firms.
Many will say that it’s surely an exaggeration to say that everyone wanted to back Frankie but trust me, unless you’re there to witness it first hand, it’s not. It really was snowballing by this point and those that had been backing him all afternoon we’re piling in. If he’d won that fifth race who knows what price the last one would have gone off? Anyway, South Pacific (again, not unbacked at big prices) wins the last and we can go back to the hotel in front on the day after all…
Okay, you want to know the 33-1 shot at Worcester I'm backing today? Well, needless to say that at that price Starlit Night (2.20) comes with a bucketload of risk – not least the fact she's only won one race in her career, and races from out of the handicap – but bear with me, there are reasons for thinking she could go okay today.
She had her chase debut at Stratford just over three weeks ago and although I never had her pegged down as a chaser, she actually jumped well in the main (just the one small mistake) and after badly losing her place going out onto the final circuit and dropping to the rear, staged a bit of a late rally to grab fourth, again her jumping holding up well under pressure. Ideally she'd want another couple of furlongs today but this is going to be run at a fair lick – Centreofexcellence, Mr Lando and Gentleman Moore all like to get on with it – and that will help. The ground should be fine and with most firms going four places e/w, she's worth chancing in a race where, frankly, anything could win.
Good luck with all your bets today,