Good morning all,
It’s been a hell of a weekend in Liverpool, I came back knackered Saturday night but I’m back on my feet , ready for my race at Southwell today! More of that at the end of today’s piece but for the next couple of days, enjoy my tales from Aintree…
Thursday morning, 5.45am. It’s dark as the alarm goes off and I stumble out of bed, more awake than I thought I’d be, to be honest. Shower, breakfast, pack the last remaining bits and pieces up and I’m off.
And immediately hit the first problem. The network server for Virgin is down, and I can’t get Maps on my phone. I roughly know where Derek lives (I’m travelling with him) but not exactly. I take a stab at it and get within a mile of his house before I have to ring him for directions for the last bit. I’m hoping that’s not a metaphor for how the week is going to go.
At 7am we set off for Aintree. The traffic is fine until we hit Stoke, but even then it’s not horrendous. We arrive at Aintree after picking up Jeff, who is working with us today, from Warrington and have a McD’s breakfast. That process will be repeated for the next three days.
The trick on Day 1 is to get there very early, as there’s a patch of ground opposite the racecourse that holds about 40 cars, and it’s ideal for the bookmakers to park in. In fact, miss out and you’ll have a right hike in with the gear. We have no such problems and we’re in for 10am.
The pick today – where we choose where we will stand – is 2½ hours before racetime. If that sounds ridiculous, it is, but not as ridiculous as the 3-hour pick for Friday and Saturday, where you’re literally twiddling your thumbs for two hours after you’ve set up. We are on the rails, and unbelievably, find ourselves two away from John Hughes, three away from Star Sports, and four away from Corals. Given what they’ve paid for their pitches, and what Derek paid for his, that’s a right result. We are far more likely to bump into some big bets here. Proper betting jungle pick!
All the bookmakers have a chat and share their fancies for the day, and with an hour to go, we’re off. But not for long. The rain starts to come down – light at first, and we hope it’s just a passing shower. It isn’t. It’s gets heavier and more persistent. The brollies go up. People start to get under cover. This is not good for business and the rain continues all afternoon. By the end of the day, business will be 40% down on last year.
But the results are in our favour. La Bague Au Roi is popular in the first, especially with the rain putting an emphasis on stamina. She gets beat. Pentland Hills is decent too, with Band Of Outlaws attracting plenty of support. Kemboy takes some of the shine off, but they all reinvest their winnings on Buveur D’Air. We take a £300-£250, and a £440-400, but they stay in the hod as Supasundae takes advantage of the melee in behind to score. 3-1 to us, with three to go.
Behind us, in Tatts, we notice there are gaps starting to appear. Books are packing up and going home, that’s how bad their business is. One went after two races, it turns out. The rain really has killed the day for them. For us on the rail, it’s not quite so bad – many just run out from the bar, stick their bets on, and run back in again.
Burning Ambition is the worst in the book in the Foxhunters, attracting plenty of £30-£40 bets and when he hits the front at the Elbow, it looks like curtains. But Tabitha Worsley has other ideas and galvanizes Top Wood back up. A bad result into a terrific one. Moon Over Germany, despite shortening in the market all the time, is one of our best results too and not even a small dent from The Glancing Queen in the last can spoil the day. It’s a good start for us, particularly when you hear some horror stories from the other bookmakers.
We get back to the hotel about 7pm and start drying everything off on the one tiny radiator we have in the room. We’re soaked from head to toe. A hot shower and a change of clothes later, we’re in the pub, and it’s £10 steak night. We fill our boots and have a couple of jars before I go back and start the form study for tomorrow. No rest for the wicked, even when I want some…
Friday. The rain has stopped, just about, and has been replaced by a sharp wind. Could have done with that late yesterday to dry the stuff out. We pick John up, who is working with us today, and, with the obligatory McD’s on the way, hit the car park about half nine.
Now, I’d forgotten that basically the ground we park on is marshland, and it doesn’t take long for it to turn to mush. As you can see here….
We make sure we’re on terra firma, quite literally, and wheel the gear in.
I have to say, the security checks on the gate are worthless. They check my sandwich bag for a bomb, and Derek’s laptop bag, but the big suitcase at the bottom of our stack isn’t touched and neither is the bag with the money/change in. If you did want to cause mayhem, it wouldn’t be hard.
Last year, the tannoy system at Aintree was loud. This year, it’s louder. I kid you not when I say you’re literally shouting at customers when it comes on. It’s quite ridiculous.
This is what medical science says about decibel levels – “Normal conversation is about 60 dB, a lawn mower is about 90 dB, and a loud rock concert is about 120 dB. In general, sounds above 85 are harmful, depending on how long and how often you are exposed to them and whether you wear hearing protection, such as earplugs or earmuffs.”
And here’s what you get at Aintree, and this, remember, from a distance of about 100m from the actual loudspeaker! How this is conducive to good customer service, well, it isn't basically. I’ll be trying to sort the issue with Aintree now this year is over.
Anyway, onto Ladies Day. The first thing to notice is the lack of ladies. I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense, but there’s nowhere near as many of the fairer sex here this year. But the better weather helps. We’re in the same pick as yesterday and today, we do see some action.
The first race is relatively quiet but in the second, both Aramon and Itchy Feet attract plenty of support. We barely strike a bet for Felix Desjy and we cheer him home like a good ‘un. And then comes Topofthegame. A bloke comes out of the crowd and has €2,000 on it, before handing me four 500 Euro notes. I’ve never seen them before. Are they even real? Feels very weird taking such a large bet and not having a wedge of notes in your hand for it. In fact, what do you with them? Don’t want them blowing away! Best off in my pocket for the time being. I feel rich.
A bloke I gave Lostintranslation to as a tip comes back for his winnings. He’s had £80 on it and he’s delighted. “Give me £300 and keep a score for yourself”, he says. I thank him kindly and that’s tonight’s beers paid for. What a nice man.
It gets beat and the day gets better. But they are in again, a £900-400 Waiting Patiently and a £500-200 Politologue. We get left with Min, and are in no danger of not collecting form some way out. Other books are moaning, but not us.
Cadmium is 16s in to 8s but the only decent bet we took at the top price was someone having £20 on it. Unlike one of the books nearby, who took a £200 on it. Nowhere to go with that when the price crashes in. It’s another one to us and it’s all going well.
Until Champ comes along, that is. I’ve expressed an opinion it may not stay and it’s in our book for plenty. The payout queue is a large one, and when they play it up on McFabulous in the last, it puts a dent in the day’s takings. But not enough to make it a bad day. Steaks all round again…
So, on to today, and the sharp-eyed among you will have noticed the 3.20 at Southwell, the Chutney Dave Half Century handicap. Yes, tomorrow I turn 50 and to celebrate this momentous occasion I'll be with friends at Southwell today. What do I think wins? Monbeg Gold has an obvious chance if fit but Hepijeu has plenty going for him and this game and genuine sort can score again. He's my selection for my race!
Good luck with all your bets today,