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Saturday saw two big-priced odds-tumbling ‘gambles’ landed either side of the Irish Sea. The first over at Cork in division two of the Mallow Handicap Hurdle when Call Me Freddie snatched victory from the jaws of defeat having been backed from an early priced 40/1 into an SP of 11/4 favourite. This one had all the hallmarks of a classic touch.

The winner, the charge of trainer Sam Curling, had in its last half a dozen starts returned 66/1, 40/1, 100/1, 50/1, 50/1, 100/1 and run as his prices expected he would. He’d not been seen out since December 1st and in that time, one has to assume he’d found his mojo. Not without someone noticing, apparently not the trainer who had no idea where the money came from. Sadly, for the originally booked jockey Ian McCarthy he was unable to take the ride due to forgetting to sign in for his health screening. As luck would have it, Cheltenham heroine Rachael Blackmore was available to ride so was snatched up. It was extremely fortunate for those that had anticipated the improvement in form of the winner. His jockey had to be at her absolute best to land the money which looked in danger of staying with the bookies. They must have been getting twitchy halfway up the run-in when 14/1 chance Wild Atlantic Lady challenged strongly. Call Me Freddie showed some tenacity under a strong ride to prevail by a neck at the line much to the chagrin of the bookies that laid the fancy prices. The winning trainer was quoted as saying ‘He had been very disappointing on softer ground and we actually sent him to the sales, but he was sent back. He had done a couple of good bits of work, but I don’t know where all the money came from. He ran in a maiden hurdle over three miles and you’d think he’d want soft ground, but he obviously doesn’t.’ So it wasn’t the trainer’s money but someone appears to have had it spark off. 

There was no such buttock clenching close finish for supporters of Danilo D’Airy, winner of the Racing TV Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Chase at Warwick on Saturday night. Robert Bevis’ charge had started at 200/1, 150/1 and 100/1 on his previous starts though in fairness the gelding had shown some ability winning a Maiden Point to Point back in December 2018. That ability was certainly in evidence in the race having been supported from huge morning prices, 100/1 in a place, touched 9/2 before bouncing out to an SP of 13/2. The gelding went clear under Jordan Nailor, hardly saw another horse, and won by nine lengths easing up. You couldn’t blame bookmakers for their generous early prices, given that the winner was 38lb out of the handicap. The trainer is reported to have said when asked about the improvement in form that ‘The gelding had appreciated the step up in trip to three miles as well as benefiting from a return to jumping fences, having won a point-to-point and also appreciated the slower ground.

As is often the case with these gambles, opinions were polarised on social media and elsewhere. I’m sure most people will have grudging respect those who orchestrated them, it must have taken D-Day type planning. Of course, it may have been as simple as some form book sleuths spotting something that made the 40/1 and 100/1 early-prices look value and having it on. I’ve yet to hear of any cheeky doubles at the prices though. Fair play to them, who doesn’t like to see the bookies clobbered. As for those screaming the place down that it’s bad for racing, who in all honestly wouldn’t have like that early morning card marking phone call?

Danilo D’Airy, which landed the gamble at Warwick on Saturday night despite being 38lb wrong at the weights, has been clobbered with a 52lb rise by the handicapper.

The eight-year-old had been officially rated 35 when winning at Warwick, will race off a mark of 87 when he’s next seen on the racecourse. He had been entered at Ffos Las on Monday for a quick return to action but was eventually a non-runner. Danilo D A’iry is the lowest-rated horse to win a jumps handicap since 1994 so in hindsight his original price of 100/1 was a bit skinny really wasn’t it, serves those bookies right!

Simon Nott

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