It was initially a bit disappointing to find the Press Room at Bath standing room only on Wednesday night but ultimately, I had a much more fun out in the betting ring for most of the evening. It was like a reunion after the Covid nightmare, the worst of which is hopefully almost behind us. Bath had a generous number of bookmakers allowed to attend. Their pitch fees had been waived so plenty made the effort to turn up.
It was also very nice to see Jamie McNabb, Jamie is the son of bookmaker Danny who’d sadly passed away quite suddenly during lockdown. Danny was an extremely well-liked member of the betting ring, his funeral had to adhere to Covid rules with minimal attendees, had it been normal times, his send-off would have been packed to the rafters.
Bath wasn’t packed to the rafters either but the crowd was large and having fun. There was even a bit of excitement too, at least for those in the restaurant that was briefly evacuated after a fire alarm sounded but only briefly.
It didn’t appear that there was a lot of business to go around but people were in high spirits and all up for a chat and a bit of banter. As Sue, the one half of the Colin and Sue racecourse regular double act said, with more than a hint of gallows humour, ‘It’s been nice to be able to check in and make sure people were still alive!’ Colin was unseen because he’d been under the knife during lockdown so was getting around in a wheelchair when he wasn’t just lounging in it as he was tonight. Sue assured us that it was only temporary. It hadn’t stopped him backing winners because she had been sticking on for him all night.
Swampy, Armaloft and Pete on the Sid Hooper joint bore the brunt of at least one of Colin’s bets, Sue even managed to blag an extra half point for him too. Always ask the bookies on course for a bit of extra value, only if it’s quiet though. It was nice to see that trio of Sid Hooper troopers. Whilst I was stood talking to them a legend of the betting ring came to join us for a chat. None other than one of the biggest rails layers of the last century, Stephen Little. He’d cycled to the track in an effort to lose a little what he described as ‘lockdown’ weight, I think we all did a glance at our own middles when Stephen uttered those words. The rails have certainly changed since Stephen used to ply his trade on them taking on the bigger hitters, he’d have happily taken what was laid there all night tonight in one bet back in his heyday.
Next door on the rail, Dax and Q Cumber on the Dick Oliver joint were as friendly as ever, always ready for a laugh and a bit of fun, even if Q likes to put me in my place at times, and quite rightly too. It wasn’t such a long time since I’d seen those two though, they’d been at a couple of behind closed doors point to points in the spring.
One bookmaker had a lucky escape before racing even started, Paul Metcalfe had a breakdown whilst on the fast lane of the motorway. He just managed to get across to the hard shoulder after what could have been a nasty start to a day at the races. It appeared several people spotted him as they passed, to their eternal credit, nobody gave it the ‘Aye Aye’ in anticipation of a move up! His partner in the Pickwick Bevan firm Paul Gold was in a good mood too, tucking into what looked a mighty sandwich. He nearly spluttered on it mind you when his daughter suggested he take his grand daughter to see the pop group Little Mix, well over a oner a ticket is plenty when you have to stand there and pretend you aren’t enjoying it all night. He was too busy tackling that sandwich to respond immediately, which was probably just as well.
Jane and Dave Hazell were there too. Two of the nicest people you’d be likely to have a bet with. Dave is always ready with a joke and Jane a beaming smile and a hug if you’re lucky. Aye Aye. They are to become grandparents again, great news, lots to look forward to for them.
The first person to give me work when I got made redundant from Turf TV was bookie Simon ‘Sherlock’ Holmes. He was down at the end of the front line working the pitch on his own. He said that he hadn’t expected it to be much good tonight but enjoyed it so much he thought he’d come anyway. Betting behind him was Peter O’Toole. Back before lockdown you’d be hard pressed to find a racecourse in the South of England that didn’t have Peter betting at it. He’s often got all races covered, with odds for them all, painstakingly written on white boards. Lurking nearby was bookmaker and pro-punter Steve ‘Rucker’ Noyce. He’d brought his bookmaking kit hoping to get in the numbers today but missed the cut by one. He told me that he’d now be looking for one to either bet or oppose to get his exes tonight. They way he was eyeing Peter as he said this appeared to make the bookie a little nervous.
As always, I had a chat with husband-and-wife team Derek and Helen Barnes who were both very happy to be back on the turf despite business being that slow they had time to talk to me with minutes to go before the off.
That’s one thing that anyone that has been a racing person for any period of time has missed. The community and camaraderie of a racecourse between everyone, be they bookies or punters. It’s not all about what goes on out on the turf, a racecourse really is a very special place, I think a lot of us that have taken them for granted for years have really appreciated that since March 2020. I realise how lucky I am to be part of it all.
Out on the turf punters that backed the jolly 3/1 chance Trouser The Cash in the first must have feared the worst, she was sent down early then reared in the stalls then ducked left on exiting them slowly away. Finishing third was actually quite a feat, that’s no consolation if you backed her though, see appears to be a little handful. 10/3 second-in We’re Reunited won the race under Trevor Whelan.
Newyorkstateofmind winning second at 12/1 was a good result for those aforementioned bookmakers. Let’s hope that they got a few quid because that was the biggest priced winner of the evening. It didn’t got the punters way either though as 7/4 chance Her Way winning the penultimate Read Hollie Doyle’s Column On attheraces.com Handicap was the only outright favourite winner on the night too. She also provided her pilot Trevor Whelan with a double on the evening.