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Overshadowed by a whole host of stories last Thursday, was the very strange case of Muhalhel which ran in the 3.20 at Nottingham, the Racing TV Profits Returned To Racing Handicap. The story for me started when I got a daily message from an excellent tipping service I subscribe to. They advised, amongst other bets, their smallest stake, a quarter point each-way on Muhalhel. They advised the bet at 9/1 with Skybet who were paying four places. There is always a bit of a toss-up, Skybet do offer a lot of races with extra places, but they also take BOG (Best Odds Guaranteed) away when they do. So, what to do, bet it with Skybet for the extra place or go the BOG option if you can get it and risk losing out if the horse finishes fourth. I’ve always been told, consistency is the key in what ever you do it betting. So, if possible and I don’t have to take under the odds I take the extra place and forsake the BOG. After all, the people I follow are clever, the price is hardly likely to bounce and win. 

I’m not someone that has to watch or listen to every race I bet in, if I’m out and about I tend to forget about the bets. It was a nice when the telegram pinged. It’s only used for the tipping firm, so when it pings in the morning it’s either a bet or the afternoon, it’s normally good news that one of your bets has placed. Thankfully, they don’t go in for thos ‘That was nearly’ messages which is basically the rub-down isn’t it. I read this one with mixed feelings MULHALHEL (advised 9/1) wins (SP 28/1 but 9/1 for results purposes not BOG!)

My first reaction, ‘Aye Aye’ a 9/1 winner that’s handy. Then a split second later, hold up, it’s returned 28/1 I’ve ‘lost’ bundles. Yes, I know, typical ungrateful lazy punter mentality. I just won £108 for no work of my own and I’m having a moan up. A bit later on when I had a spare few minutes I checked the results to see how far it had won and try and find out why there was such a massive drift. I was quite surprised to see that our bet was now in second place. Weighed in. 

The plot thickened, after drifting on the show from 12/1 to 28/1 the Alice Haynes trained Kieran O’Neill ridden three-year-old had led inside the last 100 yards and just held on winning a nose. The comments in running mentioned the gelding ‘edged left’. It didn’t seem that cataclysmic sort of offence that would usually warrant a reversal of placings. That’s what happened though, Alan King’s 9/4 favourite and runner-up Dickens was promoted to first place after a Steward’s Enquiry. The result being changed no doubt pleased punters up and down the land, at least those that back favourites. Skybet pay the double result too so I still copped to 9/1 so was feeling a bit better about that.

Selfish thoughts now put to one side I started to wonder about that drift. Usually, and without being too cynical, if a horse drifts that badly it doesn’t often feature in the race. But what happened in this case, there’s obviously no doubting that horse and jockey were off for its life. It won last time out, has since been gelded and switched trainer but that wasn’t enough to put off My Little Tip. There was something about it’s form that prompted the tipping service to put him up as a bet. It was still 12/1 when the live betting opened appeared to be impossible to give away layers snaffling all that was available to lay up to 50/1. What did the layers on the exchanges think they knew that the connections and form experts didn’t? How do these huge lays happen? Is it a snowball effect? Why would someone who obviously knows nothing be happy to bet huge odds on that a horse that won at odds-on last time out, wasn’t going to win today? The Betfair SP was 50/1 ( it’s worth noting that Industry SP was only 28/1) That’s a massive leap of faith by layers out there betting at as low as 1/50 something fancied by shrewdies wouldn’t win. 

How much they must have collectively lost would be anyone’s guess, nicking a few quid something they’d heard/guessed wouldn’t win just proved very costly. We know what happened, it makes me that the Gambling Gods owed this collective bunch of layers a huge favour. They got it thrown out in the Steward’s room. I’ve since watched the head-on and it seems pretty draconian decision to me, the moral winner was very hard done by.  Those lucky layers. I never happens like that does it? Jammy devils really got away with what would have been a massive financial thumping. If anyone knows what the people that stuck their necks out to such levels thought they knew, to lay the first past the post, please let me know! 

Whilst the perils of laying horses, especially just getting the sniff of a ‘plot’ and rowing in with it either backing or laying were highlighted there. There were also very big winners and losers betting on the in-running market. Now I know a lot of people don’t have an awful lot of sympathy for those that hire drone pictures, hide in bushes or rent boxes to beat those poor souls trying to make in-running betting pay at home. Even the hardest of hearts might have a little bit of empathy for those  sufferers at the hands of inconsistent stewards that do play the in-running market. Those eagle-eyed professional punters don’t miss much, that’s how they survive. On the evidence of their eyes, they were happy to back the first past the post at 1.01, that despite the photo evidence being just a nose victory, and lay the runner-up at 999/1, ditto. They did their money in cold blood when the result of the enquiry was announced. I suppose the caveat being that where someone did their cobblers someone else had a windfall. It’s a tough old market, good luck to all that sail its turbulent and unforgiving waters!

Simon Nott

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