Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Newbury Newbie

This is not the first time that Modus Hopper Random has ventured into the wider sporting world.  There have been occasional forays into rugby union, basketball, ice hockey and cricket plus volleyball, water polo and canoeing from the London 2012 Olympics.  It is the first time that I have been racing.

Not a programme but a Racecard. Fine.
Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Tuesday 25 August at Newbury Racecourse
Final net profit of £38.50
Evening Meeting (6 of 7 races at the meeting)
A first.  Never been to horseracing before.
Pre-meeting preparation
None whatsoever.  Matt (son and heir #1) rang at 2.00pm and suggested this trip, so I gleefully abandoned GCSE physics preparation.  Roadworks on the Oxford bypass meant that we missed the 4.40pm race and weren’t able to start taking the bookies to the cleaners until 5.10pm.  We also made telephone contact with Chris (son and heir #2) who works in this business.  Paternal loyalty means that I will not reveal the full extent of the utter uselessness of his tips on this particular occasion.  It's only Variance.
This event in one sentence
A new experience for me and an enjoyable way to spend an early evening with my son redistributing the nation’s wealth with greater effectiveness than Robin Hood.
So what?
It is now just a matter of time before I pitch up in the Royal Enclosure at Ascot.
The drama unfolds
The weather leading up to the meeting has been awful and going was expected to be soft.  Not surprisingly, there were many withdrawals from the original entries and we fully expected prediction to be difficult, a bit of a lottery really.  As we bought our tickets, we saw that the SPs of the first two in the first race were 12/1 and 50/1.  This could be messy.  As we arrived at the grandstand there came an announcement that the going had now, after the first race, been declared heavy.

We stood in front of the on-course bookmakers and considered our options.  The bookies work in pairs – someone at the front handling the cash and someone at the side entering data into a bespoke keypad.  The odds for each horse change now and then and the best feeling is when you have backed a horse at a better price by getting in early.  It's you against them and their calculations.

Matt reckoned that Bellajeu would be favourite for the 5.10 and so it proved.  He backed it for a win.  I went for an each way bet on Powderonthebonnet for no reason other than it was priced at 40/1 in a small field.  Time for a clip.  Look for jockeys wearing brown and blue respectively as the bookies keep our money.  Knight of Wands is the winner.

We considered the field for the 5.40 over a steak pie. I went for Man Look for the simple reason that his jockey was called Murphy and I’d heard somewhere that the Irish are good at this.  Matt changed his mind at the last minute and backed Kallisha each way at 11/2.  This was inspired as George Baker brought Kallisha home seven lengths in front with Cottesloe second and Man Look somewhere behind.  No matter, Matt was now significantly up for the evening already.

The 6.10 also proved a success, and Sahreej, ridden by Dane O’Neill goes down in history as being the first time I have picked a winner for a horse race by looking at the race card.  Who knows why I picked it.  Maybe to be different from Chris who had advised November (the month of my birth and therefore the one I would have picked for no other reason).  Matt watched the last-minute changes of odds and joined me on Sahreej.  Bob (the bookie) took it well as he coughed up our winnings.  Time to hit the bar after I went to photograph Sahreej for posterity.

We ventured to the parade ring before the 6.40 and watched these sensitive thoroughbreds walking round.  I wish I could say that it helped.  My plan to lump the pension on Tatting (a good old Black Country pastime) was thwarted by his non-runner status.  One of the others looked like it was dosed with valium so I picked Miniskirt for the simple reason that it looked a bit taller so I reasoned it might need fewer strides on the heavy going.  A scientific approach, and a losing one.  Matt went with the favourite, Firmament. Imagine our joy as Gold Prince took the W with all our bets nowhere.  Still in credit, just.

The 7.10 needed very little thought.  For no other reason than having been to Italy this summer I stuck a fiver on Italian Beauty to win at 6/1.  Science hadn’t worked, so it was back to intuition for me.  Matt took Miss Inga Sock.  He took it well when Italian Beauty held off a challenge in the closing stages to win by a neck.  Bob (the bookie) also took it well.  Whatever happened now we were going home just a teensy bit wealthier.

Better check on the big screen that it really did happen!  Italian Beauty at 5/1 for me!
For the last, Matt went with the favourite Duffel after due consideration.  I went for Be Bold at 5/1 for no particular reason other than nominative determinism.  Tell you what, if I’d been wearing a hat I would have thrown it in the air as Be Bold won the race by a head in the last few strides.  We relieved Bob (the bookie) of more moolah and I pretended to know what I had been doing all along.

This all means that I picked three winners out of six on my very first visit to the races.  Maybe there is something in beginner’s luck after all.  Would I go again?  Yes, but I would do some more research in advance so that there is more time for eating pies.  I have to say that the whole event felt very well-managed but as the pictures show I think the crowd numbers were disappointing for the organisers.  This was simply down to the weather.  For anyone interested in the details, the entry fee was £17 for the grandstand.  The rest of the cost will simply be down to how much you bet, lose and win.  The whole thing lasts about three-and-a-half hours.  Refreshments were of excellent range and quality and had typical "event" prices.  Facilities are superb, and there was post-racing entertainment with a live band in the Crafty Filly bar.  The races were class 3 to 5, which is the "lower leagues" in  these things but there were plenty of well-known trainers and jockeys on the card.  Standing at the rail, in practice you watch the race on the big screen and listen to the commentary before the moment that the field thunders by.  Alternatively you can head for the extra height of the stand for an overview of the finishing straight.  The racecard has gigabytes of information about the horses and their history for you to take into account before trying to outsmart the bookies.  History shows that the bookies usually win, and that my experience today is down to the natural variance of such things.  Either that or I am some sort of genius.  We will have to wait and see.
Course Pix

Racegoing must have been less interactive before the invention of Big Screens.

Horse Pix

Powderonthebonnet (with Jimmy Fortune) is about to lose me money on the 5.10
Kallisha (with George Baker) provides our first success of the evening

Dane O'Neill dismounts, still unaware of the joy he has spread to the Yapps
Sahreej, my first Winner

Italian Beauty (9) on the way to victory!

What Next?
Watch @GrahamYapp on Twitter for details.  I have a long list of possible FA Cup ties for Saturday but a lot depends on how work goes this week.  Also, please keep an eye on therealfacup website for an FA Cup Preliminary Round Preview that I have sent to the editors!

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