Secret Racegoer: Sandown
There seems to be several stages to the jump racing season getting fully underway, from gearing up, to getting serious.
For many it’s when their local track hosts its first meeting of the season and that was the case at Sandown on Sunday when the Flat’s men in shoes without socks gave way to women sporting trilby hats.
It was also the first time that many of the Esher track’s faithful had their first experience of the Tote’s new betting slips for the Jackpot and Placepot.
No longer similar to the Lottery-style coupons where you cross through the required number on a form which is then read by the computer terminal – but instead a form where you enter the horses’ number, which in turn is keyed in by the Tote’s operator.
A combination of unfamiliarity with the process, the issue with illegible writing and the time taken to enter the numbers at the counter meant long queues and growing agitation as the clock ticked closer to the off-time.
The unfamiliarity may lessen, but wobbly writing and ponderous keying-in may not go quite so quickly. Plus, the extra element of a human input adds to the risk of mistakes being made.
“It’s something they’ve been trying to introduce since June” said one Tote operator growing weary of the complaints. No doubt the delay referred to was while Britbet and the Tote negotiated terms over entering bets into a single pool , which was announced at the end of October. So much time available to them in the interim to query the wisdom of the new process.
Mind you, those who had odds-on Terrefort anchoring their Placepot in the four-runner listed chase might well have wished they’d queued longer and missed the chance of getting on, as it trailed in last.
No quite odds-on was Pete’s Choice who was 125/1 for the bumper. Some members of the owning Jokuhlaup Syndicate, who had been up at the crack of dawn to do battle with Southern Rail’s replacement buses from Sussex, were not over confident, although there had been a bit of interest in the 180/1 on offer the night before.
“I’ll be happy if we are in the first fourteen” said one, knowing that this was a reasonable expectation given that was the size of the field.
In fact the former Irish pointer, trained by Zoe Davison, did better than was hoped, due in the main to three withdrawals because of the ground, and Right Old Touch being pulled-up.
Yet the owners had had a good day, particularly enjoying their lunch, where the fish pie and the stew got the thumbs-up, from someone who had both.
Meanwhile, the Secret Racegoer had a sausage roll which was filling insomuch that it could have usefully been used as dead-weight in a saddlecloth.
Discussion in a Battersea pub after racing with some members of the Jokulhaup Syndicate before they endured the long journey home centred on what they had learnt about Pete’s Choice, with speculation that a race uphill or a race downhill could well suit.
Bookmakers not the right place
Before the four-runner race Sandown’s estimable race-day announcer Anthony Kemp informed racegoers that there would be no Tote place betting but they might find bookmakers offering place betting, Anyone looking probably had long search ahead of them.
If the day was fondly recalled in the Battersea pub with the odd pint of Guinness, that wasn’t the case in one of the racecourse bars where the consensus was that the black stuff was sour. Fortunately, there was no difficulty encountered when pints were taken back to the counter and exchanged for those from a different pump.
But there was something else sour at the said bar. A member of staff was reprimanded by their manager in front of customers for not going out and collecting glasses. From a customer’s perspective having someone behind the bar and consequently being served quickly is a preference, but more than anything a staff member should not be scolded in front of customers.
Having previously been to Plumpton where the racecard was £2, we were back to a £3.50 programme at Sandown and as usual the note on train times back to London bore only passing resemblance to the timetable, which only bore a passing resemblance to what actually happened.
Hopefully the owners of Pete’s Choice got home safely.