It's been a while since I last wrote an article for Geegeez, writes David Massey. I was very much hoping to do one post-Ebor but other work commitments got in the way and then, before you know it, I'm in Plymouth getting married.
Well, not strictly married as such: we had what's called a civil ceremony, Caroline and me; it takes the religious side of things out of it (neither of us are religious, so it made sense) but we had a great day with our friends, including one or two racing folk among the guests. A little honeymoon in Mevegissey followed, and then it was back home and straight over to the other side of the country (for me anyway) with the annual three-day trip to Yarmouth for their Eastern Festival. The car has done some miles over the past three weeks!
I'll come to Yarmouth later but I haven't told you how this year's Ebor Festival went. In a nutshell, very little big money flying around the ring, results decent, and the most remarkable thing was me driving home at 11.30pm on the Thursday from my digs back to Nottingham as a boiler that was next to my room started making a lot of noise and wouldn't stop. I decided that there was no way I was getting any sleep and so threw a pair of shorts and a t-shirt on and drove back home to get some kip. I arrived back at 12.45 to find the now Mrs Massey somewhat shocked to see me at such an ungodly hour. "I'll explain all in the morning," I muttered as I slumped into bed and straight off to sleep. She was delighted to see me, really.
So you see, it isn't all glam working on the tracks!
I actually had more fun working at York last Saturday. It was a new fixture and you're never quite sure what business will be like on those days. Indeed, after I'd taken the princely sum of £260 on the first I was thinking it was going to be a long afternoon but business did pick up and by the last I was taking £900 on the back line, which made it a lot more workable. We needed a result in the last to make the day worthwhile and got one with Two Brothers grimly hanging on. At that point we were covering expenses and no more, so at least we won on the day.
It was a young crowd, I noticed, and quite a lot of novices having their first time at the races. That included a dad and his three young daughters, none of whom had been racing before but were fully engaged with the whole process, going to the paddock each time, picking their horses and having their £2 bets with me. They backed plenty of winners between them and when I gave them a free £2 bet on the last, Two Brothers was the pick, which really made their day! I'd like to think they'll be back at some point in the future. You don't need fancy gimmicks and music most of the time - just make it reasonably priced, don't have people's trousers down the moment they walk in, and they will come. And hopefully come again.
The young crowd meant two things - a lot of asking for ID's (most have it ready, for young people today getting asked for ID is part of their everyday) and a LOT of debit card bets. Now, our firm has bought some new card machines that are integrated with the software we use to place the bets and my word, it has really sped the process up. Before, you had to punch the bet in, then go to a separate piece of kit, hope the wi-if signal held up as you waved the card machine around in the air, complete the transaction and then print a ticket once approved. That used to take anything between 25-40 seconds. Not now. The new kit spits the ticket out in around 10-15 seconds and makes card betting a breeze. The boss was amazed when I'd done over 70 card bets at the end of play. It's what the young ones call a "game-changer", I believe.
It's a way off but there will come a time when card bets are going to take almost as much business as cash, so you might as well get used to the technology now. A lot of books have adapted to it but many haven't - whilst you might not necessarily need it for somewhere like Fakenham, you almost certainly will at Sandown, so to me it makes sense to get on board with debit cards now. Whether we like it or not....
And so to Yarmouth last week. I normally work at least one of the three days but not this year, it was something of a well-needed break after, er, the break I'd had the week before in Cornwall. The weather was not kind, with a very stiff breeze on both the Tuesday and Wednesday that was right into their faces up the home straight. Plenty of plastic garden furniture went flying, including one old boy who got up to pour himself a tea out of his flask, only to watch his chair disappear from under him and head towards the furlong marker as he did. Thankfully it missed everyone but it could have been nasty. The results were stupendous on the Tuesday and I know of at least one firm that caught sight of a couple of Newmarket faces quietly backing the 25-1 newcomer Cross The Tracks in the ring and cottoned on pretty quickly it ought to be a runner; they won over £2k for themselves on the race. That pretty much makes your week, unless you absolutely do it wrong for the next two days. I'm pleased to say they didn't and won well across the Festival.
I thought the maidens/novices on the Tuesday weren't that great but the Wednesday was a different kettle of fish. The Goldolphin pair that won their respective races, Romantic Style and Edge Of Blue, were both very nice horses physically and should do well, but at the end of the piece today I'll point you in the direction of a couple that might not be stars but should win a race or two next year.
Punters definitely got a bit back on the last two days and a few books that were crowing after the Tuesday were a little quieter by the middle of the final afternoon. There was a double-figure winner on the Thursday but that aside, on an eight-race card the biggest winner was a 9-2 chance. I won a bit on the week, mainly down to the away meetings at Beverley and Uttoxeter rather than anything I backed at Yarmouth, but I couldn't help feel the whole meeting lacked the fun that previous years had. I think I might give it a miss next year and just take the new Mrs Massey away for a week somewhere nice. I hear Kelso is lovely around this time of the year...
Anyway, to finish off with, here's the two I've put in the tracker labelled "Future Handicaps".
Apeeling (Andrew Balding) is well-named, as she did indeed make plenty of appeal on looks and the dam, Satsuma, has produced a few useful sprint winners. However, she doesn't have the stamp of a sprinter - not yet, anyway, she's quite long-backed and has length rather than power and maybe 7f might be her thing. She's time to fill out but her second to the impressive Romantic Feeling was a big step in the right direction and was no fluke. She should be up to winning races.
Gamblers Kitty (Chris Dwyer) already has the size of a three-year-old: he's not only lengthy but tall with it and hasn't filled his frame out yet. He behaved well pre-race but was very green in the race itself, having little idea until the penny dropped very late and, once it did, he stayed on nicely under hands-and-heels to finish fifth to Cross The Tracks. There's plenty to come from him and he's definitely worth monitoring with next year in mind.