EDWARDSTONE (Tom Cannon) wins The Betfair Tingle Creek Chase Sandown 3 Dec 2022 - Pic Steven Cargill / Racingfotos.com

Roving Reports: The Going’s Hard in Places

After a month of sand action, it's been good these past couple of weeks to get out and about, and it does feel as if spring is just around the corner now, writes David Massey.

Having said that, I write this as we've just endured another week of frost and fog; although, thankfully, we've only lost a couple of fixtures to the weather, and it looks like relenting completely in time for Newbury and Warwick this weekend. Warwick will be my stop-off, but for the time being here's the latest update on where I've been.

Cheltenham's nine-race card saw me in attendance to do paddock notes and pick up some pointers for the Festival; and I can tell you that of all those I saw, Edwardstone was the one I thought would come on most for the run. The trainer seemed happy enough afterwards, too, and he's the one to beat in the Champion Chase for me.

After the weekend's action from Dublin, this looks one of the most open Festivals for many a year. Normally, about this sort of time, you're formulating ideas about the likely ones for the Grade 1 contests but, Constitution Hill aside, I do think plenty of the other races are up in the air to varying degrees. That can only be a good thing, right?

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Anyway, I digress. February is officially Bookmaker Holiday month and plenty from around here disappear off to foreign climes for a few weeks, coming back refreshed in time for the Festival. It means that I'm stepping into the breach for much of the month to work places I wouldn't normally, and that started off with Fakenham last week.

I've extolled the virtues of Fakenham in many an article over the years and, once again, it didn't disappoint. I worked the rail for S&D and it was steady, if smallish, business all afternoon. That's the beauty of Fakenham, everyone has a bet, even if it's just a couple of quid, as they all have their favourites that run at the track. Whilst the days of Cool Roxy are behind us now, there are still the course specialists around, and you can guarantee there will be money for them.

Speaking of money flying around the ring, a certain trainer could be seen backing his Dev Of Tara before the first and we copped for a monkey's worth of it at 4-1, only to watch the price collapse before our eyes. It duly won pulling a bus, and that rather set the tone for the day. We couldn't get them off Ben Buie in the next - I think literally every member of the partnership that owned him was there - and him winning actually left us short on cash for the rest of the day. Three of the next four favourites winning did not help our cause, but Cloudy Wednesday was barely backed (it was a Thursday, after all) and ensured the day wasn't a total write-off. I went to buy some lemon drizzle and a couple of sausage rolls from the home-made cake stall at the end of the day to make things complete. Fakenham's that sort of a place. You really should go. [Hear hear, Ed.]

Saturday saw an early start (up at half six, lovely) to get to Sandown to work for MT Racing. Normally you don't have to go so early but on Saturdays the pick time - when you decide where you'll stand and bet for the day - is earlier than it is in the week, and at Sandown it's 90 minutes before the first race. That means an 11.05 kick-off. Needless to say it is quiet early on, and an odds-on jolly in the first doesn't help us. I take a £100 forecast on the jolly to beat the second-in at 7-4, which seems a very fair price to me. Other than that, business is very slow, but we assume it'll improve as the day goes on.

We are wrong, very wrong. The rugby on at Twickenham later in the afternoon has killed it stone dead. I have never seen Sandown so quiet on a Saturday. That winning £100 bet on the forecast is the biggest bet I'll take all day. Actually that's not true - he had the whole £275 back on Twinjets in the next, and that gets beat, but that's it. A Saturday at the biggest meeting, on the front row, and we don't take 300 bets all day. The results are irrelevant as we aren't taking enough. At the end of the day we've just about covered the expenses. A 14-hour day, if you include travel time, for nowt. Surely things will be better at Hereford tomorrow?

A later start means I'm not up at the crack of dawn, but it's a good job we always leave plenty of time as around ten miles outside of Hereford, we encounter what appears to be some sort of protest. Tractors are blocking the road, about 20 of them, on a go slow. We're crawling along at 9mph and do so for about three miles. Thankfully, from our point of view, they turn off and we can continue our journey without further delay.

When we get to Hereford, the sun is out and it looks a bit busier than Sandown did. It's very much a family day. Boys with footballs, girls doing cartwheels. That sort of a day. It means we'll take money but it won't be big money. Still, if you take enough you can work with it, so we are hopeful. Again.

For the second day, it's misplaced hope. It turns out many are just here for the sunshine and a day out. A few back the first winner, Amidnightstar, trained by James Evans, at 40-1 with us. James was the first person I bumped into on arrival at the track. He could have let me know. Anyway, that's a winning race to start with, but it'll just about be the only one, with the next four winners all well backed.

I've got an Irish lad, here with his family, betting with me, having about £80 a race on. He asks for some 15-2 Lily Glitters despite it being 13-2 on my board but as he's been betting with me all afternoon, his loyalty is rewarded and I lay him £60 ew. He's delighted when it wins and as a thank you he gives me a score for a drink when he picks up. I like this guy. I split the twenty with Martin, who is working with me today, as that's the fair thing to do.

We bet without the odds-on jolly in the last but what money we take is for the winner Out Of Focus, so that's no good either. For the second day this weekend, we've just about covered the expenses at the end of the day. A total of 550 miles, ten hours on the road, for a grand profit of around a bullseye. Let's see if Warwick on Saturday and Southwell on Sunday prove any better...

- DM

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