Soul Sister and Frankie Dettori win the Tattersalls Musidora Stakes at York. 17/5/2023 Pic Steve Davies/Racingfotos.com

Roving Reports: The Month of May

Ah, the month of May. Those who like their speed of the four-wheeled rather than four-legged variety will tell you that means the Indy 500 and Monaco Grand Prix, writes David Massey. I haven't been to Monaco this month, but I did stay for five races at Market Rasen the other week, and that's very much the same.

For me, May means a first visit to York and in this case, a second one, last week, too. The initial one was for the Dante meeting and for all it's one of the summer Festivals it's not a particularly well-attended one and the Wednesday of the meeting was one of the quietest days I've known at the place.

That's not to say it was totally dead: business was okay but no more than that. It did give me a chance to have a quick chat to one or two people, including our esteemed editor, Matt Bisogno, looking like a million dollars in loose change in his suit and sunglasses [too kind, cheque in the post! - Ed.], and my good friend Emily. Emily and I have two things in common - a love of racing and a love of The Smiths, and the two of us went to see Morrissey in concert at Blackpool last year. I've not seen her since so it was great to catch up. Speaking of Blackpool, a long-term reader of mine, known only to me as Blackpool Jezza, introduced himself, too. Always great to meet the people that read this nonsense!

The racing? Well, it started off one of those days where, despite the big prices, punters seemed to have been told the winners as they came in. First race winner Scampi was the worst result for me on my side of the book, and Bielsa was no better in the sprint handicap.

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As ever at York, a bit of thought goes into the winner's music as they are brought back in, and "Leeds, Leeds, Leeds" comes over the PA as Bielsa is brought back in. We'll also get a blast of Leicester City fans as The Foxes returns after winning the Dante the following day. I'm less sure about football chanting as a suitable recompense for winning a Classic trial, but there we go.

Frankie. He can't pack up soon enough as far as the bookmakers are concerned. He could be riding a Skegness kids donkey and I guarantee you a dozen people would still back it, convinced he could somehow get it home in front. Soul Sister wins the Musidora by an easy four lengths and the only solace I can take is that, if this had been a Saturday card, the payout queue would have stretched back to Tadcaster.

Business is a little better on the Thursday and better again on the Friday, and results fairly kind. The biggest bet I take over the three days is a monkey on Broome in the Yorkshire Cup, and that never looks like copping. That rather shows level of business over the three days. Indeed, the moaning from the rails firms suggests that the ring was arguably better business than they saw.

York last Saturday was much better business. A two-hour pick (which means we take our positions at 11.35, not long after the course has actually opened the gates) meant an early start, but once prices go up just after 12 it feels busier.

There's an Irish band playing, but I have to say, with sun beating down, people out enjoying the day with a pint, I'm not sure whether The Fields Of Athenry is quite cutting it. If they were belting out a few Pogues numbers to get them going then fair enough, but whether a song about famine sets the right tone is open to debate.

Anyway, the first winner, Doctor Khan Junior, goes totally unbacked on my side of things, and I can't ever remember the first race at York throwing up a skinner.

By the way, how did we miss that? A Geoff Oldroyd winner in the Bond colours at York on the day the Reg Bond Handicap takes place at the end of the day? As my mate Joe pointed out to me as it sailed past the post in front, jabbing his finger at me, "as a tipster, isn't it your job to notice these things?" It is, and I hang my head in shame. We could have had a 28-1 winner if I'd been a bit more on the ball.

One thing you don't need on a Saturday is a withdrawn horse. The only way it could be worse is if it's the favourite. Well, The Line provides us with that nightmare scenario in the next. A 45p Rule 4 gets punters irate enough, but as ever, the announcement of the withdrawal gets totally lost over the PA and creates confusion.

How many times do I have to say this? To all racecourses - USE YOUR BIG SCREENS WHEN THESE OCCASIONS OCCUR. SHOW your customers what has happened, don't tell them, because half of them can't hear. As I write this on the Wednesday after the meeting, six of my punters are yet to collect their money back on the non-runner and I guess they aren't going to now.

At the same time I'm trying to explain to punters what's happened, I'm also fielding a call from Chester as our man at the track can't get wifi and can't take bets as a result. So I've punters chewing one ear off and a man with IT issues (and doesn't understand how wifi works) in the other. It wasn't the most fun 15 minutes of the day, let me tell you.

No sooner have I sorted his tech problem out than my own system goes down. Now I can't take bets either. I restart the system and it works, but only for a couple of minutes before it all goes down again. This is going to be a long job. I'm losing valuable betting time and punters are heading elsewhere. When I'm finally up and running they're going in the stalls. My take on that race is a third of what I took on the previous one. It's not going well.

River Of Stars is actually a good result in the Bronte and Starnberg an even better one in the handicap that follows. The laptop has another moment and basically I think everything is overheating, so I try and keep it all in the shade, which does seem to help. I'm overheating too, so it's off to the bar whilst the race is on to get some iced water.

You do not need to be a genius to work out what everyone wants to back in the last. Yes, to a man and a woman, Yorkshire, the short-priced and appropriately-named favourite, is the one that they want. When that's sunk without trace, I know it'll be a quick pack away after the last and we're in the car and heading home within half an hour. It must have been a good day as the boss comes out of the BP filling station with two Magnums for the journey home.

Next stop is the Derby. I have a feeling there may be things to report back with, if the news is to be believed. It'll be interesting to see what effect the train strike will have, if any. I'll tell you next time. I'm off to listen to some Chas 'N Dave to get me in the mood...

- DM

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