Roving Reports

Roving Reports: The Rover Returns to Rolleston

When Matt was kind enough to ask me to write these articles last year, we couldn't think of a name we could file them all under. Until Matt came up with "Roving Reports", that is, which seemed to fit the bill nicely. I rove around, I report on what I've seen and done. Easy.

I've decided that works fine in the summer, but the cold snap means this is most definitely an un-roving report, coming mainly as it does from my runs to Southwell and back this January. That's not my fault, of course. Plan A was to go to Lingfield for the Winter Million last weekend and take in Ascot on the Saturday for the Clarence House. That went west pretty quickly, and so Plan B was to go to Revesby Point-to-Point, near Boston in Lincolnshire, on the Saturday, drive to Hunstanton after and do Fakenham on the Sunday.

That plan looked quite a rosy one. There were no problems at Revesby, I was informed, and videos coming from the track of the clerk's stick going easily in to the turf and of the race cards being printed off all looked most promising.

Indeed, so confident was I of it going ahead that, when offered 4-5 about the fixture being on by David Johnson at Southwell one day last week I immediately shoved two £20 notes in his hand. By Friday morning he knew he'd done his money; by Friday afternoon he had my forty quid safely in his pocket after an inspection at the track revealed a small shaded area where the frost hadn't come out, and it was off. Another twenty minutes after that Fakenham's Sunday card bit the dust. £40 worse off and now with nowhere to go. The good lady suggested Saturday might be a good time to go buy a new sofa, which we badly need. We did, and I'm now considerably worse off than the forty notes I lost to Dave, although I can at least look forward to sitting down and not getting a broken spring up my backside.

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So it's been Southwell that's kept the show on the road for me this month and, as ever, I've worked all the fixtures for Rob and the S&D firm. The attendance at these fixtures has been like chalk and cheese. The afternoon fixtures haven't been so bad, and there are enough punters around, albeit usually to small to medium money, to make it worthwhile. The night fixtures are a different animal, though. Last Wednesday (the 18th) was about as bad as it got. An initial small crowd dwindled as the evening went on, and I didn't strike a single bet for the last two races. In total I took 28 bets on my joint for the whole evening. 27 of those bets were small bets, and one was a bet of £1000 each way on one that was unplaced, giving me an average bet size for the night of £86. This, as I've said before, is the problem as a bookmaker at these meetings, there's not enough money to work around a big bet when you take one, so you just lay a bit off and get the prayer mat out. On this occasion, they were answered, but we aren't always so lucky.

However, the night before, the Tuesday, was incredible. Again a smallish crowd but the money was flying around thanks to about half a dozen punters who turned up out of the blue and just fancied having a go. They all wanted The Tron each-way in the second, and did no damage as it came second, but the fourth race was one of the liveliest heats I've seen in a while. First the money came for the winner, Nolton Cross, with a £100 and then a £200 bet in early, then they couldn't get enough of Blow Your Horn, with a £1000, a £400 and three £200 bets all taken. Rob can't keep pace. "Stop laying it!!" he yells across the ring at me. I remind him after I'm just the slave pitch and not the one controlling the price of it...

Anyway, it never looks like winning and despite laying the winner twice, we get out of jail on the race. Not often you lay £300 worth of bets on an 11-2 winner and call it a good result, but there we go. A trip to the paddock for the novice, up next, reveals the 4-11 jolly isn't anything to be frightened of, and that gets a good striping which is just as well, as we get that beat too. The punters have one last crack at getting it back on the short-priced Walking On Clouds in the next and when that's sunk, so are they. It's been a good night for the books, less so if you're on the other side of the fence.

Sensibly, we only bet the last ten minutes for the night meetings at Southwell. By that I mean if the race is off at 7pm, say, we won't go up with prices until 6.50pm. There's simply not enough people around to justify standing about for half an hour between each race, and this enables us to have a cup of tea, a loo break, and a chat about the next and what we fancy. This can result in some dangerous talk - see earlier about me losing £40 to Dave in an idle moment - but mostly it's all good-natured banter about how well/badly the evening is going. It's also about what flavour the tea-bar soup is, with tomato-and-something usually favourite, although curried parsnip is a shorter price with each passing fixture. I think we've had it five times in January already, and there's still a week to go.

Tonight, as I write this (Tuesday) we've another evening meeting. Sellers at 40 regarding how many bets I take could well be in clover come half eight.

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Look, Cheltenham are, and I quote, "fairly hopeful" of racing on Saturday. So I'll see you all there, yes? If it's off, we might be looking for some chairs to go with the sofa...

- David Massey

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4 replies
    PAUL EBREY says:

    great piece as always Dave, you do worry the authorities are running these small meetings into the ground like Greyhound meetings. 28 bets in 1 night, who’d be a bookie?

    • Dave Massey
      Dave Massey says:

      Rolleston is the actual venue – Southwell is the town nearby (technically a city, Craig, as the Minster makes it a city rather than a town) but Rolleston is the actaul village next door!

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