When a small collective of punters placed a speculative 532/1 double on a low-key afternoon of sporting action on Monday, the bookies – chiefly Paddy Power, who took the bulk of the bets – probably thought nothing more of it.
The wagers were placed on the evening schedule of racing at Tramore, with the 12/1 hopeful Tornado Watch running in the Becks Lager Handicap Hurdle followed by 40/1 jolly Sunday at Augusta in the Bulmers Cider INH Flat Race.
There’s nothing unusual in punters hoping a pair of long shots will hack up in low-quality renewals, but what was unusual here was the increasing regularity – and size – of wager being placed. Speculative £100 bets were being placed which would return liabilities of £50,000 a time….and for once, the bookies were running scared. The odds on the pair were slashed in the build-up to the evening’s meeting, but by then the damage had largely been done.
Paddy Power’s spokesman, Paul Binfield, said: “They’ve come for the double. We were 40-1 about Sunday at Augusta and he’s now 15-8. We’ve seen a few singles for Sunday at Augusta, but it’s mainly the double and it will take our pants down. It’s over six figures.”
Coral’s David Stevens was less emotive, but certainly fearful of what was to follow. “These are races that we would typically trade carefully when the market was first up, and while we laid a couple of bets on the double early doors, it was nothing of any great note, and clearly at the bigger prices available earlier, it only takes a small amount to build up liabilities,” he said.
“While there is always a snowball effect to these things, it doesn’t appear we’re on the end of a widespread coup.”
The Plot Thickens
Those last words from Coral’s spokesman are interesting, because when big money bets are placed on such perceived outsiders it sets the cynics off chattering. Why were they betting on these no-hopers? Did they have inside information?
The jury remains out on that, although Tornado Watch’s trainer, Emmet Mullins, was certainly none the wiser. When asked by the Racing Post about the big money bets, the nephew of the pre-eminent Willie said “I haven’t had any money on it any way, I don’t know any more about it than you do. You’re the one telling me about the gamble, I don’t know anything about it.”
The Irishman was in more dynamic mood later in the day when Tornado Watch, as many now expected, coasted home to win handicap hurdle and set about the potential of the bookmakers well and truly being de-trousered. The first leg of the double was in.
”It took us a few runs to figure him out. We were disappointed with him at Naas the last day as we thought he’d go a bit better,” Mullins said.
“It was only coming home and looking back at all of his form, every time he’s won, it was going right-handed.
“The two runs he had for us were both left-handed so I think that’s been something we thought might be something of an advantage so thankfully it worked out.”
Blue Monday for the Bookies?
All eyes were on Sunday at Augusta in the 19:50, then.
Just four horses took to the stalls with Sweat Equity a late non-runner. You can bet the bookies were sweating as they came under starter’s orders.
Sunday at Augusta didn’t run a strong race and was held up in the early going, but by the final furlong was putting plenty of pressure on the leader, Cuneo.
If the race had gone on a few more furlongs then Mullins’ horse would surely have taken the spoils….but he couldn’t quite do enough as they reached the finish line and Cuneo took the win by two-and-a-bit lengths. Sunday at Augusta, in to 5/2 from 40/1 in a matter of hours, had to settle for second.
And the bookmakers breathed a huge sigh of relief!