Thursday, 27 March 2014

It's Cartmel Races - Let's Celebrate!

Never before have we sold so many tickets to the races at this time of year. The first meeting isn't until the Whitsun Bank Holiday in May, but the Louis Roederer Restaurant, on the first floor of the Grandstand, is already fully sold on two out of the seven racedays and 2014 is clearly going to be a year of celebrations. As Kool and the Gang sang in 1980:

“There's a party goin' on right here
A celebration to last throughout the years
So bring your good times and your laughter too
We gonna celebrate your party with you”

To help celebrate your party, we’re going to give away a case of Louis Roederer Champagne – a bottle each for twelve lucky customers who have booked tickets or hospitality before the Easter Holiday. So if you haven’t booked your tickets yet, get online or call us in the office as soon as possible to ensure that your name is put in the hat. If you’ve already purchased tickets – don’t worry, your name’s already in.

Pitches for the new camping area, at the south end of the Course Enclosure, have been incredibly popular - although we still have a few spaces available for all racedays with the exception of Saturday 24th May. We’ve also got plenty of space available in the new Conservatory Restaurant, which will replace Chasers Restaurant and will be located close to the Grandstand in the Paddock Enclosure.

As always, there will be plenty of general admission tickets available for all racedays on the day, although there is a £2 saving on all tickets purchased in advance.

Joining the party at the August Bank Holiday Meeting will be William Hill bookmakers, who will be celebrating their 80th birthday in 2014. The staff of William Hill will be just one of many groups celebrating significant anniversaries at the races, although they have also generously agreed to sponsor a brand new feature race for us – which is set to become the highest quality racing event ever staged at Cartmel. So even if it isn’t your birthday, there’ll be lots of reasons for you to celebrate too.

If you’d like to celebrate a winner this weekend, you could do worse than look up a previous Cartmel winner, Benbens, who is entered at Stratford on Saturday. The Gary Moore trained Fruity O’Rooney may rate as the biggest danger in the same race.

So come on now…  “Celebration..

It's time to come together
It's up to you, what's your pleasure?
Everyone around the world come on!”

N.B. If you know anyone who'd like to order tickets and qualify for our Champagne Draw - don't hesitate to share this blog-post by e-mail, twitter or facebook. 

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Betting on a Big Budget Benefit

It takes a special type of talent to tip as many losing horses as I do. And then to advise the purchase of bookmaker shares in a week in which the market value of Ladbrokes dropped 20%... well, what can I say: there is a reason why I have to work for a living. 

If you haven’t bought any bookmaker shares yet, I’d suggest that you do now. It may sound like the desperate voice of a gambler chasing his losses, but there are sound reasons for believing that the betting industry will prosper in the months to come. Firstly, it was a fantastic Cheltenham Festival for bookmakers – they won’t have finished counting their profits yet. 

Secondly, the catalyst for the precipitous fall was the Chancellor’s announcement that he’d be increasing tax on fixed-odds gambling machines in shops from 20% to 25%. However, the stock-market had already built in a healthy discount to allow for the Government placing additional constraints on these machines – either a reduction in their numbers or lower limits on the prizes offered. Now that the Government is increasing their tax-take, it is difficult to imagine them attempting to discourage their use any further.

The Chancellor also had some welcome news for the racing industry: announcing that he would “extend the Horserace Betting Levy to bookmakers who are based offshore”. It is estimated that the racing industry currently loses out on Levy receipts worth approximately £20 million through the use of off-shore betting services provided to UK based customers. That money will go a long way towards improving prize funds throughout the industry, which in turn filters through to racehorse trainers, breeders, stable staff and many small rural employers such as farriers, vets and feed merchants.

While some prominent betting companies already pay a voluntary contribution to the Levy, to compensate for the offshore shortage, the proposed levy reform will impact hardest on the remote betting operations of brands that don’t operate from the High Street and have never contributed to the prosperity of the horse racing industry. The budget announcement may have looked like a blood-bath for bookmakers, but don’t expect the major brands to lose out in the long-term – the long-overdue overhaul of the Levy will create an environment in which the racing and betting industries can work together with a common purpose. 

There wasn’t a lot of news in the budget with regard to the Married Couples Allowance, but the Chancellor has indicated previously that a scheme would be put in place before the next election. So if you want to get ahead of the game, now might be a good time to plan a wedding – and coincidentally, we shall be hosting a Wedding Fayre in the Grandstand on Sunday 30th March. If you’d like to come and look around our beautiful venue and meet some of the best local suppliers of food, flowers, photography and more – please come along between 1.00pm and 4.00pm. 

Finally, for those who haven’t completely lost faith, boost your budget with this week’s selection: Lie Forrit at Kelso on Saturday.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

The Cheltenham & Cartmel Pension Plan

As per normal for the month of March, I’ve invested every available penny on the horses at Cheltenham. Now it’s time to invest every penny that isn’t available too. 

As you’ll be aware by now, the Government is keen to ensure that every person in Britain prepares for old-age by paying into a personal pension plan. I won’t be able to get my hands on this money until Cheltenham 2034 - and my pension provider tells me that there is no way to put it all on Morning Royalty in the County Hurdle on Friday either.  

So I’m going to use a SIPP (Self Invested Personal Pension) as a vehicle to purchase shares in the betting industry instead. Shares in the high-street chains have been hit recently due to a combination of political factors. While they will soon have to pay a point-of-consumption tax on bets taken outside the shops from punters using their phones and internet devices, they are also under significant pressure to deal with “problem gambling” - particularly to ameliorate the risk of individuals becoming addicted to casino-type gaming machines.

I’ve visited virtually every flavour of betting shop within the last seven days and it is impossible not to notice the posters telling us to “Stay In Control” – even though every punter I know is getting over-excited and yelling “It’s Cheltenham – time to let go!” There are also pleasant ladies strolling the shop-floor to give helpful advice and spot potential problems. 

I’d like to think that, if I had walked into a shop on Tuesday with a carrier bag containing £10,000 to place on Hurricane Fly, one of those nice ladies might have taken me to one side and asked “Are you sure that is a good idea?” As it is, I didn’t try – I followed Arthur Moore’s advice from the Cartmel Preview Panel and had £3 on Jezki instead.

While bookmakers expect to accept £250 million of bets on Cheltenham this week, they are evidently taking their social responsibilities seriously. I suspect the results are going their way too – which makes Ladbrokes seriously undervalued at £1.60 a share (they were 50% higher at £2.40 a share this time last year) and William Hill good value at £3.83, more than £1 off their highest point in the last 12 months. 

I’ll be using the cash in my pocket to  back Knockara Beau at 66/1 each way in the Gold Cup. I love this horse and there’s no point in backing anything else if every strand of your heart wants to see him in front at the line. If he wins, the bookies will be laughing as he’s probably the least fancied horse in the race. And if he loses – well at least the pension gets a boost.  

Friday, 7 March 2014

Cheltenham Festival Preview Night - the Selections

I know, I know. You've clicked on to the blog because you need to know what Jimmy Moffatt had to say about Morning Royalty in the County Hurdle.

Hmmm. Should I tell you or should I not. You see you should really have been there - we had oodles of great information from the four expert panellists. Not all of it should be given away quite so easily...

Oh okay. Jimmy is obviously having palpitations, caused by being unsure whether his horse is high enough in the weights to secure a place in Friday's line-up. He's even phoned the BHA's handicapper to ask his opinion and the general consensus is: "yes", he should get a run.

You may be able to back him at 66/1, but Jimmy is pleased with the horse's wellbeing, believes that the strong pace is likely to be an assistance, is confident that the track will suit him well and thinks he is excellent value considering his strong run behind Melodic Rendezvous at Haydock.

Incidentally, we were informed by Marten Julian that John Francome fancies Melodic Rendezvous for the Champion Hurdle - and if he obliges on Tuesday, I don't suppose the 66/1 will last very long.

Marten didn't actually fancy Melodic Rendezvous himself. In fact, if I recall correctly, I don't think he was sure who he fancied - but he kept saying what an interesting race it was. I think he quite liked Our Conor - but he wasn't one of his three big bets of the meeting.

Arthur Moore flew all the way in from Ireland to tell us that Jessie Harrington is very happy with Jezki... and that Jezki might be very happy with the booking of Barry Geraghty as his jockey in the Champion Hurdle. Possibly happier than if he was going to be ridden by AP McCoy - who has been beaten on him during both his last two runs. Barry and Jezki have an unbeaten partnership of four. Interesting that. Who'd have thought?

Arthur suggested that we should back Cause Of Causes (wherever he runs), any horse trained by Willie Mullins in the Bumper and any horse sired by Midnight Legend in the handicap chases. He was also very enthusiastic about Foxrock in the Terry Biddlecome National Hunt Chase.

Brian Harding thought Clondaw Kaempfer might have been laid out for the Coral Cup, as did  Marten. He also strongly fancied Balthazar King in the Cross Country Chase - which may not be everyone's cup of tea, but a winner's a winner whatever the race is.

While Brian and Jimmy opted for Smad Place in the RSA Novices Chase, Marten nominated Morning Assembly as his charity bet in the same race - one of his big three.

Some people still believe that Big Bucks can win the World Hurdle. Amazing! Strangely, no one gave a favourable mention to At Fishers Cross - which makes me wonder if any of the panel knew what they were talking about at all. It was Annie Power, though, who received the most plaudits and there was a bit of encouragement for Zarkander.

On the final day, Jimmy was confident we'd get off to a winner with Broughton in the Triumph Hurdle - and we could play up our winnings with Silviniaco Conti in the Gold Cup. Marten gave us another 3-star bet with Kings Palace in the Albert Bartlett - and then suggested an each way interest on Triolo D'Alene in the Gold Cup. No one mentioned Knockara Beau. I wonder why?

Brian thought we might question his sanity if he tipped Mr Mole in the final race of the meeting, the Grand Annual Steeplechase. But he did it anyway. And then Marten Julian did too! All of which makes me think that perhaps we invited the wrong people...

They didn't tip Menorah in the Ryanair either - but that'll just make the price better for the rest of us.

And Marten's other "top bet"? Oh... dash, I've run out of space. You should have been there.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Two Trainers, a Jockey and Some Hairy Bikers

Bring your autograph pads, don your best outfits, hold your camera-phones at the ready - celebrities are descending on the Cartmel peninsula. As I write, the busy racecourse team (Pam and Naomi) is preparing for the panel of experts attending our annual Cheltenham Festival Preview Night. Meanwhile, my colleagues down the road at Holker Hall (the home of Lord Cavendish) are planning a gala dinner which will be hosted by the hairy biker and dancer Dave Myers, on Friday 28th March. 

The gala event is being staged in order to raise funds for St Marys Hospice in Ulverston and Casa Familiala Madre Colomba, an orphanage in Romania. In addition to a mouth-watering menu planned by Dave Myers, there will be dancing, magical entertainment and we are even expecting Dave’s BBC co-presenter Simon King (the other hairy biker) to join the party. Tickets can be secured for £75 and you might even find yourself sitting next to me. For an additional donation, of £20, you can request a seat that isn’t on the Racecourse Manager’s table. Call 015395 53907 and speak to Sam. 

We’re trying to raise some funds for St Mary’s Hospice at the Preview Night too. Our expert tipsters have been given £100 of charity bets to place on the horses of their choice. All winnings will be paid to the Hospice and we hope that they will be considerable. That, of course, will be down to the panel which includes two festival-winning trainers, a festival-winning jockey and a bloke who looks a bit like one of the hairy bikers. 

He may not thank me for the comparison, but the form expert Marten Julian has quite a bit of facial hair; I don’t know if he can cook or dance – perhaps that will be one of tonight’s questions. Regardless, he always comes armed with excellent stable-intelligence and his own distinct views on the fancied runners. 

Arthur Moore, the Irish trainer, has prepared many Cheltenham winners including Drumgora and Klairon Davies in the Queen Mother Champion Chase. I’m hopeful that he’ll give us the inside line on some of the Irish challengers, including his own Sea Beat – who is among the favourites for the Fred Winter Juvenile Hurdle. Brian Harding rode One Man to win the Queen Mother Champion Chase in 1998 and has another interesting book of rides next week. If you want to find out what they say, you’ll have to come along (hurry - it's Thursday 6th March, 7.00pm) or read the special "Cheltenham Edition" of the “Cartmel Blogspot” this weekend. 

Jimmy Moffatt is our local man and I am expecting him to tell us that Morning Royalty has been secretly sold by owner Eileen Milligan to JP McManus and will be ridden by Tony McCoy in the County Hurdle having been backed to win millions. He probably won’t, but I’m going to have £1 each way on him now, at 66/1,  just in case.