Tanya Stevenson
Tanya Stevenson's Racing UK Blog
Friday 16th May 2014

Bonanza for punters does not always mean the same for bookies

Aintree, Hamilton, Newbury, Newmarket and York all race today. The first two host evening meetings and whichever way you look at it there is a bonanza on .  

While you are enjoying the fabulous action, spare a thought for the on-course bookmakers – it is at this time of the year when the fixture list starts to become congested and their devotion to duty is tested to the limit.

I know of some on-course boys and girls who have pitches at four of the five meetings - the majority can at least lay claim to ownership of pitches at two.  Geographically it is pretty easy to figure out a plan of attack but with the on-course breed edging ever closer to becoming an endangered species should we be taking note?

It is a fair argument to state that these meetings have been laid out in the fixture list for months, so you may ask what exactly is the problem? Wrong.

A long time ago before pitches were bought and sold there were waiting lists. These lists gave people like myself hope that one day we might be able to bet in Tattersalls at the big meetings.

Once that dream was fulfilled it meant that we could move further up the lines to more prominent positions where the turnover was better. You could then bet to more competitive percentages, also, rather than wear a mask betting to 130%, or worse, to cover expenses and maybe even show a profit. In these times the waiting lists were endless.

So if a course had allocation of 60 pitches, more often than not 60 would turn up and those on the list at 61 and beyond were left to rue their luck, whinge to their colleagues and hope there was room at a 'lesser' meeting.

Others would simply wait for the annual delivery of the post to see how far, if at all, they had moved up.  It was a case of 'dead man's shoes'.

Then came the buying and selling of pitches, where, in hindsight, most of the sensible ones, or a good proportion of bookmakers, sold out. Those who could juggle figures more speedily than Carol Vordeman and Rachel Riley were to become a distant memory. I’m talking of the clerks, as well as those on the stools or wooden boxes. Remember them? It's called progress.

The relevant point to the present day was that once the pitch auctions were introduced, those on the-then infinite waiting list had a chance to make their 'dream' a reality. So they took the plunge and bought pitches, reducing an infinite line to one which was still rather large.

Once the first wave of purchasers had settled in to their newly-found positions they either found the going was good, or soon also had the 'for sale' sign up. 

These poorer pitches were easily exposed, and as a result pitch values deteriorated and those previously on a waiting list realised there were no rainbows in the betting ring, let alone a pot of gold. 

Thus betting rings, which used to boast four lines of bookmakers, are now reduced to two at best, the big Festivals apart.

Many have just one long line now, and some even comprise just a handful of layers.

Betting rings do not need any further help to shrink – when was the last time you heard, “When I grow up I want to be an on-course bookmaker”? 


So to the point. With so many meetings on today, and just like the rest of us, bookmakers do not have an infinite number of family members, or freelancers, who can live off a handful of working days during the summer. 

How on earth do bookmakers calculate the logistics of sending their skeletal staff to which courses? The answer frequently is: they don't. They stick to what they know, which is staying at the big meetings. That means York on Friday.

Who suffers from all of this? Well, we all do in many different ways. The problem with all of this is that it is often filed in the ‘too difficult tray’, whereas it should be put in the ‘urgent’ tray.

There is no use for laying blame on anybody for this. It is a waste of time and energy. We should all be focusing on finding a solution.  

Last year 98 bookmakers were believed to have attended Dante day at York. On Thursday I counted 83, but that did not include the centre of course.

The reason for all my thoughts on the ring is because it is where I grew up, and where I love to be. he camaraderie and the banter is still there, and I just love being a part of it.  The ring is a key aspect of racing’s heritage in this country. Let’s hope it doesn’t become part of folklore!

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Tanya Stevenson's Friday tips:

2.15 York: Chancery at 8-1 with Ladbrokes

2.45 York: Tac De Boistron at 4-1 with BetVictor

Tanya Stevenson's Friday pointers:

1.45 York:                                                                   

Eight of the nine winners had won on their previous start

Eight of the last nine winners were priced 7-1 or shorter, five of them were favourites

2.15 York:

Seven of the last nine winners were aged five

Eight of the last ten winners have been drawn in single figure stalls

Only two of the last ten winners were priced in double figures, despite that only three favourites have obliged

2.45 York - Yorkshire Cup:

Eight of the last ten winners were beaten on their last run

None of the last ten winners had won on their most recent run

None of the last ten winners had more than one run in the current campaign

Eight of the last ten winners came from the first four in the betting

3.15 York:

The biggest price of the seven winners was 15-2

Six of the eight winners had been beaten on their previous start

2.00 Newbury

Eight of the last ten winners came from the first three in the betting

William Hill