It’s half eight on a Monday and I’m setting off to Plumpton to finally meet up with the Goodwin lads, who have kindly asked me to write a few pieces for their website and I feel it’s only right and proper we have a catch up. Ideally I’d like Plumpton to be about 100 miles further North, but it is what it is, and I’m on my way.
On getting down there, it’s freezing cold and the wind is starting to get up, but that doesn’t dampen head honcho Julian’s spirits. He, like me, enjoys a trip to Plumpton (he’s also got pitches at Lingfield and Fontwell, he tells me) and is looking forward to a good day’s sport.
With him are Ben, his son, who runs the joint in the ring, and Saul, on the rails. Both lads clearly like their racing and for me that can only be a good thing. I do think you’ve got to have some passion for the game if you want to work in it, so the fact the two of them are already telling me about the bets they have laid in their Uckfield office this morning with some relish only goes to emphasise the point.
The two they’ve laid the most are two of Gary Moore’s horses. I suppose it’s only right and proper that a local trainer is the subject on two gambles in their local office. “They think they know which ones to get on, and which ones not to,” says Julian. “We’ll see if they’re right later.”
First race time comes around, and it looks a match on paper. The punters are only wanting the Paul Nicholls beast, Calva D’Auge, and an even monkey comes in early on. By off time the lads are praying the Henderson charge, Fraser Island, is the one to come out on top. Sadly for them, Calva D’Auge is always just doing enough to hold off their big winner. Not a great start.
Only four go to post for the Novice Chase that follows but the money, surprisingly, is all for outsider Moabit. There are no huge lumps coming in, but a steady stream of tenners and twenties sees it their biggest loser by some way at the off. “Anything but Moabit, please”, says Julian, and when Colorado Doc makes all to win, I’m thinking that’s a good result. But there’s a sting in the tale. Ben’s internet went down a couple of minutes before the off, and some of the bets from the ring pitch have only just come through to the book. And Ben’s laid the Doc near the off, so suddenly a winning race is a losing one. 2-0 to the railway shunters.
“It’s quiet today,” Linda on the Sam Harris rails pitch tells me. “I think they all thought it was going to be off, to be honest. The weather not 30 miles away was awful, and the assumption was that Plumpton wouldn’t survive. So people have basically written the day off.” Linda doesn’t mind though, she lives locally so it’s no bother to her. Not as local as Fontwell though, she tells me. “Love working there, I’m just six miles away!” Could get the bus in.
“Whenever Ding Ding wins here, there’s a queue”, Julian tells me. “They all back it, every time. A real punters favourite.” He’s not the only one attracting support – an early £1400-£100 e/w on The Game Is A Foot comes in, as does a £450-£100 on Paricolor. More ponies each-way for The Game Is A Foot sees that their worst loser at racetime and remarkably, the favourite Hawthorn Cottage winning, is a great result. “Just couldn’t lay it at all, so we kept it.” A much better result and now they are back in it.
I’m keen to take on Le Coeur Net in the next myself and so are the punters. Prices haven’t been up long before a £1000-£200 on Tara Bridge is taken, as does a £1000-£80 Away For Slates. Then the local avalanche for Finnegan’s Garden starts. “It’s another local horse they all back”, moans Saul. And as one by one the opposition falls away, leaving just one to beat, Finnegan’s Garden comes home well in front to the cheers of the crowds. The queues are long and, for the lads, painful. Another big losing race, although that’s one of the two Moore office gambles in Elisezmoi sunk, which helps soften the blow.
They need some results and they need them quick. There’s no big money around in the long-distance handicap hurdle that follows – £600-£100 Little Boy Boru the only bet of note – but again, it’s a local favourite in The Tin Miner that gets the treatment from the crowd and when he’s pulled up, it’s going to be a winning race. Age Of Wisdom does enough to hold off Velvet Cognac and the lads finally get one back.
The weather is getting worse, with the wind picking up again. “Very quiet business, but results are alright,” says John on the Sid Hooper pitch. The crowd is a lot less than what it was at the start of the day, that’s for sure.
Going into the last and, if you factor in expenses, they’re still behind. The early jousts see Lady Chartreuse well backed – a £400-£100 and a £480-£120 are both taken, but then a £1200-£400 Dylan’s Sea Song is placed late and that’s the big loser in the book. With Dylan’s beaten with a circuit to go, and Lady Chartreuse going nowhere quickly after, it’s just a matter of how much they’ll win. Amlovi wins on the bridle and it’s just about the best result in the book. “Been worth coming after all!” jokes Julian, suddenly looking a lot happier. “Can pay the staff now.” I’m sure they’ll be delighted to hear it! One of those days where everyone goes home happy, I think. The punters have had their winners and so have the books. Honours even, and smiles all round. Time for the long trip back home. See you at Fontwell in the summer, lads…