Ripon launches ‘in-house’ pool betting system to replace the Tote

Racegoers at Ripon will no longer be able to place pool bets with the Tote when the track’s new season opens in April after its management decided to launch an “in-house” alternative based on the starting prices of winners. Ripon’s decision follows a lead set by Chester and Bangor, which pioneered an identical system with considerable success last year.

The Tote, known as “the nanny goat” in rhyming slang, has been owned by the BetFred bookmaking chain since the summer of 2011, when it was granted a seven-year monopoly on pool betting. Racecourses are not obliged to let it operate on their property, however, and at least a dozen tracks are believed to have explored the possibility of taking control of betting at windows around the course and via hand-held terminals in restaurants and bars, in order to keep a greater share of the profits.

Several of these courses were bound by an earlier contract with Racecourse Media Group, which manages the media and betting rights of 33 tracks and completed a blanket deal in early January to retain pool betting until 2018. Ripon, however, is free to do its own deal, and expects significant benefits as a result.

“[The Tote] did slightly improve their offer but not to the extent that we felt they could have done,” Ripon’s managing director, James Hutchinson, said on Monday, “and the offer on the table from Data Tote [which will supply and run the betting system] was a very compelling one in terms of both the financial return and the service to customers.

“We would probably be looking at about a 20% increase [in revenue from betting]. It’s a return to the company which we can put back into prize money or facilities in order to keep improving the service and experience for all our customers, from owners and trainers to general public admissions.

“We are an independent course and that is probably why we were able to make the decision a little more easily than a lot of courses. I’m aware that a lot of the RMG courses were locked into a contract negotiation with Totepool and weren’t able to look at alternatives.”

Frankel will have a book of mares which includes nearly 60 mares that either won a Group One race or have produced a Group One winner when he begins his stallion career at Banstead Manor Stud near Newmarket, possibly as early as this week.

Group One-winning mares booked to be covered by the son of Galileo, who retired unbeaten after 14 races at the end of the 2012 Flat season, include Dar Re Mi, Dancing Rain, Midday, Giofra, Alexander Goldrun, Stacelita, Timepiece and the Japanese champion, Vodka.

Wincanton has had to abandon the chases at its meeting on Saturday due to waterlogging and will stage an all-hurdle card, including the Kingwell Hurdle, the last significant trial for the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham next month. The Kingwell has been re-opened until Tuesday morning, however, after it failed to attract sufficient entries at the five-day stage.

Several former winners at the Cheltenham Festival, including Finian’s Rainbow, Captain Chris, Cue Card and Alberta’s Run, are among the possible runners in the Betfair Ascot Chase on Saturday.

Finian’s Rainbow took the Queen Mother Champion Chase at last season’s Festival meeting but was beaten behind Captain Chris on his only start this season, at Ascot in November. Captain Chris has since finished second in the King George VI Chase, a race in which Cue Card appeared to lack the stamina for the three-mile trip. Saturday’s race is staged over two miles and five-and-a-half furlongs, and Cue Card is joint-favourite at 3-1 with Captain Chris in Betfair’s fixed-odds betting. Finian’s Rainbow is 7-2, with Somersby on 7-1, while Alberta’s Run, a dual winner of the Festival’s Ryanair Chase, is an 8-1 chance to make a successful seasonal debut.

Puffin Billy suffers infection

Puffin Billy, who finished only second when odds-on for a Listed hurdle at Exeter on Sunday, has been found to be suffering from an infection in his foot.

“My farrier dug out a whole load of pus from one of his feet,” Oliver Sherwood, Puffin Billy’s trainer, said on Monday. “What with the wet weather, it’s like getting a blister and he’ll have two or three quiet days having it poulticed. Hopefully he’ll be able to be ridden towards the end of the week.”

Puffin Billy is a general 16-1 chance for the Neptune Novice Hurdle at Cheltenham next month, and as big as 25-1 for the Supreme Novice Hurdle the previous day.

Grands Crus, third in the King George VI Chase at Kempton in December but pulled up in the Argento Chase at Cheltenham the following month, will be scratched from the Gold Cup at Tuesday’s forfeit stage and aimed instead towards either the Ryanair Chase or the World Hurdle at next month’s Cheltenham Festival.

“He was given an easy time of things after his race while we tried to get to the bottom of his lacklustre effort,” David Pipe, the grey’s trainer, said on Monday, “and he is now being treated for gastric ulcers. He is back on the gallops and looks well in himself.”