Ladbrokes punters in the dark but a winner is a winner
James Burn spends an afternoon in a betting shop where something pretty important is missing
The racing village of Lambourn has, perhaps somewhat surprisingly, only one betting shop. It is a modest Ladbrokes outfit located across the road from The Wheel, a pub some might describe as spit and sawdust, whatever that means, but can probably be translated as 'don't expect anything fancy or hi-tech'.
That couldn't be said of the Ladbrokes shop, which has the usual array of flashing FOBTs and a large bank of screens all lit up like a Christmas tree. There is, however, something missing.
Southwell is staging an eight-race card offering prize-money of £41,000, but there are no pictures of the action from the Nottinghamshire all-weather circuit.
These days a lack of pictures can usually be attributed to a broadcast truck breaking down en route to the track or, as some wag might say, if they're racing in the fog at Haydock. But the reason for the lack of Southwell pictures on bank holiday Monday is not grey, but black and white – it's about money.
A new betting shop channel – The Racing Partnership – has been launched and the venture is made up of the 15 Arena Racing Company tracks, which include Southwell, and seven independent courses.
Doncaster, Lingfield, Windsor, Wolverhampton, Worcester and Southwell switched from SIS to TRP on New Year's Day, while the remaining venues will move in 2018.
The problem for the handful of people in the Lambourn Ladbrokes shop is that this firm – along with Coral and Betfred – have not agreed a deal to show the action.
What they can see is a basketball match from a Fox Sports stream, the action from Ayr and Plumpton and virtual racing.
"I'm more of a jumps man anyway," says customer Shane Kimber when asked about the lack of Southwell pictures situation.
"But if you've had a bet you'd want to watch it," I reason. Not so, apparently. Another customer who asks to be called just Bob – "the wife doesn't know I'm in here" – says: "No, no, not at all and I backed the first winner there.
"It's just like going back to the old days when all we had was the live commentaries. A horse will win or won't win, whether you're watching or not."
If the impasse continues there will be no British racing in the aforementioned high street chains on January 9, 10 and 31.
"I'm sure it'll be missed on certain days," Bob continues as the screen that would normally be showing the 3.10 from Southwell displays a message saying "unofficial off-tube commentary".
The Neil Mulholland-trained Johns Luck denies Leighton Aspell's mount Like Sully in Plumpton's penultimate race, which can be seen it all its glory on the big screen.
"I could've done with Leighton winning that," adds Bob, maybe ruing he could actually see just how close his selection came to victory.