Ascot was a battle field today, as both Punters and Bookies were tested with a card that seesawed all day, with some unlikely upsets surrounded by successful betting plunges.

The Bookies were all smiles early in the day, when the Lou and Dion Luciani trained Play With Fire ($4.80) upset race favourite Walkover ($2.00 fav) in the Westspeed 2YO Plate 1200m. Ningaloo Blitz ($6.00) accounted Operational ($2.90 fav) in the Charlie Landro Birthday HCP 2200m, and all of a sudden the punters were lining up at the ATM.

Despite copping losses in the opening two races, the punters were about to change the tables in one of the most brave betting plunges seen at Ascot. The Sprint 1000m was touted as a classic showdown between Miss Andretti’s full sister Peggie’s Dream ($2.15 fav), and Oz Racing star Bombora ($3.30). But the punters had other ideas. In the minutes leading up to the start, the punters circled in for the kill – throwing everything they had at the 5yo Stormy Son mare Rouge Dior – halving its price from $10 into $5 in seconds – and as luck would have it – they were on the money. Rouge Dior bounded to the lead upon barrier rise and never looked back – outlasting Peggie’s Dream by a short head. Bombora ran the fasted 600m sectional for the day (34.08 sec) to finish a further length away in third.

At this point the punters were we and truly UP, but not for long.

The Crown Perth 3YO HCP saw the previously undefeated Grey Cheval ($2.60 fav) get swallowed up late in the race by Magnifisio ($13.00). The late money came for Antique Belle ($4.40 – $3.60), but last year’s Burgess Queen victor failed to fire, finishing well back. The Bookies smiled with relief, if only for a brief moment, as the tide would soon turn again.

Last start winner The Other Harv ($3.30) drifted out the market prior to the running of the Smiths Snacks WA-Sales TOY HCP 1800m, before late money again swamped the Bookies Ring. Again the punters rejoiced, as the Elvstroem mare careered home from fifth on the turn for a half-length salute.

The HCP 1200m was a fair dinkum lottery from the outskirts – the market reflecting $4.60 the field. Galiletto ($13.00) outlasted Catlantic ($13.00) by a long neck, denying yet another favourite, as the Bookies regrouped for the last two races that on paper – were not looking good for them.

The Helter Skelter mare Mia China Doll ($1.40 fav) was smashed to pieces in the HCP 1200m, while the double into Comfysofa ($2.50 fav) also copped a hammering. As luck would have it (for the Bookies), Mia China Doll failed to run out the 1200m, with Red Hot Sax ($15.00) swamping it late to win by a length.

The devastating result in the penultimate left the punters with only one thing to do – “all in” on the favourite in the last. And unleash they did, emptying what was left in ATM’s, in a desperate attempt to get out of jail. As Comfysofa ($2.50 – $2.10 fav) left the barrier, the weight of world on its shoulders, there was an eerie feeling that somehow justice just had to prevail on such a crazy day of inconsistency. And as Comfysofa crossed the line – a ¾ length victor, one didn’t know whether to cheer or cry, for there had been plenty ventured, and definitely nothing gained.

And as I packed up my form guide and balanced my ledger, I remembered those famous words referring to the winning dollars acquired from a Bookie – “they are only ever on loan”.

Chris Blackwell