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Big timers snubbed for famous Call of the Card

The nominations of Rob Waterhouse and Tabcorp to operate on the Call Of The Card for the Melbourne Cup, once the hub of pre-post betting and major indicator of the smart money, have been turned down by the Melbourne Club in another example of interstate rivalry.

“Tabcorp is the biggest bookmaker in Australia and they have preferred a couple of locals,” Waterhouse, who has been in action at Monday’s function for the previous four years, commented.

Lost lustre: The Call Of The Card in Melbourne.

Lost lustre: The Call Of The Card in Melbourne. Credit:Arsineh Houspian

Ironically Tabcorp is sponsoring the event at the Crown Casino but Sally Snow, the pivotal force behind the Tabcorp’s horse playing wing who would have been handling the action in what has been male dominated, has copped the decision sweet.

“Surprising because the Waterhouse name stimulates interest but it’s the Melbourne Club’s decision and we won’t take it further,” Snow stressed.

However she did mention the betting turnover was slack at the Call last year and Tabcorp was set to stimulate more activity.

“Depending on the horse and punter we were prepared to lay a starter for $500,000,” she emphasised, adding that at this stage Tabcorp (including UBET) estimated a handle of $125 million on the Melbourne Cup including $30 million on fixed odds.

Waterhouse figures more the merrier with the Call. “Going back to my youth at City Tatts (the Sydney betting market place) they even had SP bookmakers operating on it.”

No doubt the Call has been an indicator of insider trading on the Big One. Possibly it lacks the authority of the past, but in 2014 doubts arose on the Monday operation regarding the fitness of favourite Admire Rakti, who finished last.

Former bookmaker Mark Read was a major player in Melbourne Cup betting. In 1984 he engineered the plunge on Black Knight that made headlines at the Call. In those days, the code involved the punter being anonymous.

Black Night was backed to win $840,000 from a $73,000 outlay.

Still, it didn’t rate in terms of dash with the 1947 Call and Arthur Browning, from Sydney, but the result was better for bookmakers. Browning backed his Good Ideal and entrusted fellow bookmaker Jack Pick to place the commission. ‘‘Keep betting until you see me put my hat back on,’’ Browning said.

Betting went berserk until the chairman halted them before the hat came into play declaring: ‘‘There is no chance of bets being paid if this horse wins.’’

Browning had supported Good Idea from 80/1 to win £540,000.

Alas, the wet track took the edge off Good Idea. Trainer Bob Abbott greased the stayer’s hooves with butter, an old-time remedy to help horses handle the conditions but to no avail. When he heard about the butter, Browning told Abbott to put the price of the butter on his training account, “butter one shilling” was later itemised.

Still, Browning was hardly out of pocket over Good Idea. Earlier he had plunged on Good Idea, won £250,000 in the Canterbury Stakes in Sydney and gave the proceeds to charity.

Certainly in 1992 there was a downturn at the Call. Only $54,850 was invested by punters.

‘‘Due to the huge tote pools now, punters realise they can get better odds about a favourite on the tote,” leading doubles bookmaker Warwick McKay remarked, a ploy Read used for the late Kerry Packer in 1996.

‘‘Kerry liked to back last-start winners and I suggested the money on Saintly (1996) be placed with the Northern Territory tote,” he recalled. “At that time it was linked to NSW. Kerry was wary of what the amount would do to the odds.’’

Hopefully punters get same satisfaction from the Call next Monday. The TAB will not stand but Snow will play a big role in the traditional afternoon and the TAB will have machines to take Cup bets in the room.

The TAB sponsorship has seen BetEasy’s Matt Tripp, who was the biggest holding bookmaker last year, also not stand at the Call. ‘‘We will be holding our own event for our biggest clients at a Melbourne restaurant,’’ he said.

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