Sunday 23 April 2017

Failure of favourites leaves bookies in clover

Their ascendancy over punters after two bruising days of Cheltenham is
Their ascendancy over punters after two bruising days of Cheltenham is "nearly embarrassing", said one bookmaker, so favourable are the results after the first two days of the Festival. Photo credit: Getty Images

Johnny Ward

Their ascendancy over punters after two bruising days of Cheltenham is "nearly embarrassing", said one bookmaker, so favourable are the results after the first two days of the Festival.

Yesterday's defeat of Douvan, the 1/4 favourite in the Champion Chase, is estimated to have saved the industry in the region of £3m. Many would have placed the horse in accumulators, while the defeat of Neon Wolf in the Neptune - he was touched off by Willoughby Court - was worth around £1m to Ladbrokes alone, said Nicola McGeady of that firm.

One punter reportedly placed £500,000 on Douvan on track, and McGeady admitted: "Wednesday was definitely another day for us. Neon Wolf, Tombstone and the banker of the entire week in Douvan getting turned over meant a huge sigh of relief for bookmakers.

"No Ruby Walsh winners is another huge factor this week," added McGeady. "Willie Mullins usually dominates; he hasn't done so either. But Thursday and Friday are the days we dread the most."

BoyleSports' Leon Blanche added: "In the past couple of years, we'd definitely be behind at this stage. It's been a very good start."

The punter who placed the half-a-million wager on Douvan is understood to have had £400,000 on the victorious Altior on Tuesday, but that would only have returned a £100,000 profit at 1/4.

Paddy Power spokesman Paul Binfield said: "It's getting a little bit embarrassing how well the week has gone for the books so far."

Douvan's defeat will go down as one of the biggest shocks in Cheltenham history. Hailed by Mullins as potentially the best he has ever had, and unbeaten since joining him, he was found to be lame after finishing a poor seventh in the feature.

Remarkable

Gordon Elliott's remarkable festival continued. As well as Cause Of Causes' victory, Fayonagh won the Champion Bumper, both ridden by Jamie Codd.

None of Elliott's winners was a favourite. He is now a 2/11 shot to win the 'Irish Independent' champion Festival trainer. Noel Fehily, who is on two winners, is no better than even-money to win the top jockey award. Walsh, as yet without a winner, is 4/1.

There was more drama in the RSA Chase when Might Bite, long-time leader, veered violently right on the run-in. He rallied to beat Whisper on the line - but only after Whisper was backed in-running on Betfair at 1/50.

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