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Bookies on top after defeats of Grands Crus and Europe

Bookmakers declared themselves to be in front at the halfway point of the Festival after two more short-priced favourites suffered defeat yesterday.

Market leaders Teaforthree and Simonsig had got punters off to a good start in the first two contests, but favourite-backers came unstuck as 6/5 jolly Grands Crus could finish only fourth to Bobs Worth in the RSA Chase.

They were then dealt a further blow when Sizing Europe, sent off a well-backed 4/5 shot, was edged out by Finian's Rainbow in the Queen Mother Champion Chase.

Alan King's well-supported Vendor was later turned over in the Fred Winter Juvenile Handicap Hurdle, which went to 40/1 outsider Une Artiste, while defeat for New Year's Eve in the closing Weatherbys Champion Bumper completed a miserable finish on day two for punters.

Paddy Power said: "The first two winning favourites today destroyed yesterday's gains but the unlikely double whammy of Grands Crus and Sizing Europe getting chinned turned the tide back in our favour and catapulted us ahead over the two days.

Oranges

"Bookies are in front as we enjoy the half-time oranges, but that could all change on day three."

Coral also reported a good day's trade and pointed to the victory of 16/1 Son Of Flicka in the Coral Cup as another good result.

"Favourite-backers got off to a great start with Teaforthree and Simonsig, but hopes of a hat-trick of wins for the hot-pots were dashed when Bobs Worth won the RSA, and our day went from good to better when the Henderson yard completed a big race double with Finian's Rainbow," said spokesman David Stevens.

"Son Of Flicka's win in our race was also welcomed, Vendor's defeat in the Fred Winter continued the layers' joy, and not even a Willie Mullins Bumper winner could spoil our day."

Mind you, there were plenty of 'in the know' punters rejoicing at Son Of Flicka's Coral Cup success as Donald McCain's charge was gambled on early from 66/1.

Although one Ladbrokes punter won £200,000 (€240,000) after staking £80,000 at odds of 5/2 on Simonsig, the firm hailed an "exceptional" day.

Spokesman David Williams said: "The sun shone on the bookies. After a wobbly start we steadied to see the big guns beaten and we ended the day out in front. It's far too early to start crowing but we'll head into the third day with the bit between our teeth."

William Hill reported a strong trade and spokeswoman Kate Miller also believes the layers hold the whip hand going into day three. "It looked a photo finish after Tuesday, but today we've definitely surged a good length or two clear," she said.

Irish Independent