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Bookies breathe big sigh of relief


A bookmaker takes a bet at Cheltenham. Photo: Getty Images

A bookmaker takes a bet at Cheltenham. Photo: Getty Images

Getty Images

A bookmaker takes a bet at Cheltenham. Photo: Getty Images

Bookmakers had their noses back in front after day three of the Cheltenham Festival swung the way of the layers.

Crucially for the bookies, well-backed favourites Un De Sceaux and Sam Spinner failed to win the two big races of the day - the Ryanair Chase and the Stayers' Hurdle.

And though The Storyteller was the subject of a mini-gamble in the Stable Plate Handicap Chase and hotpot Laurina obliged in the Mares' Novices' Hurdle, the damage had already been done.

Ladbrokes representative Nicola McGeady said: "We really needed a day of respite after Wednesday's nightmare.

"Un De Sceaux was our biggest saviour of the day, while the feature race was also welcomed with open arms."

Betfred were similarly relieved to have got out of jail. Spokesman Matt Hulmes said "The Irish have dominated St Patrick's Thursday once again but, although Davy Russell (who rode a treble) tried to sink us, we've got one back here and have the bit between our teeth ahead of Gold Cup day."

William Hill were exceedingly grateful that Russell did do any more damage.

Spokesman Rupert Adams said: "It was probably honours even on day three but Davy Russell is the new fans' favourite and if he had won either the fourth or fifth race we would have been handing over millions."

Meanwhile, Silsol has been burdened with top weight after 18 horses were declared for tomorrow's Midlands Grand National at Uttoxeter.

The Paul Nicholls-trained nine-year-old has been left at the top of the handicap for the four-and-a-quarter-mile slog after the two horses above him - last year's winner Chase The Spud and Welsh National hero Raz De Maree - were taken out at the 48-hour final declaration stage.

Neil King's Milansbar was second in this race two years ago, while Evan Williams, who won that renewal with Firebird Flyer, runs Billy Bronco this time.

Kerry Lee is triple-handed with Alfie Spinner, Krackatoa King and Russe Blanc. Trainers doubly represented are Nigel Twiston-Davies with Benbens and Ballymalin, Dr Richard Newland through West Of The Edge and Bob Ford and Henry Daly, who has Back To The Thatch and The Artful Cobbler.

Leading fancy Get On The Yager takes his chance for Dan Skelton while completing the list are Hainan, Western Climate, Regal Flow, Themanfrom Minella and Plus Jamais.

On the local scene, officials at both Wexford and Down Royal have called inspections for this morning ahead of the meetings scheduled for tomorrow.

A total of 32 millimetres of rain is reported to have fallen in the past 24 hours at the Wexford track, with further rain a possibility over the next two days.

The track is currently fit for action, although the ground is heavy.

More than 25mm of rain has fallen at Down Royal and, like Wexford, more is expected there.

Indo Sport