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Bookies edge first joust with punters

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Nicola McGeady of Ladbrokes said: "We have certainly dodged a bullet this afternoon thanks to Honeysuckle. Everyone wanted to be with Benie Des Dieux and had she won, today's results would have looked very different." Photo: Ian West/PA

Nicola McGeady of Ladbrokes said: "We have certainly dodged a bullet this afternoon thanks to Honeysuckle. Everyone wanted to be with Benie Des Dieux and had she won, today's results would have looked very different." Photo: Ian West/PA

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Nicola McGeady of Ladbrokes said: "We have certainly dodged a bullet this afternoon thanks to Honeysuckle. Everyone wanted to be with Benie Des Dieux and had she won, today's results would have looked very different." Photo: Ian West/PA

The spoils in the betting ring just about went to the bookmakers after a pulsating opening afternoon of Cheltenham.

Nicky Henderson's Shishkin may have been at the head of ante-post lists for the Supreme Novices' Hurdle for weeks, but he was relatively friendless with punters on the day, drifting out to 6/1 come the off.

However, that did not prevent the strapping gelding from getting the job done, albeit narrowly as he had to fight off the challenge of well-supported 11/4 chance Abacadabras by a head.

The 16/1 success of Put The Kettle On in the Racing Post Arkle was a result to celebrate for the layers, before The Conditional obliged at 15/2 in the Ultima Handicap Chase.

However, Epatante was the toast of punters everywhere after being heavily backed and justifying 2/1 favouritism in the Champion Hurdle.

The Willie Mullins-trained Benie Des Dieux was considered by many as one of the bankers of the week in the Mares' Hurdle, but those who contributed to a starting price of 4/6 were left counting their losses as she found 9/4 chance Honeysuckle half a length too strong.

Nicola McGeady of Ladbrokes said: "We have certainly dodged a bullet this afternoon thanks to Honeysuckle. Everyone wanted to be with Benie Des Dieux and had she won, today's results would have looked very different.

"However, it wasn't to be and although we are not getting ahead of ourselves, we head into day two of the Festival in good spirits."

Imperial Aura and Galvin, the 4/1 joint-favourites, filled the first two places in the Northern Trust Company Novices' Handicap Chase.

But favourite-backers had their fingers burnt again in the finale, with 10/11 jolly Carefully Selected unable to land a glove on 12/1 winner Ravenhill.

"Normally a Jamie Codd-ridden winner of an amateur riders' race would be desperate, but not today as the last result was crucial," said Paddy Power's Paul Binfield. "We badly needed Carefully Selected and Lord Du Mesnil getting beat. The books are marginally ahead."

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