Wednesday 22 November 2017

Walsh treble proves Fly in the ointment for leading layers

Keith Hamer

Bookmakers were left singing the blues after a "Ruby Tuesday" as Ruby Walsh completed his comeback from a broken leg in style with a near 75/1 treble that saw punters on top after day one of the Cheltenham Festival.

Ladbrokes were among the layers left reeling as Walsh lived up to his billing as favourite to be leading jockey over the four days.

A year on from the worst Festival in living memory for punters, the crowds returned and set about emptying the satchels of the bookies -- and Walsh was the one name that left them suffering.

"Ruby looked bruised when he arrived, but he's left the bookies battered," said David Williams of Ladbrokes.

"Ruby Tuesday was a nightmare for us. We'll be happy to leave day one behind us."

Walsh scored with Al Ferof (10/1) in the opening Stan James Supreme Novices' Hurdle before lifting the roof with 11/4 favourite Hurricane Fly in the Stan James Champion Hurdle and 5/6 banker Quevega in the David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle.

"We're battening down the hatches with Walsh. When punters wake up and make their selections he's going to be on every shortlist in the Cotswolds," added Williams.

Whether Cue Card won the opener -- he was fourth behind Al Ferof --was thought to be a marker for day one as a whole.

Paddy Power estimated that they were saved from paying out €1.5m had Cue Card obliged. After breaking even in the opener, they won on the Arkle Trophy due to Medermit's demise and when Captain Chris (6/1) won.

The tide turned, however, in the Spinal Research Handicap Chase when 5/1 shot Bensalem made amends for a fall in last year's race when landing the spoils and costing the Irish firm €1m.

That was mere chicken feed as Paddy Power were another €3.5m down with Walsh driving home Hurricane Fly in the Champion Hurdle. "We began well with Cue Card getting beaten but Irish hot-pot Hurricane Fly flying up the hill has definitely swung things in favour of punters,'' Paddy Power said.

"But it's a long-haul flight to the winning post on Friday and may the best side win."

Irish Independent

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