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Paddy Power stung by Cayo

T HERE has been much comment within racing about the gamble landed when Cayo Levantado won at Punchestown on Wednesday.

Trained by Gordon Elliott, the horse was ridden by his brother Joey. The latter's presence on Cayo Levantado contributed to the 20/1 price in morning trading (Elliott rode one winner here last season).

Paddy Power's Ciaran Burke estimates that his firm lost €200,000 as the winner was backed into an SP of 2/1 favourite. "This fellow was the biggest sustained gamble in a handicap that I can remember for quite some time," Burke added.

Burke admits that Power's cut the price from 16/1 into 7/2 in the space of about 13 minutes -- as strong an endorsement as one could get for initiating a punt on-course rather than in the morning. He also noted an interesting feature of the gamble which may have escaped many.

The eight-year-old, owned by former Meath footballer Barry Callaghan, had last run 91 days prior to Wednesday. The authorities do not ask a trainer to explain improvement relative to form that was shown prior to the previous 90 days.

"We train him out of a field now and it seems to work for him," said Elliott after the race. "He just came alive over the last couple of weeks."

For many, Cayo Levantado's win epitomises the folly of backing horses without knowing everything there is to know.

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Trainer Pat Flynn is convinced of Danny Grant's innocence after it was revealed last week that the jockey had tested positive for a metabolite of cocaine.

Grant (pictured) had been randomly tested at The Curragh on October 11 and its shock results ensure further hardship for a jockey whose lot is not always to be envied. The Waterford native has suffered from severe eczema and is presently undergoing treatment to fight the bacterial infection MRSA.

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Flynn, for whom Grant rides on the Flat, told the Sunday Independent: "Danny has never given me nor the Turf Club an ounce of bother. He's a low-key fellow and he is tearing his hair out as to how this got into his system, even if it's extremely minute. Danny is on a serious cocktail of drugs for his diseases.

"From head to toe, six months of the year, all his skin falls off with eczema. Often he wakes up during the night with the bed-sheets stuck to him. I believe him 100 per cent and really hope he is vindicated."

Grant attended a hearing before a Turf Club panel last week, but the case was adjourned as more pharmacological evidence was required.

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S pare some of your sympathy for Ladbrokes, if you can: The Magic Sign were forced to reveal 2009 pre-tax profits of a derisory £265.6m last week. These are hard times.

Admittedly, net revenue was down 8.5 per cent, profits 28 per cent. As with the Irish people in the recession, scapegoats of convenience are sought; in the case of Ladbrokes, unfavourable football results and lower betting margins were blamed.

What is notable in the context of these pages is that Chris Bell, shortly to be ex-chief executive of the company, is far from positive about racing's role in the betting jungle. "The sooner we arrest the decline in horserace betting the better," he stressed, "but we've been having this debate for at least five years and I don't see any sign of it happening this year."

Racing Post readers reacted angrily to the article by posting comments on its website criticising the firm for not laying 'proper' bets, though Ladbrokes are generally not the worst in this regard.

The focus in 2010 would be on "growing bigger, particularly in the eGaming sector" -- which, depressingly, is the way things are going with bookmakers nowadays.

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Today's race meeting is a very important one at Naas, yet I was taken aback by Charles Byrnes' decision to saddle Pittoni in a hot Grade Two Novice Hurdle so close to Cheltenham.

The Peintre Celebre colt is as short as 12/1 for the Triumph Hurdle, but today is his fourth deep-ground outing since New Year's Eve. It seems unconventional Cheltenham preparation.

Whatever, his presence today adds to the spectacle, but Dr Whizz is preferred for Tom Mullins and Davy Russell. He looks a very smart prospect after only two runs (in the second of which he edged subsequent MCR Hurdle hero Puyol, which is now rated 135).

Tranquil Sea is another having a prep-race for Prestbury Park and he is something of a reluctant choice in a trappy feature event. Taravada may offer some value in the novices' chase, while Philip Fenton expects big things from Old Charm in what is traditionally a high-class bumper. Today follows the trend.