The heavy going was expected to play havoc on the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival, and yet conditions proved a doddle for some of the most well-backed horses on show on a breathless Tuesday at Prestbury Park.
The day’s big races went the way of the punter, with a pair of red-hot favourites in Footpad and Buveur D’Air taking the spoils in the Arkle and Champion Hurdle respectively.
And there was further misery for the bookmakers when Summerville Boy, a 9/1 shot but well-backed on the day, came home first in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle to put a huge dent in their float in the very first race of the festival!
Other wins for the fancied Rathvinden and Mister Whitaker get the hot streak going for the betting floor, with only the Mares’ Hurdle – where 1/2 favourite Apple’s Jade surprisingly went down to Benie Des Dieux – offering the sportsbooks any respite.
One on-course bookmaker at Prestbury Park, John Hughes, described the opening day’s results as a ‘bloodbath’ for the books. “It’s the best betting I’ve ever seen in Cheltenham. It was colossal. Unfortunately, it just turned out, our punters backed the winners.,” he said.
Geoff Banks, another bookie who is familiar to many on-track and online, said that ‘overall, we’ve done in about 12 grand’. “Once the punters get ahead in this game, they’ve literally got you by the balls,” he continued. “It’s not as bad as a few years ago, when all of the Rich Ricci horses were winning. We’ll all have lost but we’re still going.”
Banks later tweeted: “I’d estimate losses yesterday in big betting – to include their offer culture such as the ridiculous ‘non runner no bet’ and other money back schemes for what used to be bookie heaven – at 20 million [pounds] a firm.”
All of which is great news for punters, who will be looking to capitalise over the next three days as conditions continue to soften. A heavy deluge is expected to head to Cheltenham overnight on Wednesday, which will see the New Course offering similar going to that experienced at the Old. Don’t be afraid to bash the bookies in the coming days!
A Summer of Love for Punters
The weather forecasters are telling UK based punters to prepare for another ‘Beast from the East’ style snow-bomb at the weekend, and yet Tuesday March 13th will be considered the day that the summer really started.
Summerville Boy, the Tom George trained horse, got the festival off to a cracking start for punters. He may have been priced as generously as 9/1, but the book saw some 11.5% of all Supreme Novices Hurdle bets placed on the six-year-old – most coming on Tuesday – and so bookmakers can be forgiven for uttering a few expletives when the Noel Fehily ridden fancy just edged home from Kalashnikov to take the honours. Getabird, the warm favourite who lengthened on Tuesday to 7/4, finished well down the field.
The message to punters for the rest of the festival is simple: follow the big money and back those horses who love a battle in the mud!