Bookies celebrate after Friday outsiders rescue Festival fortunes

Fri 15 Mar 2019

Shock victories of 66-1, 50-1 and 20-1 outsiders saw bookmakers end the Cheltenham Festival on top against the punters in a week of a fluctuating fortunes.

The layers started the week well with a terrific opening day on Tuesday, but they were on the ropes ahead of the final afternoon of action after backers had taken Wednesday and Thursday.

All looked lost, but then it was all change as Pentland Hills (20-1) led the way in the JCB Triumph Hurdle, in which hot favourite Sir Erec tragically suffered a fatal injury.

The final day of the Festival went the way of the bookies

Minella Indo (50-1) in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle and Croco Bay (66-1) in the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Handicap Chase ensured the bookies left the Cotswolds with full satchels of cash.

Even a first Willie Mullins win in the Magners Gold Cup with Al Boum Photo (12-1) was a good result for the layers.

“Gold Cup day was a far better day for the layers, who are now firmly back in front after what has been a trying week for punters. Thursday and Friday really were chalk and cheese,” said Joseph Burke of RaceBets.

“Punters essentially cleaned up yesterday, but it was a completely different story today. Everyone was dismayed following the unfortunate demise of the favourite in the first race and that appeared to set the tone for the day.

“Presenting Percy and Clan Des Obeaux were by far our biggest losers in the the Gold Cup, so it was difficult to believe neither made the frame and obviously that put RaceBets ahead for the week.

“Ironically the winner, Al Boum Photo, is owned by the legendary ex-bookmaker Joe Donnelly, so Friday proved to be a memorable day for bookmakers all-round really, topped off by two winners at 66-1 and a 50-1.”

Paddy Power spokesman Paul Binfield said: “Boom! The bookies were in the doldrums yesterday and it looked like mission impossible to possibly break even, but somehow we’ve achieved the greatest comeback since Liverpool versus Milan in Istanbul in 2005 and we’ve ended the week up.”

Betway’s Alan Alger said: “We’ve dodged a fair few bullets today. One punter had Might Bite in the Gold Cup for £1 million and eventual winner Al Boum Photo wasn’t an expensive result either.

“Upsets in the Triumph and Albert Bartlett got us back in the game after a very tough Thursday, and the Gold Cup was a good result overall.

“The week has been mixed on the whole and we’re just relieved to have clawed a bit back after such a painful Thursday.”

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