CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL FRIDAY: SIMON NOTT reports from the Star Sports pitch on the final day of the Cheltenham Festival. There was no doubting who was in front after the three days and it wasn’t the layers. The war may have been lost over the week but could there be at least a final battle to be won?
Gold Cup Day started wet and gloomy. Quite fitting you were a bookmaker. But it’s Gold Cup day so the buzz soon permeated allowing the layers some hope of a recovery.
1:30 JCB Triumph Hurdle (Grade 1)
The betting on course and off surrounded the front two in the betting. The office laid £400,000 – 80,000 each-way Quel Destin while the jolly drifted to evens touching 11/10 in places. Then £275,000 – £25,000 each way Gardens Of Babylon. Then in the hole a £110,000 – £100,000 the jolly.
The jolly needed to be re-shod at the start.
Pentland Hills winning at 20/1 was the result the ring and we so badly needed plus the second-in out of the frame tremendous. The fly in the ointment was Gardens of Babylon finishing third, but a tremendous result non the less. Tempered badly by the news the jolly suffered a fatal injury.
The firm’s phones started buzzing, boss Ben had tweeted ‘Boom’ about the result, he genuinely had no idea at the time that Sir Erec had been injured. Anyone that knows him will know that to be true.
2:10 Randox Health County Handicap Hurdle (Grade 3)
Betting on the next was much quieter but Ch’tibello winning was an excellent result.
2:50 Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle (Grade 1)
Minella Indo winning under Rachael Blackmore at 50/1 was another absolute cracker, most bookmakers lucky to see a skinner in the book with just the places to pay.
3:30 Magners Cheltenham Gold Cup Chase (Grade 1)
The Gold Cup Betting was steady, several £1000 bets with Presenting Percy the one the public wanted to be on and a loser for £15,000 at the off in the course book.
Ben had already left before the big race, 12/1 Al Boum Photo was another tremendous result. It may not be up to the miracle of Medina but a comeback, of sorts, did look on the cards.
4:10 St. James’s Place Foxhunter Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase
There was relatively very little of interest in the Foxhunters, takings were light hence several losers in the book but not for over £3000.
The favourite Hazel Hill winning was a comparative dent in proceedings on how they’d panned out today.
The firm couldn’t really ask more than the for the great results they got in the feature races. With two big field handicaps to go Star Sports weren’t going to get ‘out’ on the week but were happy to have clawed some back.
4:50 Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase (Grade 3)
It was a similar story as far as the business went in the penultimate. The punters understandably kept stakes to a minimum with a handful of losers at the off.
I know I joked about needing the best set of results in the history of bookmaking but you couldn’t have dreamt these up. Croco Bay winning at 66/1 was another skinner for the win book. Not even Mystic Meg was on!
5:30 Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle
It couldn’t last, two bogies in the last and they finished first and second. It took the shine off a great comeback at the end of a torrid meeting for bookmakers. The firm at least ended the week on a winning note so hopefully on the right foot for Aintree. We just need a breather now. Thanks for reading.
Simon Nott is author of:
Skint Mob! Tales from the Betting Ring