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Cheltenham Festival: Bookmakers bemoan ‘worst-ever festival’

A WEEK that started with the winter’s talking horse Min being beaten in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle ended as what bookmakers’ representatives were describing as “the worst Cheltenham Festival for bookmakers ever”.

Three out of four favourites in the championship races won and the other went to second favourite Sprinter Sacre. Nine outright favourites and one co-favourite were successful in the 28 races staged over the four days.

Only three horses – Min, Un De Sceaux and Yanworth – were beaten at shorter than 2-1 and they all went down to the second favourite. It took until the final race, the Grand Annual, for a winner to be returned at odds above 16-1.

After Don Cossack, one of the best-backed horses on Friday, took the Gold Cup, bookies admitted it had not been their week.

One we won’t forget in a hurry’

“We were already three-nil down going into the final day and, with Gold Cup day being the biggest betting day of the week, we knew we were either going to repair some of the damage or leave Cheltenham counting the cost of our worst-ever festival,” said Coral spokesman David Stevens.

“When hot favourite Don Cossack landed the Gold Cup, followed by another winning favourite in On The Fringe, it put the seal on a most miserable week for the bookies, and one we won’t forget in a hurry,” he added.

Liam Glynn from BoyleSports also identified the Gold Cup as the point of no return, saying: “Don Cossack lived up to expectations and proved why he is the highest-rated steeplechaser in Ireland and Britain. He added further salt to our wounds after the hit we got from punters throughout the week.”

£60 million losses

David Williams of Ladbrokes said: “We can’t get out of Cheltenham fast enough. Bookies are being carried out on stretchers. It’s been the most expensive week here that we can remember.”

Williams and Jon Ivan-Duke of William Hill both estimated that results at the festival had cost the industry £60 million.

Bet365 alone reported being “on the wrong end of an eight-figure hammering”, with spokesman Steve Freeth saying: “It was 4-0 to punters over the four days. The worst Cheltenham ever.”

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