It was the kind of day that punters dream of, and the kind that has the bookies fleeing for the hills with their tails between their legs.
Thursday at Cheltenham Festival 2019 represented something of a ‘dayus horribilis’ for the bookmakers, with losses believed to total £40 million after a series of well-fancied horses powered home. One reflected that it was ‘one of the worst days in Festival history’.
So, who did the damage in what will go down as one of the great punting days at the Cheltenham Festival?
Favourites Shine in Glorious Day for Punters
The JLT Novices’ Chase was won by the 3/1 favourite, Defi Du Seuil, and in the Pertemps Network Hurdle next up Sire Du Berlais also got home for Barry Geraghty; another 4/1 favourite for which the books had a hefty liability.
One of the most popular winners on the day was Frodon, the powerhouse ridden by the eminently-likeable Bryony Frost. Mind you, the bookies weren’t smiling when the seven-year-old took the tape in a dominant display in the Ryanair Chase; he had been backed in from 8/1 to 9/2 on the morning of the race.
And worse was to follow when Paisley Park, the incredible horse who nearly died a few years ago, produced a mammoth performance to deliver the perfect fairytale for blind owner Andrew Gemmell and trainer Emma Lavelle.
The 11/8 favourite triumphed in the Stayers’ Hurdle; a result that would have cost the bookies millions on its own. You can only imagine how many pints of Guinness were sunk in celebration on ‘St Patrick’s Day’ at the Festival.
It followed a similarly galling day for the bookmakers on Wednesday, where four comfortable favourites in Altior, Tiger Roll, Band of Outlaws and Envoi Allen all galloped home.
From Joy to Despair for the Bookies
It was a blessed relief for those at Prestbury Park and watching on from home after the layers’ dream on Tuesday. Only one favourite won in testing race conditions, and that meant the bookies got their festival off to the best possible start.
They’re not laughing now, however.
Ladbrokes’ Nicola McGeady said:
“Tiger Roll’s win on Wednesday was the start of an incredible winning streak for punters.
“Today has been one of the worst days we’ve ever encountered at the Cheltenham Festival.”
Meanwhile, Paddy Power showed their trademark sense of humour in the face of defeat. Their spokeswoman, Rachael Kane, said:
“Thursday was meant to be Paddy’s Day at Cheltenham, but clearly no one told the ladies.
“It was an absolute bloodbath for Paddy Power, and we head towards Gold Cup day with a whimper instead of a roar having been pounded by punters.”