Bookmakers let out a huge sigh of relief after Rock on Ruby galloped home in the Champion Hurdle on day one of the festival. Cheltenham bettors thought they had one up on the bookies after Sprinter Sacre’s majestic performance in the Arkle had them ready for a week of winning favorites. Ladbrokes Alex O’Donohue admitted “a lumpy one of note” had been the £110,000 put on Sacre to win £100,000, with Paddy Power forced to refund all losing bets after Sacre came home in front. The cost: somewhere between £2.5 million and £2.7 million. The amount they saved on people swerving bets on Sacre: only they know.
Sacre left the bookies holding out for a hero and boy did they get it. The crowd of 54,471, up from 53,318 last year, were dumb-founded when Hurricane Fly could only manage third on the podium and for once the bookies were happy Ruby passed the post first. Rock On Ruby that is.
Betfair reported “of the £10m traded on the Champion Hurdle at the off, £8m of that was on Hurricane Fly.” Russ Wiseman, head of media at Sportingbet, added to this, tweeting: “All square after Day 1. Doesn’t bear thinking about if The Fly had landed CH.”
Mark Pearson, head of media at Betfred, was equally happy with “The Fly” being swatted stating it was “a great result.” This was after they had finished up “with huge liabilities and on the returning champs.”
Stan James would have lost “a million” had the result gone in favor of the punters and Paddy Power reported it was a “punter day” for their bettors – even with the good news on Hurricane Fly. Another of the horses that lived up to the billing alongside this was Quevega, Kate Miller at William Hill admitting that a punter had won £133,000 off a £200,000 bet on the horse.
Overall the outlook is good with the consensus it’s 1-1 between the bookies and punters. How long it’ll last is anyone’s guess and it could even come down to the Gold Cup itself. Thank god they all had a hunch/knew something about Hurricane Fly. Otherwise the punters would have a commanding lead.
THREE FATALITIES ON DAY ONE
In more somber news, three horses fell victim to the course on the first day. The cross-country course was to blame for two fatal broken legs to Scots-Irish and Cheltenham favorite Garde Champetre in the Glenfarclas Chase. Educated Evans taking a heavy fall in the final race followed this, and Robin Mounsey, British Horseracing Authority spokesperson, said: The course, both the construction of the jumps and the ground, was inspected eight days ago and today, when it was found to be good to firm. On both occasions it was deemed t