Betting Week in Review: Cheltenham Festival Features
The Cheltenham Festival is one of the highlights for bookmakers in the racing calendar, with an estimated £500m wagered on the 28 races over four days. We look back on some of the highlights of the festival and share the story of Paul Dean, who cashed out his bet just in time to scoop £250,000.
Plenty of Surprises at Cheltenham
The Cheltenham Festival is an important source of funding for bookmakers and the racing industry in normal times. However, this year, with the continued impact of Covid-19 forcing events to be held without spectators, never has a Cheltenham Festival been so important.
Unless the favourite wins every race, bookies are guaranteed a return, and the more surprises, the higher returns they will see. And once again, Cheltenham gladly obliged with its fair share of shocks.
Bookmakers may have been slightly concerned with the start of the racing, with no upsets in the first two. Appreciate It, trained by Willie Mullins, easily won the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. Priced at 8/11f, 24L separated Appreciate It and second-placed Ballyadam (6/1). There was also a big gap in the second race, favourite Shishkin (4/9) winning by twelve lengths from 33/1 shot Eldorado Allen.
After a slow start, only one more favourite would win on day one, Honeysuckle 11/10, taking the Grade 1 Champion Hurdle Challenge Trophy. Highlights for the operators include Vintage Clouds winning the Ultima Handicap Chase @ 28/1 and Jeff Kidder securing first place in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle with a starting price of 80/1. Favourite Saint Sam was beaten into second by two lengths.
Profitable Wednesday After Slow Start
The first two races on the first day of racing on Wednesday went to form. Bob Olinger @6/4 won the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle by 7½L over the Mullins trained Gaillard Du Mesnil with Paul Nicholls trained Bravemansgame a further 4½L behind. In the Brown Advisory Novices’ Chase, Mullins got his first winner, Monkfish @1/4f, winning by 6½L over 40/1 outsider Fiddlerontheroof trained by Colin Tizzard. Tizzard’s The Big Breakaway completed the top-three placings, finishing a further 11L behind.
Despite a slow start for the bookmakers, none of the remaining races on day one was won by the favourite; Heaven Help Us won the Grade 3 Coral Cup Handicap Hurdle with a starting price of 33/1. Put The Kettle On won the prestigious Queen Mother Champion Chase @17/2 with the favourite finishing 1½L behind in third.
In the other three races, Tiger Roll (9/2) beat Easysland (Fvens fav) into second in the Glenfarclas Chase. Sky Pirate (14/1) claimed the Johnny Henderson Grand Annual Challenge Cup Handicap Chase. In the Weatherbys Champion Bumper, it was a Mullins 1,2, as Sir Gerhard beat stablemate Kilcruit (10/11f) into second by half a length.
Stayer’s Hurdle Favourite Finishes Third
The third day at Cheltenham started well for bookmakers; the Grade 1 Marsh Novices’ Chase was taken by Chantry House (9/1) with Fusil Raffles (14/1) three lengths behind. Favourite Envol Allen (4/9), ridden by J W Kennedy, fell in the race.
The second race, the Grade 3 Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle, was won by six-year-old Mrs Milner, who beat the favourite The Bosses Oscar (10/3) into second place by five lengths.
There was also a surprise in the main race of the day, the Stayers’ Hurdle. Run over 2m 7f 213y, the race is open to horses aged four and over and is the leading long-distance hurdle event in the National Hunt calendar. Flooring Porter (12/1) won this year’s race with favourite Paisley Park finishing 4½L behind in third. Second favourite Fury Road (4/1) pulled up in the race.
In Thursday’s racing at Cheltenham, just three were won by the favourites of the seven races. Allaho took the Ryanair Chase (3/1); The Shunter won @ 9/4 in the Grade 3 Paddy Power Plate Handicap Chase, and seven-year-old Mount Ida (3/1) won the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Handicap Chase in the last race of the day.
Fabulous Friday Boosts Returns
The last day at Cheltenham went the way of the bookmakers with not one favourite winning on Friday. The pattern started in the JCB Triumph Hurdle when Quilixios (2/1) beat Adagio (10/1), who squeezed out Haut En Couleurs (20/1) by a head. 11/8 favourite Zanahiyr finished 4½L off the pace.
The longest odds winner of the day was in the Grade 3 McCoy Contractors County Handicap Hurdle, which Belfast Banter won with a starting price of 33/1. The post-ante favourite, 5-1 You Raised Me Up, finished a long way down the field in 10th.
Vanillier @ 14/1 won the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, winning by 11L from 40/1 outsider Oscar Elite. 7/2 favourite Scattier finished 14¾L behind in 4th place.
The Cheltenham Gold Cup, one of the most backed races of the festival, proved profitable for the book, with third favourite Minella Indo (9/1) beating the second favourite and stablemate A Plus Tard into second by 1¼L. W P Mullins trained favourite Al Boum Photo (9/4) finished in third, 5½L behind.
Porlock Bay (16/1) won the St. James’s Place Festival Challenge Cup Open Hunters’ Chase, Colreevy (9/4) took the Mrs Paddy Power Mares’ Chase, and in the final race of the festival, Galopin Des Champs (8/1) claimed the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle. 4/1 favourite Gentleman De Mee finished in 10th place.
Punter Wisely Cashes Out to Claim £250,000
One of the biggest dilemmas a punter can have is whether or not to cash out a bet. And this was exactly the situation that Betfair customer Paul Dean found himself in. Playing the long game, Paul placed a £5 Five-fold accumulator that included two Royal Ascot bets and three in the Cheltenham Festival.
On the 19th of June, his first leg, Golden Horde, won the Commonwealth Cup Ascot at Ascot while priced @ 12/1. The next day, his second leg, Hello Youmzain won the Diamond Jubilee Stakes @ 10/1. He then faced an agonising wait of eight months until the final three legs of his bet.
Spread over three days, Dean had picked Shiskin @ 4/1 in the Arkle Chase, Bob Olinger @ 25/1 in the Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle, and his final bet, which on paper looked the safest of the five, Envoi Allen, who was hot favourite @ 4/9 in the Marsh Novices’ Chase.
When Shiskin won, along with Bob Olinger, Dean had a day to decide whether to cash out his bet for £250,000 or leave it to run with potential returns of £511,000.
Dean decided to cash out the final leg and bank the £250,000, a decision he will forever be grateful for as Envoi fell in the Marsh Novices’ Chas, which would have returned his bet as a loss. A great result for Dean, but not so good for Betfair.