Bad News for the Bookies as Galopin Des Champs Wins Gold Cup Epic

Horse RaceThere’s a chance that some readers availed themselves of odds of around 10/11 on Galopin Des Champs to successfully defend his Gold Cup title at the Cheltenham Festival.

And you’d have been in good company if you did – Willie Mullins’ horse condemning the bookmakers to one of their most expensive liabilities of the four-day Festival.

It was a triumphant week for Mullins, who racked up his 100th winner at the meeting on Wednesday in amongst a handful of short-priced favourites that prevailed – it’s always bad news for the bookies at a meeting where casual punters are tucking into market principles with relish.

Of them, Galopin Des Champs was amongst the most hurtful….

Double Delight

Most of the leading betting firms will have been running a considerable liability on Galopin Des Champs – particularly with some offering odds boosts and free bets on the Mullins horse and the Gold Cup in particular.

Coral’s David Stevens admitted that a win for the favourite would lead to an ‘expensive end’ to the meeting for his firm, although bet365’s Pat Cooney had noted that punters were instead backing other contenders in the Gold Cup at each way races – they would have breathed a sigh of relief at the finish.

At least the Irish bookmakers in particular were saved the fear of popular horse Hewick from winning the Gold Cup. The Guinness-swinging stayer, who won the King George in December, is a cult hero in his native country thanks to his amazing back story, which saw owner Shark Hanlon pay less than £750 for his services.

Available at prices between 14/1 and 20/1, the bookies were running scared. BoyleSports’ Sharon McHugh, whose firm ironically sponsor the horse, said: “Hewick is a big six-figure liability for us in the Gold Cup market and it’s as clear as day to us why he is the people’s horse.”

The good news for them is that Hewick was withdrawn from the race at the start of the week as the ground continued to soften.

Odds-On Mayhem

The Cheltenham Festival has, in recent years, become a procession on its opening two days of short-priced favourites winning over hurdles in particular.

State Man won the Champion Hurdle from a price of 2/5, while Lossiemouth was 8/13 when prevailing in the Mares’ Hurdle. They were joined in the winners’ circle by Fact to File (8/13) and Gaelic Warrior (2/1), who all inconvenienced the bookmakers no end.

“In the last few days Fact To File has been the most popular selection at the meeting and it will be a key result for us,” Cooney confirmed, while

Wednesday’s Gallagher Novices’ Hurdle winner Ballyburn was a ‘big loser on the day’ for Betfair at prices of around 1/2, while BetVictor’s Sam Boswell admitted that Mullins’ raider was a ‘significant loser in our book’.

The last three days of the meeting tend to be rather more unpredictable, with tough-to-call handicaps and marquee races impacted by softening ground on the ledger.

And the bookies enjoyed an almighty get-out-of-jail free card on Wednesday in one of the biggest shocks the Festival has ever seen….

Fall From Grace

The Champion Chase was shaping up to be an absolute disaster for the bookmakers, with the position of odds-on favourite El Fabiolo consolidated by the absence of Jonbon, who was declared a non-runner.

A win for Mullins’ chaser would have cost the Irish betting industry an estimated €20 million alone, with the figure in the UK dwarfing even that. But a couple of off-colour jumps, allied to hitting the fifth obstacle pretty hard, saw jockey Paul Townend pull up El Fabiolo from the race.

There’s been other bits of good news for the bookmakers throughout the week too. Brighterdaysahead had been well backed in the ante-post market for the Mares Novices’ Hurdle, and received plenty of support heading to the post too as her odds were shortened from 5/1 into 5/6.

Some of the firms were carrying significant liabilities, including Coral, whose David Stevens admitted had been on a laying spree. Thankfully for him and them, Gordon Elliott’s horse ran out of steam up the home straight and was headed off by 10/1 outsider Golden Ace.

There was a victory of sorts too when Sir Gino was declared a non-runner for the Triumph Hurdle. Ladbrokes’ Nicola McGeady admitted that he was the firm’s ‘biggest liability’ of the British hopefuls, while SkyBet’s Michael Shinners confirmed Nickey Henderson’s hurdler was ‘one of our worst ante-post singles’.

In the end, there were victories that cheered the hearts of punters and bookies alike – a score draw, you might say.