Bookies claim score draw at half-time in Festival

Honours between backers and bookmakers remain level-pegging at the halfway point of the Cheltenham Festival.

After Appreciate It and Shishkin on day one, it was another dream start for punters with Bob Olinger (6-4) and Monkfish (1-4) rewarding favourite-backers, although the latter not totally in the manner expected, in what was a messy race.

Betfair went 9-2 about next year’s Gold Cup for Monkfish, with Coral a slightly more conservative 6-1.

All smiles for Rachael Blackmore, and the punters, after favourite Bob Olinger took the opening Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle
All smiles for Rachael Blackmore, and the punters, after favourite Bob Olinger took the opening Ballymore Novices’ Hurdle (Michael Steele/PA)

In a mirror image of Tuesday, race three threw up a big-priced winner – this time Heaven Help Us at 33-1 in the Coral Cup – but in a twist from the opening afternoon, the feature Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase was also a great result for the layers.

Chacun Pour Soi had been all the rage as the 8-13 market leader, but he did not get up the hill as last year’s Arkle heroine Put The Kettle On (17-2) continued Henry de Bromhead’s spectacular week.

In contrast to previous years Tiger Roll (9-2) had bookmakers smiling in winning the cross-country chase, at the expense of Easysland, while 14-1 shot Sky Pirate was another good result for the layers in the Grand Annual.

The card finished with the Champion Bumper – and although it was a Willie Mullins-trained one-two, Sir Gerhard at 85-40 got the better of the odds-on Kilcruit.

Coral’s David Stevens said: “It felt like Groundhog Day when well-backed favourites Bob Olinger and Monkfish replicated what Appreciate It and Shishkin had done on Tuesday – and then as in the Ultima on day one, we got a great result in the Coral Cup.

“But then unlike Tuesday, the hot favourite for the day’s feature race, Chacun Pour Soi, could not do what Honeysuckle had done – and after Put The Kettle On’s Champion Champion Chase victory had dented plenty of multiples, even the Tiger rolling back the years in the cross-country was not too painful, and our fightback was completed when Sky Pirate landed the Grand Annual.”

Chad Yeaomans, for Betway, said: “Although the first two races for novices were very punter friendly, the handicaps were kind to us – and we end the day in front.

“The Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase was a thriller of a contest that was full of drama, and the favourite getting beaten was a good result across the board. Chacun Pour Soi would have been the biggest single loser of the day, especially because we’d ‘superboosted’ him to 6-4 this morning, so getting him beaten was imperative.

“Sir Gerhard has been well-backed all winter, so he gave punters something to smile about when winning the bumper. I get the feeling he could be there in 12 months’ time after winning the Supreme!”

Paddy Power spokesman Paul Binfield said: “For the second day running, a couple of short ones had us fearing the worst, but fortunately for the bookies Put The Kettle On emulated Black Tears yesterday by chinning a hotpot and averting any potential multiple mayhem.

“Chacun Pour Soi, as well as Kilcruit in the bumper getting beat, meant a fair day for us – and the layers are ahead. But in Euro 2021 year, it’s only half-time, and it’s a game of two halves.”

Envoi Allen will be a key player on Thursday for one Betfair customer
Envoi Allen will be a key player on Thursday for one Betfair customer (David Davies/Jockey Club)

Ladbrokes’ Jon Lees said: “It’s very much racing’s loss that Tiger Roll won’t be trying to land a third Grand National at Aintree this year, after he routed his rivals to win at the Cheltenham Festival for the fifth time. Who knows? Maybe next year.

“For once Tiger Roll was on the bookmakers’ side in dismissing the hot favourite Easysland in the cross-country. With Chacun Pour Soi and Kilcruit beaten at odds-on as well, we emerged from St Patrick’s Day narrowly in front, which was looking unlikely when Bob Olinger and Monkfish took the first two races.”

Looking to the third day, one Betfair punter stands to win £511,225 for a £5 accumulator bet should his last selection and hot favourite, Envoi Allen, win the opening Marsh Novices’ Chase.

Betfair spokesman Barry Orr said: “The customer is sitting on over half-a-million pound payout for just a £5 bet and told me he won’t be able to sleep tonight. I’d say that’s a massive understatement.

“He could take the cash out offer of £275,000 and sit back safe in the knowledge that regardless of what happens in the race he is £275,000 better off, or he can reject the offer and hope that Envoi Allen beats his seven opponents and also safely negotiates the 16 fences to land his incredible bet.

“Envoi Allen is 4-9 favourite, so he may well stick and let the bet run.”

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