Bookmakers were spared losses estimated at millions of pounds after the third leg of an audacious betting coup came unstuck on Sunday.
The layers were prepared for the worst after the first two horses, Fire Away and Blowing Dixie, obliged at short prices after being backed at big odds, with only Gallahers Cross left to run.
The trio were linked together in a variety of wagers with several bookmakers when betting on Sunday’s races opened on Saturday night.
All three were sent off short-priced favourites after being snapped up at double-figure odds.
Paul Binfield, spokesman for Paddy Power, said: “I don’t want to reveal figures, but our liabilities would probably be on a par with others in the industry.
“The trading room at Power Tower breathed a huge sigh of relief when Get The Appeal foiled the gamble and crossed the line in front.”
After the victories of Fire Away and Blowing Dixie, the eyes of the racing world were focused on Gallahers Cross, trained Daragh Bourke, in the bet365 Handicap Hurdle at Musselburgh.
The race may only have carried a winning purse of £4,288, but it was worth an awful lot more to those in on the gamble and those punters would have been sitting comfortably for most of the two-and-three-quarter-mile contest.
Gallahers Cross travelled well up to the second-last flight, only to find little under pressure, and the 4-5 favourite faded into fourth place as the Paul Nicholls-trained Get The Appeal made all the running under Harry Cobden.
Until then the three-horse gamble was very much on.
Fire Away, who was available at 22-1 when betting opened, went off the evens favourite as he kick-started the gamble in the bet365 Novices’ Handicap Chase.
Having his first start for Laura Morgan, the eight-year-old romped home by 19 lengths in the hands of Richie McLernon after taking the lead after the third-last fence.
“We’ve had him 11 days. We bought him from Daragh Bourke,” the Leicestershire trainer told Musselburgh’s Twitter account.
“He had a couple of horses for sale. He was one of them. I did go to buy the other one, but we bought him instead.
“Fingers crossed, he can win a few more.”
Backed down from 9-1 to 4-6 favourite, Blowing Dixie brought up the second leg in the Betway Casino Handicap at Southwell.
The Iain Jardine-trained five-year-old looked to benefit from a drop in class when defying top weight by a smooth two and a half lengths in the hands of Andrew Mullen.
“He’s travelled through the race really strong and I wanted something to take me further, but I was there three out, so I let him get on with it,” Mullen told Sky Sports Racing.
“He’s very honest. He likes Southwell. He’s got course form round here and he came good today.
“I spoke to Iain this morning and he said ‘I think I’ve got him as well as I can and if he turns up, he’ll be hard to beat’. He was right.”
Not all bookmakers fell foul of the attempted coup. Simon Clare, head of PR at Ladbrokes Coral, revealed they managed to “dodge a bullet”.
“Our trading team who were on duty last night spotted the path of bets quite quickly and it was clear they were connected, so they reacted quickly and turned off the multiples for those three selections,” he said.
“We were aware something very organised was going on, but we managed not to face anything too scary.
“We saw what other people were saying and had our trader not spotted it and left it another half an hour or an hour, given the huge odds in play, you would have been facing huge liabilities.
“It’s hard to know what other firms were facing. We managed to dodge a bullet.
“Actually, for us, it was much more of those favourites winning was more of a nightmare for us than the attempted coup.”
At the request of the British Horseracing Authority’s integrity department, the connections of all three horses were interviewed by the race day stewards before their respective races.