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Final day sees betting honours going to the bookmakers

Bookmakers ended the Cheltenham Festival on a high as all seven favourites were beaten, to sink backers.

Punters had hoped to finish the four-day Festival with a flourish, after a series of well-supported winners on Thursday. However, the results went the way of the layers.

The victory of Henry de Bromhead’s Minella Indo (9-1) over the two market leaders A Plus Tard and Al Boum Photo in the WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup put bookmakers on the front foot.

The double-figure wins of Belfast Banter (33-1), Porlock Bay (16-1) and Vanillier (14-1) all added to misery for backers.

The success of 2-1 second-best Quilixios for the De Bromhead team in the Triumph Hurdle did not have a great bearing as it meant 11-8 favourite Zanahyir was beaten.

It was a similar story in the Mares’ Chase with Colreevy (9-4) getting the better of her Willie Mullins’ stablemate Elimay, the 6-5 favourite.

Mullins also took the final race of the meeting, the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap Hurdle, with Galopin Des Champs (8-1) when the trainer also supplied the beaten favourite, Gentleman De Mee.

“Thursday ended badly for the layers with a trio of well-backed winners, and when Rachael Blackmore continued that run with victory on Quilixios in the Triumph Hurdle, the biggest day of the week got off to a poor start,” said Coral’s David Stevens.

“However, both Belfast Banter and Vanillier were welcome winners for us, and when it came to the biggest betting heat of the week, it seemed as if Gold Cup punters only wanted to be with Al Boum Photo and A Plus Tard, so Minella Indo came to our rescue in style.

“Defeats for Billaway and Elimay in the two races that followed put the icing on our cake.

“The first three days of this unusual Festival had seen results swing back and forth, but when it really mattered on this massive final day, we can have no complaints.”

Paddy Power spokesman Paul Binfield said: “WellChild Cheltenham Gold Cup day was a good day for us even allowing for one lucky and skilful punter picking up €578,000 on an accumulator placed in December.

“But a hearty congratulations to that customer and after a terrible Thursday, we’ve ended the week a small bit behind.”

The lucky customer was in the money after Minella Indo was the final leg in a €20 accumulator placed in Paddy Power’s Shannon shop in County Clare on December 1.

All his winners were at Cheltenham with Honeysuckle, Bob Olinger and Put The Kettle On doing their bit at the Festival earlier in the week.

Coral and Ladbrokes quit on-course betting ring

Coral and Ladbrokes will no longer be seen in the betting ring after parent company GVC announced it was ceasing the operation of all of its 106 racecourse betting pitches.

In a statement released on Tuesday, GVC’s trading director Tom Ritzema said the decision had “not been taken lightly”, and that several factors had been taken into consideration.

Ritzema said: “This decision has not been taken lightly, and we are very sad to be calling time on Ladbrokes and Coral’s longstanding presence in the racecourse betting ring.

“GVC remains totally committed to horse racing, with a significant race sponsorship portfolio under the Ladbrokes and Coral brands, and we are the biggest single provider of betting revenues to the sport.”

GVC revealed that terms had been agreed to sell all of its racecourse pitches – 85 in the UK and 21 in Ireland – to John Hooper, who trades under the name Sid Hooper.

There are 17 GVC employees impacted by the decision to close down the racecourse operation, and the company reported a consultation with the affected individuals will begin immediately.

Ritzema added: “Our priority now is the consultation with the 17 members of the team, who between them have provided a fantastic professional service for our customers, and for the company, for many years.

“A number of factors combined to lead us to conclude that a presence in the racecourse betting ring is no longer a strategic imperative for our two UK brands.

“The volume of business taken through the racecourse pitches is minuscule, compared to the volumes generated in our off-course retail and digital businesses, and we no longer use the operation to hedge into the racecourse betting ring.

“As the racecourse operation is loss-making and no longer has a strategic purpose, we have regrettably reached the decision to sell our pitches and leave the ring.

“The current situation with Covid-19, and racing behind closed doors, expedited the decision but was not one of the factors behind it.

“Standing in the betting ring will always be a huge part of both Ladbrokes and Coral heritage and history, and we are immensely proud of that. However, the betting landscape has changed immeasurably in recent years, and we need to change with it.

“We would like to wish John Hooper the best of fortune with our pitches, going forward.”