Thursday 18 January 2018

Cheltenham 2015: Bookies dodge "most expensive bullet in betting history"

Ruby Walsh on Annie Power falls at the last during the 16:00 OLBG Mares' Hurdle
Ruby Walsh on Annie Power falls at the last during the 16:00 OLBG Mares' Hurdle

Bookmakers were counting their blessings after having losses cut considerably by the untimely exit of Annie Power on an eventful opening day of the Cheltenham Festival.

Her fall at the final flight, when having the OLBG Mares' Hurdle at her mercy, saved the layers from a hit of over £50million and their worst day ever.

The bookies were fearing the worst after the first three races went the way of the followers of trainer Willie Mullins and jockey Ruby Walsh.

First it was Douvan (2-1) winning the Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle, followed by Un De Sceaux (4-6) in the Racing Post Arkle Trophy and then Faugheen (4-5) in the Stan James Champion Hurdle.

READ MORE: Cheltenham 2015: Ruby Walsh fall at the last saves bookies €200m

All that was left was for Annie Power to do the business in the Mares' Hurdle to complete a mountain of winning accumulators.

The 1-2 shot cruised into the lead, but just when the layers' nightmare scenario looked certain to become a reality, the mare bombed out at the last. Thankfully she emerged none the worse, as did Walsh.

Even then, the bookmakers did not escape unscathed as Mullins still won the race with second favourite Glens Melody (6-1).

David Williams of Ladbrokes said: "We've never known a day like it. If Annie Power had cleared the last our fate would have been sealed.

"Somehow we've dodged the most expensive bullet in betting history and rather than being the worst day we've known, it's just been a pretty bad day at the office. Nothing more and nothing less.

"The God of bookmaking certainly moves in mysterious ways. It would have been worse than 'Dettori Day' in 1996 if Annie Power hadn't come unstuck at the final hurdle."

Betfred's Andrew Griffiths said: "The doomsday scenario almost came true and we're breathing a huge sigh of relief."

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