Saturday 16 December 2017

Cheltenham 2015: So what's life like for a bookie at the festival?

Willie Mullins and his team will cause Leon Blanche (right) and BoyleSports a lot of worry next week, especially on the opening day of Cheltenham
Willie Mullins and his team will cause Leon Blanche (right) and BoyleSports a lot of worry next week, especially on the opening day of Cheltenham

NIall Cronin talks to BoyleSports' Leon Blanche about the festival from the bookie's perspective

Is there any week that compares to Cheltenham for a bookmaker?

Cheltenham is by far the biggest week and it is the only sporting event that from the moment it finishes one year, we already start to take money on it for the following year. Once it kicks off on Tuesday all the way through to Friday it’s four crazy days. It’s crazy and hectic from a punters’ perspective but the exact same can be said from a bookmakers’ point of view. Cheltenham can shape the year in a positive way or a negative way.

Cheltenham ends on Friday the 13th but could the bookmakers be ruing their luck after day one?

Willie Mullins looks like he could have at least five favourites for Tuesday and there is no doubt that punters are going to be latching on to the ‘Willie factor’ and if he could land five winners on Tuesday it would certainly be reminiscent of Frankie Dettori’s seven winners at Ascot.

There’s no doubt that as an Irish bookmaker we are running scared of Willie Mullins. As a bookmaker we are going to have a lot of doubles, trebles and accumulators filled only with Willie Mullins runners and we’ll be hoping that one of them can get turned over.

What has been the most popular bet for Tuesday so far?

There’s no doubt that on the first day it will be Douvan, Un De Sceaux, Faugheen and Annie Power and if the four of them win it will be absolutely carnage.

Is it difficult to be shouting against Irish horses?

If Willie Mullins can have four or even three winners on the opening day at Cheltenham we will be at a loss but you’d just have to congratulate him and his team because that is no mean feat. We all know how hard it is to get a horse to Cheltenham let alone have more than one winner on the opening day.

But that is our business, we set the prices and lay the bets and we take our chances.

For our trading team it is a massive event for them and they will hope to have set the prices correctly and looking for something to upset the odds. 

What horses are you looking at to help do you a favour?

Well, as we have seen on many occasions and in a number of big Irish races this season, it can often be a second string that comes out and wins and we could be in a position that there’ll be two Willie Mullins horses coming up to the last and we’ll be shouting for the opposite to the majority of people!

Which horse do you think may trade at a bigger price on the day than they currently are?

There is no doubt that if we can get Douvan or Un De Sceaux beat in the early races that you could certainly then see the likes of Faugheen and Annie Power drift especially as there can be cases made against them but on the other hand to that if they both win, those other two horses, and if Willie has a runner in the four-miler, will get even shorter.

What is you own favourite part of Cheltenham?

I think it has to be the roar that goes up before the Supreme Novices Hurdle but as a punter myself, there is nothing better than backing a winner at Cheltenham.

What are your own personal ante post bets going into next week?

I have backed Djakadam for the Gold Cup prior to his Thyestes Chase win so I’m on him at 40/1. I’ve done an each-way double with Josses Hill and Bobs Worth and I have also done Don Poli in the four-miler so fingers crossed he’ll end up there.


Worst case scenario for the bookies

What is the worst result for Boylesports?

Leon Blanche: Without a shadow of a doubt it is Douvan (pictured below) in the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle. He is by far and away the worst ante-post liability by a country mile. He’s the one horse that Irish people have been backing all the way down in price. When you consider such a master of a trainer like Willie Mullins speaking in such high regard for him it’s no surprise to see punters putting their money behind him.

Do you think there is a horse able to beat him?

Leon Blanche: I was over at Nicky Henderson’s press morning and there’s no doubt that when he was talking about L’Ami Serge there was a little bit of a glint in his eye and he seems quite content not to have the pressure on him and all the talk is surrounding Douvan so maybe Nicky and Barry Geraghty might be our savour in the first contest on the Tuesday.

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