Day Four of the 2015 Cheltenham Festival saw a good start for favourite backers as Peace And Co (2/1) led home a stable one two three for Nicky Henderson in the Triumph Hurdle and landed some tasty bets in the process, including one of £12,000, one of £8,000, and a couple of “just” the £4000 to win. Not a single sizeable bet was struck in any other horse and by about 1.35pm it was clearly one nil to the punters but with six races to go, though as the race is generally the kiss of death to future chances, connections and supported alike will have need to make this one pay. Although the Vincent O’Brien Handicap is named after perhaps the greatest trainer in Irish history, it was still a bit embarrassing for the home team to see the first six home trained in the Emerald Isle, led home by Wicklow Brave at odds of 25/1. He wasn’t the best supported (obviously) at that price, and saw most bets remain in the bookmakers satchels, but it wasn’t much of an on course betting race (£7,000 or so recorded on the favourite who was only thirteenth), and we doubt the bookies got back to level pegging here.
The Irish scored again in the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle, but again with a surprise winner thanks to Martello Tower at odds of 14/1 for Ms Margaret Mullins. The winner hasn’t scored since but is on target for the World Hurdle, while the runner up and third had a lot more bets placed on them (£5000 to win £165,000 on Milsean, now that’s what we call a bet!), leaving the bookmakers smiling once again. No More Heroes saw twenty three bets of £400 to won as well as other bigger bets but was beaten a length and a half at the line, and 5/2 favourite Black Hercules, who is now pretty decent over fences, was back in seventh and left a further £9000 plus with the bookies in doing so.
Hats off to the connections of Coneygree for sending their novice to the Gold Cup and he rewarded them with a battling win at odds of 7/1. He did land some decent bets himself but not as many as were lost on runner up Djakadam (£3000 to win £30,000 went astray), as well as Many Clouds (who went on to win the Grand National) who fed them another £6,000 or so, and favourite Silviniaco Conti who lost his supporters one bet of £20,000 to win and another of £10,000.
The Foxhunters is for amateur riders and generally speaking a quiet betting heat but someone must have felt Paint The Clouds was a good thing as they backed him down to 11/4 favourite at the off, but without success. He was only third at the line, a neck off of second but seventeen lengths adrift of winner On The Fringe and will be back to try again in 2016, with punters looking to get back some of their losses, perhaps.
Willie Mullins finally rewarded his supporters in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys’ Handicap with Killultagh Vic at odds of 7/1, though by then many of the Irish must have gone home with only one bet of £1000 recorded on the books. He stayed on bravely to get back up by a head and deserves his plaudits, but the result hardly hurt the bookmakers who had one race to go to finish the day well on top.
In the last race of the four days, Ned Buntline (Noel Meade) and Blood Cotil (Willie Mullins) were sent off 4/1 joint favourites but failed to bother the judge. More bets of £500 to win (Blood Cotil) and £11,000 in total (Ned Buntline) went straight in to the bookies wallets as Next Sensation scored under Tom Scudamore at odds of 16/1, leaving the bookies on top – if only Annie Power had scored on Day One it would have been such a different story!