Bookmakers head into the final leg of the Cheltenham Festival in good spirits after hanging on to their advantage over the week on St Patrick’s Day.
Proceedings on day three got off to a dramatic start when 5-6 shot Galopin Des Champs fell at the final fence with the Turners Novices’ Chase at his mercy, leaving second favourite Bob Olinger (6-5) to run out a fortuitous winner and give the layers a great start.
On the Betfair betting exchange, Galopin Des Champs was matched at the basement price of 1.01 for £39,488 while Bob Olinger was matched at the ceiling price of 1000 for £10.
Third Wind was one for the layers as the 25-1 shot denied 11-2 co-favourite Alaphilippe in the Pertemps Network Final Handicap Hurdle. Coole Cody (22-1) winning the Craft Irish Whiskey Co. Plate Handicap Chase and Chambard (40-1) in the Fulke Walwyn Kim Muir Challenge Cup Amateur Jockeys’ Handicap Chase were also good results for the bookies.
However, the Willie Mullins-trained Allaho did the business for punters with a scintillating display to land back-to-back victories in the Ryanair Chase. His starting price of 4-7 was very skinny compared to 3-1 when he was winning favourite in 2021.
Flooring Porter (4-1) was a popular winner for the Irish in the Paddy Power Stayers’ Hurdle but there had been late support for Klassical Dream from the Mullins camp. And Love Envoi (15-2) took the Ryanair Mares’ Novices’ Hurdle as a gamble on the once-raced Dinoblue, from the Mullins’ yard, came unstuck.
Coral’s David Stevens said: “In recent seasons we’ve tended to have the worst of the results on the first three days, but then got out of jail on the Friday, the biggest day of the week, but this year we went into day three slightly ahead, and just held onto that advantage at the end of the day.
“Defeats for Galopin Des Champs, Sire Du Berlais, Imperial Alcazar and Dinoblue were the highlights for us on Thursday, although we didn’t have it all our own way, with Allaho rewarding favourite backers in the Ryanair, and Love Envoi and Chambard both popular choices at bigger odds in the closing two races. But as we head into Gold Cup day we’re in good shape, although a good Friday for punters would change all of that.”
Ladbrokes hailed wins for Third Wind and Coole Cody as excellent results, while Bob Olinger landing the first was also a positive outcome.
The firm’s Nicola McGeady said: “It is safe to say that we have the upper hand heading into the final day of the festival. Punters didn’t have a huge amount to celebrate about today, with the likes of Sire Du Berlais and Imperial Alcazar letting them down the most. Allaho was obviously a very bad result and Flooring Porter wasn’t great either, but on the whole we can’t complain.
“It is a wide open Gold Cup tomorrow but there is one horse attracting the weight of money, with punters hoping A Plus Tard can save the week.”
The big-priced winners ensured William Hill came out on top.
Their spokesperson, Tony Kenny, said: “The mood on the trading floor has changed a fair bit since Tuesday! We were behind after day one but after a good day yesterday and a solid-enough one today, we’re slightly in front as we approach Friday’s finale.
“Plenty of short-priced multiples landed with Bob Olinger and Allaho being successful, but with two big-priced winners in the handicaps and Dinoblue being beaten in the Mares’ Novices Hurdle, things are looking much better than they did 48 hours ago.
“Gold Cup Day, with a big turnover expected, will be decisive. Minella Cocooner and Royal Pagaille are the two we’d like to see beaten but with the likes of Vauban, Elimay and State Man all set to be popular, there’s plenty of others we are fearful of.”