Bookies ride to victory with bumper Cheltenham festival

THIS year’s Cheltenham was the best one on record for bookmakers with just four favourites obliging at the 26-race festival.

According to stockbroking firm Davy, the Cheltenham festival is the most important racing event of the year for Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and William Hill.

Just four (15%) of the 26 races were won by favourites, well below the 27% average of the last eight years.

Bookies’ fortunes were also helped by tote on-course turnover, which although declining 1% on day one against last year, leapt by 12%, 9.6% and 22% on days two to four.

Amounts wagered on Betfair jumped 4.1%.

Crowd numbers were also up 4.2% on 2009, the highest attendance in five years.

Davy said Paddy Power was the biggest winner at the festival, adding that all bookmakers are now on track to beat half-year profit estimates. “We believe that Paddy Power was perhaps the biggest beneficiary last week. A high-profile special on the opening day seemed to capture punter imagination – the company stated that it opened 10,000 customer accounts on the back of this,” said the Davy analysts Simon McGrotty and David Jennings.

The stockbrokers said that although the importance of Cheltenham is decreasing over time, with competitions from online casino and poker and increased levels of football betting, it is still a key event for bookmakers.

Paddy Power saved €4.5 million on the first day by offering to refund all losing bets and pay out on the winner should festival hot-pot Dunguib win. However, the race was won by 12/1 Menorah.

Davy said that race four on day three, the Ladbrokes World Hurdle, proved to be the single worst result of the festival for the bookmakers. It was the day’s premier race, attracting a third of the day’s money and was won by the 5/6 favourite, Big Buck’s.

On day four, where the Gold Cup was the highlight, analysts said the early races failed to disappoint the bookies, as the favourite in the first four races failed to even run into a place. The only favourite to win was Baby Run, 9/2 joint favourite in the fifth race, the Foxhunters. However, this race accounted for only 12% of the day’s money.

“For the day as a whole, one favourite from seven won, accounting for 14.3% of races. This marked the end of what was an enormously successful event for the bookmakers from a results perspective.”


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