The statistics may have been against Paul Nicholls’s ace chaser but his supporters believed he could defy history and become the first horse to regain the totesport Gold Cup.
Backed down from 9-4 to 7-4 favourite, Kauto Star put in a faultless round of jumping under Ruby Walsh to run out an easy winner and cost the layers in excess of £10 million.
Ladbrokes were hit hard, with spokesman David Williams adding: “Kauto Star has brought us crashing to our knees.
“He has emptied our satchels and given punters the best result at Cheltenham in many years. We’ll be paying out until Easter.
“We dared to believe he was beatable and took a chance by offering the top price. It’s a decision that could haunt us for a long, long time.”
Those comments were echoed throughout the betting industry.
“Kauto has been the people’s horse since he replaced Denman at the head of the market in February,” said William Hill spokesman David Hood. “The sheer confidence in public of his trainer Paul Nicholls had punters backing him into a solid 7-4 favourite on Friday and I estimate they’ll be collecting the thick end of £10m in winnings.”
Coral PR director Simon Clare said: “Bookmakers have been on the ropes all week and Kauto Star’s victory was the knock-out blow.
“When the most popular horse in training, ridden by the in-form jockey at the Festival, wins the biggest race of the week it spells disaster for bookmakers and so it proved.
“We have taken one hell of a beating.”
George Primarolo of Gold Cup sponsors totesport said: “Kauto might be a star to punters but he’s taken us to the cleaners.”
The Gold Cup alone cost Betfred £1m with their boss Fred Done saying: “I’ve been bashed up by Kauto Star’s win, but I’ll pay out with a smile when a horse produces a performance like that.
“It’s been a roller-coaster week with two great days for the bookies and two terrible days financially and one thing is for sure – I’ll be very careful about taking on Kauto Star again.”
Blue Square spokesman Alan Alger said: “We’re absolutely on our knees on the final day of the Festival.
“Ruby Walsh has had an incredible four days and this is just the icing on the cake for him.
“His previous six winners had been well supported, including 20-1 shot American Trilogy earlier, but this has just emptied our satchels!”