ANTHONY DALY: Costly carnage as Santa returns for bookies

I’m sure the majority of wallets were thin after Douvan’s collapse, writes Anthony Daly.

Pat Keane rightly sounded the warning signs and flashed the red sirens on these pages yesterday morning. ‘Proceed with extreme caution’ was the headline on Pat’s piece. He was right.

It was carnage for the punters. Utopia for the bookies. I’d say lads took such a hiding that they felt like going to the hospital A&E. Even Nostradamus, if he was still around, would have taken a belting.

The last time I did as much studying for a big exam was when I was in St Flannan’s College but all the research came to nothing yesterday. The longer I looked at it the more confused I was getting. That’s been the story of Cheltenham so far for a lot of punters.

It’s only half-time but you’d feel like you were turning 10 down and into the breeze. At least Gordon Elliott is giving the Irish something to toast.

I swore the most I was giving the bookies back was the bit of profit from yesterday. I chanced doing a €5 e/w Trixie (only a misspent youth could have you as familiar with such terms).

The three doubles and a treble came to €40 while I put the remaining tenner on Bellshill to win the Novice Chase. I thought to myself, surely Willie and Ruby will get off the mark’ I was wrong but it was the weirdest race I ever saw in my life.

Might Bite streaked away like a Gold Cup winner coming down the straight but he started wobbling after jumping the last. He staggered off to the right, the jockey Nico de Boinville had an awful job to steer him back, the horse looking like some poor auld devil coming out of the Mandarin Bar worse for wear. Davy Russell’s fella almost caught him, then Ruby trotted in so my single was down early.

I’d Neon Wolf as the first leg of my Trixie. He looked the winner all over but he made a mistake jumping the last and was beaten right on the line by Willoughby Court. The smile on the bookies’ face must have been like a magnesium glare – a 14-1 shot beating the 2-1 favourite. That set the tone for the day.

Douvan’s performance took the biscuit. When he effectively made three mistakes on the first three fences, you knew it was a car crash waiting to happen. At the top of the hill, three hurdles out, he was a beaten docket. I texted a friend who had him heavily backed. “You’re in trouble here mate.” He immediately texted back, “Gone, man”. Henry de Bromhead’s Special Tiara salvaged some pride, but little cash, for the Irish. They all cheered him into the enclosure but that was more through jingoism than jubilation because I’m sure the majority of wallets in those pockets were thin after Douvan’s collapse.

By then, the bookies must have thought Santa had come for the second time in three months. Any anti-post punter chancing bets between Christmas and March 1 would have Douvan amongst their top four horses for the festival so all those accumulators went down the tubes in a flash.

It was the story of my day. I’d Tombstone backed in the Coral Cup. All the Irish had waded into him. He was well handicapped but he was out the back the whole way, behind most of the 25 other runners. He hardly even saw a hurdle the whole way around.

The 4.50 was a 22-runner juvenile handicap, a minefield I stayed well clear of. The 33-1 win by Flying Tiger almost summed it up, loading more cash in the bookies’ pockets. The only chance I had of salvaging a few pound was on Harry Skelton’s horse Cause Toujours in the Bumper. I was hoping he might be placed which would have given me back €18 for my €40. That was what my day came down to, he was backed from 9-1 yesterday morning into 9-2 favourite.

The race was won by Gordon Elliott’s mare Fayonagh. She was out the back and seemed to have no chance before coming up the hill like a good greyhound in Clonmel, five lengths down before flying over the rising ground. It was another great race for Jamie Codd. Another great win for Elliott to move him onto five winners.

I needed to get two placed for my Trixie but only managed one, which took a sledgehammer to my €50. After Day Two, I’m back to 31 cents profit.

Pat Keane was right. ‘Proceed with extreme caution’ could just have easily translated into ‘Beware of the Carnage’.

Thank God I’m only at this craic for three days, and that the club championship will be exercising my mind on Friday.

Hallelujah.

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