Bookies braced for million tears

WHAT’S £150 million (€196m) between friends?

At the weekend Ladbrokes boldly proclaimed over £500m (€654) would be gambled worldwide over the four-days of the Festival.

Ten minutes later Kate Miller of William Hill upped the ante and predicted £650 million (€851m) would change hands over the course of the meeting.

“Kauto Star, Inglis Drever, Noland and Sizing Europe are our four worst results,” she added.

“It will be tears before bedtime if all four oblige.”

Quite.

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ONE PUNTER who may not be swelling the bookmakers’ coffers over the coming week is Harry Findlay, co-owner of Denman. He is of course a huge professional punter, famous for smashing into short-priced favourites with colossal sums of money.

Not this time though. He won’t even be at the meeting before the apple of his eye faces his date with destiny against Kauto Star et all in Friday’s totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup.

“Normally I look forward to all the races at Cheltenham but I’m not this year, I’m only going on the Friday,” he said.

“I’ll be honest, it’s not so much the racing — I just want the clash to take place. People talk about the prestige of winning a Gold Cup but I’ve been brought up as a dog man. It’s not so much the Gold Cup for me, it’s the race.

“I’m not sure if they’ll ever meet again so this is really a race to savour for everyone.”

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ALL THREE Carberry siblings will be in action in today’s Champion Hurdle. Philip will ride the defending champion Sublimity, Paul will attempt to cajole Harchibald home while sister Nina is on Gordon Elliott’s Salford City.

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IS CHELTENHAM racecourse running background checks on people who buy tickets for the Festival?

It seems so.

In the official Cheltenham preview magazine we are told caterers Letheby and Christopher served 220,000 pints of Guinness at last year’s meeting and 240,000 bottles/pints of lager.

However on the eve of this year’s showpiece we are told that 170,000 pints of the black stuff will be downed and 140,000 pints of lager. Clearly the class of 2008 is a more restrained one. Either that or they will baulk at the fact you will need to shell out nearly six euros for a drop of either.

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THE TOP jockey market at the Festival is usually one of the quietest. Not in 2008. There has been a real gamble on Davy Russell eclipsing Tony McCoy, Ruby Walsh and the rest over the four days.

He was as big as 33-1 only seven days ago but now you will struggle to get a double figure price.

River Liane and Thyne Again are two of his leading fancies on the opening day and with several interesting ones to follow for Ferdy Murphy, it is little wonder the layers are running scared.

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JIM CULLOTY, who partnered Best Mate to a hat-trick of wins in the Cheltenham Gold Cup, will have his second Festival runner as a trainer when Western Point faces the starter in this afternoon’s Fred Winter Juvenile Novices’ Handicap Hurdle.

The youngster won at Gowran Park last month and just crept into the race off a handicap mark of 122.

“I’m hoping for a good run from him. He’s not very well treated by the handicapper but he’s an improver, so if he improves enough he might run a big race,” reasoned Culloty.

“The ground seems to be on the soft side of good but this horse might even be better on better ground. He’s only run on soft and heavy ground in Ireland because that’s all there was to run on. His Flat form suggests he might be better on good ground so we’ll see tomorrow.”

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CHELTENHAM clerk of the course Simon Claisse reports further ease in the ground ahead of the first day of the Festival meeting.

The fixture kicks off today on the Old Course which is now described as good to soft following further rain.

The going on the cross country course is now good to soft, soft in places while the New Course is good to soft ahead of Thursday and Friday’s action.

Claisse said: “I have changed the going to good to soft on both the Old and New courses following a total of 13 millimetres of rain since last night.

“Both courses are in fantastic condition and I cannot wait until the tremendous racing starts tomorrow afternoon.”

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