Long way home for distraught layers

LONG RUN’S marvellous victory in the totesport Gold Cup ensured the punters were in front at the end of a marathon four-day stint at the Cheltenham Festival.

The layers admitted being hit for at least £20million at the end of a roller-coaster four days which contrasted so markedly with 12 months ago when they crossed the line the clear winners.

Nicky Henderson’s young upstart was backed down to 7-2 favourite and duly obliged from popular past winners Denman and Kauto Star.

“What a difference a year makes,” said David Williams of Ladbrokes. “Last year we were laughing but this year we’re crying into our empty satchels. It’s been desperately bad.

“The punters are carrying the cash off the course in cranes. Wednesday went our way but, on balance, we’ve had a miserable time during the biggest week of the betting year.

“The roars of the happy punters will give us nightmares long into the summer. We can’t get out of the Cotswolds quickly enough.”

Betfred boss Fred Done endorsed that view: “It’s been a Long Run of losers for us bookies at this festival and the satchel is well and truly empty and I might have to hitch back to Manchester.

“This is the worst festival for a long time with Quevega, Hurricane Fly, Chicago Grey, Big Buck’s, Junior, Bobs Worth and of course Gold Cup winner Long Run all obliging for the punters.”

A list of bad results for the layers at the four-day feast were Hurricane Fly and Quevega on Tuesday, Chicago Grey on Wednesday, Big Buck’s and Junior on Thursday and Bobs Worth earlier on Friday — before Long Run sealed their fate.

Ruby Walsh had briefly come to the bookies’ rescue on day four when saving them a packet as he got up on the nod to deny a major gamble on McCoy’s mount Get Me Out Of Here, owned by legendary gambler JP McManus in the Vincent O’Brien County Handicap Hurdle.

That only provided brief respite as punters were soon back on the front foot after the Albert Bartlett Novices’ Hurdle as Nicky Henderson finally got on the scoresheet this week thanks to 15-8 favourite Bobs Worth justifying strong support.

Victor Chandler spokesman Charlie McCann said: “It’s been a long time coming but when it did arrive the Henderson/Geraghty combination have landed a mighty gamble with Bobs Worth, who looked in control for much of the race.”

PRECIOUS RUBY

RUBY WALSH was once again crowned the Cheltenham Festival’s leading jockey as he signed off this year’s showpiece meeting with five winners.

Walsh, the winning-most jockey in festival history, started off the week in tremendous style, with victories aboard Al Ferof and Quevega supplementing the Irishman’s first Champion Hurdle success on Hurricane Fly.

He was on the mark again on Wednesday as he guided Big Buck’s to a historic third successive World Hurdle title.

And while out of luck on Thursday, the County Hurdle success of Final Approach capped yet another hugely successful Cheltenham.

Trainer Mullins was named top festival trainer with four winners (Hurricane Fly, Quevega, Final Approach and Sir Des Champs).

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