Tony McCoy the key to final day betting battle at Cheltenham

Bookmakers are fearing a final day plunge on Tony McCoy’s last Cheltenham Festival rides after the retiring champion got off the mark on day three of the meeting.

Tony McCoy the key to final day betting battle at Cheltenham

While McCoy’s win aboard 16-1 shot Uxizandre in the Ryanair Chase hardly had the layers running for cover, Ladbrokes’ David Williams believes that victory could mean the famous ‘McCoy factor’ comes into play.

The 19-times title winner has five rides, with him signing off at the Festival aboard Ned Buntline, while his Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup mount Carlingford Lough is likely to be a popular selection, which would not be good news for the bookmakers.

Williams said: “The McCoy factor has now fully kicked in. Punters have seen him in the winner’s enclosure and are now clamouring to back him for a famous last hurrah.

“We were in the bizarre position of cheering home AP as he won his first race of the week. It was the start of a bookies’ comeback that has seen us enjoy our best day of the week by far. If McCoy wins again on Gold Cup day, however, we’re unlikely to escape unhurt.”

Day three got off to an excellent start for punters with Vautour’s win as the 6-4 favourite in the opening JLT Novices’ Chase not a good result for the bookmakers.

However, Uxizandre’s win was followed by 14-1 shot Cole Harden in the World Hurdle and 33-1 chance Darna in the Brown Advisory & Merriebelle Stable Plate.

Betfred spokesman Andrew Griffiths admitted to a feeling of “relief” to have had some results go their way, although he says there is still some way to go before the books swing in their favour again.

He said: “After the turmoil of the first two days it’s frankly a relief to finish about level on the day.

“We had a shocker with Vautour in the first but the feature races went our way to balance the books.

“We’re still behind on the week and it’s going to take some cracking results on Friday to turn the ship around.”

Rory Jiwani of StanJames.com pointed to Call The Cops’ victory at odds of 9-1 in the Pertemps Final as a particularly disappointing result for them.

He said: “It was another poor day for the bookies and had (World Hurdle third) Zarkandar not clouted a hurdle when moving ominously into contention, we’d have been cleaned out.

But 14-1 shot Cole Harden didn’t see a rival and gave Warren Greatrex a superb first Festival triumph. He’s 10-1 to repeat the trick next year.

“Vautour made sure the punters got off to a flyer in the JLT with one of the most impressive novice chasing performances in recent years.

“We made Willie Mullins’ charge a 7-1 shot for next year’s Gold Cup but that was soon snapped up and he is now 5-1 joint-favourite with stablemate Don Poli.

“We’re 26-1 that Vautour wins the Gold Cup, Faugheen wins next year’s Champion Hurdle and Un De Sceaux wins the Champion Chase.

“Call The Cops was a bad result for the bookies in the Pertemps Final with Nicky Henderson getting off the mark for the week. We had a bit of a result in the Ryanair thanks to 16-1 shot Uxizandre and AP McCoy who broke his duck at the Festival.”

* The going at Cheltenham for today’s Betfred Cheltenham Gold Cup looks likely to ease with up to 12mm of rain forecast before the feature race on the final day of the festival.

Yesterday’s races were run on ground described as good (hurdle) and good, good to soft in places (chase), with riders calling it “lovely”.

However, conditions will ease if the forecast is correct and that would suit the likes of Hennessy Gold Cup winner Many Clouds and exciting novice Coneygree in the big race at 3.20pm.

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