Array of offers on the Supreme but layers believe Footpad could be the key
As bookmakers fight for business, where's the value, which results do they fear?
Footpad's fate in the Racing Post Arkle looks like being a critical result on day one of the Cheltenham Festival, not just for punters as the keystone to many multiples, but also in the war between rival firms.
With Tuesday's Grade 1s again providing four heavily supported favourites the tide could turn one way or another for the industry, depending on results.
Sky Bet and Paddy Power view Ruby Walsh's mount as the day one favourite they most want to be on the right side of, while Coral believe Simon Munir and Isaac Souede's star novice could have his work cut out.
Michael Shinners of Sky Bet said: "The one we're keen to keep out of the way of is Footpad. He's been well backed into 11-10 with us. Buveur D'Air is solid at 4-7 in the Champion Hurdle and we're happy at the price."
"One we are definitely not looking to chase after is Apple's Jade in the OLGB Mares' Hurdle," said Coral's David Stevens. "She looks in a class of her own. By contrast, although there are only five runners, Footpad in the Arkle is one we're quite happy to go after. Saint Calvados is proven on soft and we reckon that, with Petit Mouchoir in there too, Footpad will be up against it."
The array of special offers laid out in front of potential customers can be bewildering but the judicious can obtain value if choosing carefully where they place bets.
If you don't have an account with a particular firm, the first place to go should be the Racing Post app and website, where several firms are offering appealing introductory offers.
Supreme a key battleground
The Sky Bet Supreme Novices' Hurdle is the earliest chance to compete for business and thus features in several firms' specials.
And it is also the race where punters are looking for alternatives to the usual suspects of Mullins, Walsh and Ricci, whose Getabird is reported in at least one quarter to be the uneasiest of the four Grade 1 'good things'.
"Getabird is the one who's proved reasonably weak and we're happy to lay a bit of," Shinners said. "Summerville Boy would be the worst result for us in our race, he's been really well supported."
"In the ante-post book Kalashnikov would be pretty bad in the Supreme, although a win for him wouldn't be as bad as Footpad in the Racing Post Arkle," the firm's Paul Binfield said.
William Hill are offering to double your winnings in cash on win and place bets up to a value of £100 in the Supreme. Ladbrokes have a similar offer but double winnings as a free bet and only up to £50.
Coral have also hitched their offer to the Supreme and are offering phone and website customers up to a £25 refund as a free bet if your horse is beaten
And sponsors Sky Bet are offering money back as a free bet (up to £20) if the selection loses, not just in the Supreme, but on the opening race of all four days of the festival.
The firm are also offering extra each-way places on three races on Tuesday, the Ultima and Close Brothers handicaps as well as the National Hunt Chase.
Week-long offers and the effect of the ground
Paddy Power have led the way in years past with first day initiatives but have this year elected to spread the jam a little thinner but across the entire week, offering £10 refunded as a free bet for losers in any of the 28 races where the SP favourite obliges.
Coral believe that as Cheltenham will be run on wintry ground the markets have settled at the right level. They don't accept the view that heavy going will provide bookmaker-friendly results.
"Most of the key players have been running on soft ground all winter and punters as well as the markets have now readjusted to the conditions in recent days," Stevens said.
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