Cheltenham from a bookie's view: pressure, pressure and more pressure
Star Sports bookmaker Ben Keith picks up the baton for our Festival Diary, counting down the days to the highlight of the jumps season . . .
Three weeks on Tuesday and the festival will be upon us – along with Royal Ascot, it's our biggest and busiest week of the year, but the preceding weeks aren't exactly a relaxing time either!
Thankfully, ante-post-wise, we have managed to swerve the major movers. Getabird (Supreme Novices') and Samcro (Ballymore) have both been laid at double-figure odds in the industry but I’m happy to go to war at the current prices with a relatively blank canvas. The same goes for Footpad in the Arkle. He was still at double-figure odds after his winning debut over fences and has been in freefall ever since, but we’ve kept on the right side.
We are ‘non-runner no bet’ from Tuesday, so I expect the book to start filling up quickly.
It’s also a busy time on our website. We continue our popular series of video interviews, this week with the Racing Post’s Bruce Millington, and are also on the road covering stable visits to the Nicky Henderson, Nigel Twiston-Davies and Colin Tizzard yards – as well as preparing to record our popular festival preview videos.
Star Sports spend much of the year in the shadows of our giant competitors. However, it is during the Cheltenham Festival and Royal Ascot that we can play to our strengths, work with our contacts, meet many of our clients and come to the front.
Next Tuesday sees the first of 15 Star-sponsored Cheltenham Preview evenings including the Star Sports Mayfair shop with our brand ambassador Davy Russell. They give us a chance to connect with punters in areas of the UK where we never bet on course.
Luke Tarr, our PR man, travels the country hosting them, making new contacts, opening accounts and inviting punters to bet with us on course at our pitches. Everyone attending gets a free matched bet up to £50 and we also have a huge range of specials on display.
During the festival itself we have prominent pitches in the Tattersalls enclosure and on the rails, in addition to a betting shop in the Sovereign Bar, which mainly serves members.
At these positions we are approached by many media organisations and journalists, which hopefully helps grow the Star brand. This attention was accentuated last year when we laid those well-publicised £400,000 and £375,000 bets on Altior and Douvan respectively – luckily, we got the latter beaten.
Cheltenham, for me, is all about pressure. It builds and builds and is almost unbearable in the days before. I just want to get started and get betting. That is still some way away now, but the clock is ticking.
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