Arkle hotpot Footpad the one the layers fear as festival punters take aim
Willie Mullins may not have his usual monopoly on market leaders at this year’s Cheltenham Festival but it is again Ireland’s champion trainer who has the potential to cause most anguish to bookmakers when the fireworks begin on March 13.
Gordon Elliott’s Samcro has been widely heralded as the Irish banker in the festival build-up but it is Mullins’ Racing Post Arkle favourite Footpad who bookmakers fear most and victory for him on day one would put them firmly on the back foot.
“As far as the big liabilities at this stage, surprisingly it’s not Samcro but Footpad, he’s our biggest single loser,” said Betfair’s Barry Orr, commenting on his firm’s Sportsbook, which has Footpad a best-priced 11-8.
He added: “We have seen plenty of support for Presenting Percy in the RSA Chase too and at current bet frequency/volumes expect him to be one of our biggest losers leading up to the festival as his shrewd connections have gained real respect among punters for delivering on the big occasion.”
Nicola McGeady painted a similar picture, with the two Mullins market leaders in the opening two races the horses Ladbrokes fear most at this stage.
She said: “Getabird and Footpad are our biggest worry right now. Punters absolutely love the Mullins/Walsh horses and both keep winning their trials very impressively.”
Paddy Power added: “Our worst ante-post liability now is Footpad in the Racing Post Arkle and he’s a six-figure loser having been laid at as big as 16-1."
As well as Getabird, a best-priced 13-8 with Betway, in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and Footpad in the Arkle, there is a familiar feel to day one at Cheltenham with Buveur D’Air a short-price for the Unibet Champion Hurdle and Apple’s Jade all the rage to retain her OLBG Mares’ Hurdle crown at a top-priced 4-6 with Betfair Sportsbook.
The four-timer brings back memories of Annie Power’s infamous fall in the 2015 Mares’ Hurdle, which was estimated to have saved the bookmaking industry a £50 million pay out after three of her Willie Mullins-trained stablemates had already won at short prices.
The prospect of Getabird, Footpad, Buveur D'Air and Apple's Jade justifying favouritism next month is not in that league yet, although should the first two win it could get ugly for the layers.
Orr said: “Had the four obliged in 2015 it was profit warning territory, this year, at the moment, it would be more of a Tuesday tremor. I think that’s partially down to the fragmentation of rider/trainer combinations of the four candidates as opposed to the magic combination of just Ruby and Willie.’’
Power added: “The opening day acca hasn’t captured punters’ imagination just yet, but that isn’t to say that if Ruby were to win the first two, we wouldn't be staring down the barrel of multiple mayhem with a likely 1-2 shot in Buveur D’Air and a seven-figure payout.”
Nicky Henderson’s Friday favourites – Apple’s Shakira in the JCB Triumph Hurdle and Timico Cheltenham Gold Cup favourite Might Bite – are shaping up as big losers for Coral, while Orr believes a good festival for Britain's champion trainer would be a bloodbath for bookmakers.
He said: “Interest on Henderson winning the championship races is beginning to gather pace and at present rates that would be an absolute stinker of a result.”
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