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Most bookies claim victory as favourites falter on day one

Hayley O'Connor reported that Ladbrokes avoided the first-day losses of last year
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Bookmakers avoided the first-day disasters of the last two years with the defeats of the heavily backed quartet Melon, Singlefarmpayment, Limini and Yanworth at Cheltenham on Tuesday.

With only one favourite obliging on the seven-race card – 1-4 shot Altior in the Racing Post Arkle – it was potentially a bloodbath for many punters, and most firms reported a victory.

Paddy Power spokesman Paul Binfield said: “Melon, Yanworth and Limini all failed to sparkle and, while punters got some respite from Altior it was too little too early and the bookies have done well in the opening exchanges."

Ladbrokes also emerged triumphant, with the last-stride short-head defeat of 5-1 market leader Singlefarmpayment by Un Temps Pour Tout in the Ultima Handicap Chase a huge result for the firm.

Ladbrokes' Hayley O'Connor said: "The opening day of the festival had become known as Ruby Tuesday for the past few years, but Ruby Walsh went home empty-handed today and so did many of the punters.

"Singlefarmpayment was narrowly defeated, which had us breathing a sigh of relief, and all in all our satchels are heavier leaving the racecourse than they were arriving this morning."

Just 1.55 per cent of William Hill punters backed 25-1 winner Labaik in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle – approximately 4,100 from 500,000 bets – a race in which Melon and Ballyandy started well-backed 3-1 joint-favourites.

"It was virtually the best result in the race for Hills," said the firm's Jon Ivan-Duke. "It's a much better start to the festival for bookmakers than the last few years, but there is a long way to go with three exciting days left."

Coral, however, could manage only a draw.

"It"s honours even between bookmakers and punters after day one of the Cheltenham Festival, but that is something us bookies will celebrate as we still have the scars from the opening-day financial batterings of recent years," said Coral's Simon Clare.

"Singlefarmpayment getting beat was a £500,000 swing for Coral, while the defeats for Yanworth in the Champion Hurdle and Melon ensured the day was not going to be the horror story of Cheltenhams past."

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All in all our satchels are heavier leaving the racecourse than they were arriving this morning
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