Sizing John the toast of the layers as favourites go west
For bookmakers it was festival frightday, but the final afternoon of Cheltenham produced a set of results the layers might dare not have dreamed of, with Sizing John's Gold Cup victory the icing on the cake.
While he was a well-supported fourth best in the market, the eclipse of both Cue Card and Native River, as well as the costly error two out by Djakadam, meant the biggest betting race of the year outside the Grand National was a winning book.
And those who placed their faith in a trio of short-priced favourites on the last day were left with scant reward as Defi Du Seuil's win in the Triumph Hurdle was followed by defeats for Death Duty in the Albert Bartlett and On The Fringe in the Foxhunter.
William Hill estimated Sizing John had saved the industry a £15 million payout, while Ladbrokes sized up the defeat of the trio at the head of the Gold Cup betting as a £20m win for the layers.
Nicola McGeady of Ladbrokes said: "Sizing John has saved us from an astronomical payout after punters latched onto the front three in the betting.
"We went into the final day bracing ourselves for another torrid day following on from Ruby Thursday, but Robbie Power has come to our rescue, saving the industry an estimated £20 million."
Hills spokesman Jon Ivan-Duke also reported the Gold Cup to be the turning point of the week for his firm.
"Sizing John has saved bookmakers millions of pounds," he said. "Across the industry it is around a £15 million bullet that has been dodged. This year’s Cheltenham festival has definitely been one to remember for the bookies."
A look at the pattern of results for the week tells a tale very different from the one 12 months ago, when three of the four championship races went to the favourite and those bookmakers listed publicly reported big dents to annual profits.
THE BOOKIES' WEEK IN NUMBERS
6 Number of winning favourites
1-4 Shortest winning SP (Altior)
40-1 Longest winning SP (Domesday Book)
£20m Estimated liabilities on the front three in the Gold Cup
Walsh draws blank buts hold on to title
Ruby Walsh retained his crown in the Boodles-sponsored leading jockey reckoning, despite not adding to his four successes from Thursday.
Willie Mullins' six winners contributed to a record haul of 19 winners for Ireland, easy winners of the Betbright Cup against the home team.
No winner will have been cheered louder by employees at Paddy Power and Betfair than Champagne Classic in the Martin Pipe Conditional Jockeys' Hurdle, his 25-1 success assuring Gordon Elliott a first Irish Independent trainers' title on countback.
Customers of both firms who backed Elliott had been paid out on Wednesday – only for Mullins, who drew a blank over the first two days, to take the issue to the wire.