Well that’s it folks and another festival is over. The final day was exciting but a tad disappointing from a betting perspective. As is required by tradition, 6 of us descended on the pub right next door to our local Betfred to watch the racing and sink a few pints. Included in this rowdy bunch were some notable attendees who have graced the pages of my weekly diary in the past. First up we had Bryn and Steve from levelstakestips.com (LST). Two of the canniest punters I know, both are willing to put their money where their mouth is as tipsters on their website – and they do it for free with a huge amount of success. In stark contrast we have my boss Johnny L or Johnny “Hindsight” as we like to call him. John also has an opinion, but it normally involves telling us our tips and selections are woeful after they have lost. We also had the conclusion of our annual Cheltenham Challenge where 9 of us pop of tenner in the pot and pick a selection for every race of the festival. Points are awarded at SP for a winner, 1/2 SP for a second place horse and 1/3 SP for a third place finisher. The pot is then split between the top three tipsters – £50, £20 and £10. This makes John uncomfortable as he now has to have an opinion before the event.
I came into Day 4 nicely ahead after a good Day 2 and Day 3. In fact I placed all my bets for Gold Cup day the night before the racing, knowing I would just about end up all square even if I failed to have any winners on the Friday. First up was the Triumph Hurdle and my selection Broughton was thoroughly disappointing as he travelled well and then found nothing when asked to pick up, eventually finishing 8th. In the next, Cheltenian was pulled up but Flaxen Flare plugged on for a never nearer 5th and an each-way pay out at 20/1. Steve from LST had had a meaty bet on Montbazon @25/1 each-way. And when I say meaty I mean £200 each-way! He had also nipped to Betfred and had a “cheeky” £50 each-way on Diakali @25/1 and he duly collected as both horses placed.
In the Albert Bartlett, my each-way picks Deputy Dan and Champagne West ran absolute blinders to finish 2nd and 4th respectively @16/1 and, although Deputy Dan’s tank was empty after jumping the final flight, he landed a nice bit of place money. The well-backed Kings Palace fell at the last when already beaten. Bryn and Steve had both backed Apache Jack @33/1 but not one of us had considered Very Wood, the eventual 33/1 winner.
And so to the Gold Cup. We had all backed Bobs Worth as though he couldn’t lose. Some of the lads had ploughed in at 2/1 and we were all fairly confident. The race was a real trends buster with the first three home having SP’s of 20/1, 16/1 and 14/1. Steve of course had tipped up Lord Windermere on the LST website @40/1 and had also had a few each-way on him. I must admit that I never even considered Lord Windermere. In fact I dismissed him outright. Steve made the very simple observation that he won last year’s RSA Chase and winners of that race have a good record in the Gold Cup. Sometimes it pays not to over-analyse these things.
On the subject of race analysis, I wrote on Thursday evening that only 2 horses aged 11 or older had won the Foxhunters Chase. The first three home this year were aged 9, 10 and 9. I just happened to have backed the wrong youngster as Divine Intavention, who was travelling nicely, blundered 4 out before unseating at the next.
With 2 races to go and the alcohol starting to have an effect, I was hopeful of a big priced winner to round off a really enjoyable festival. I had backed Une Artiste and The Skyfarmer at big prices each-way to 5 places in the Martin Pipe. Neither really featured and finished 8th and a 16th respectively and it was all down to the lucky last.
There was no fairy-tale ending as an already beaten Oiseau De Nuit fell 2 out. French Opera did grab me some place money with a never nearer 5th and the best odds guaranteed meant it paid out @33/1. However I did think at one point that I would go out on a high as Anquetta (sent off at 50/1) looked to have every chance until a mistake 2 out (the same fence that saw Oiseau De Nuit part company with his rider) saw him lose his place and he folded tamely to finish 10th. So that was it and we were left to play a bit of pool and darts for spare change before making our way home.
For the record, Johnny Hindsight had no winners and no placed horses on the day. To be fair though, like me, he had had a good opening 3 days and so he was playing with the bookies money on the final day. But that did not stop us taking the mickey mercilessly. Steve won the Cheltenham Challenge with a huge 116 points thanks mainly to 33/1 winner Hawk High, the aforementioned Lord Windermere @20/1 and a few more big priced placers. Another £50 to add to the already bulging wad of cash he was about to collect from Betfred on our walk home.
And that’s it folks. All in all a decent festival. Just the 4 winners but a fair bit of place money and a few second place refunds to boot. Roll on the next 12 months until we can do it all again!!!