One mistake. One fall. That’s all it took to ensure bookmakers had a bad day at the office, rather than a catastrophic one.
Coming to the final fence in the Mares’ hurdle, Annie Power was – as commentator Simon Holt said – “cruising along.” But she took off too soon at that last obstacle, clipped the top of it and tumbled on her nose, spilling jockey Ruby Walsh to the turf.
Punters gasped and clutched their heads. Bookies looking on from the betting ring breathed a sigh of relief and smiled. They knew their bacon had been saved.
Estimates vary the morning after day one of the Cheltenham Festival. Some say that one mistake by Annie Power saved the bookmaking industry £50 million. It also rescued their share prices.
It’s not something most punters consider unless you own shares in a bookmaker. But their market price was plummeting once Douvan, Un De Sceaux and Faugheen had won as favourites for team Willie Mullins/Ruby Walsh.
The dramatic late fall by the mare ensured that share prices recovered somewhat and ended the day down only slightly. So, while on the face of it bookies took a hammering on course, I expect those at HQ in Gibraltar and Ireland were content.
On and off course, had Annie Power stayed on her feet, it could have been the worst day in recent bookmaking history.
My friend Jim McGrath put it well on Channel 4 racing. As punters were tearing up their four Mullins horses to win betting slips, he said that the Annie Power tumble was: “Probably the most expensive fall in punting history.”
Punters should celebrate the bloody nose they gave the bookies on Tuesday. But a word of caution. In my experience bookies usually have at least two good days at the Cheltenham Festival.
As ever, I shall do my best to make sure that doesn’t happen.
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