The bookmakers hit back after a quickfire Willie Mullins double opened proceedings at Cheltenham, with a victory for the unfancied Espoir D’Allen in the Champion Hurdle ensuring a “winning day for the industry” – both on and off the course.
Stephen Harris, Horse Racing Editor at bettingexpert.com, said that it was honours “pretty even” heading into the Champion Hurdle – the day’s headline race – before the 16/1 shot outlasted a field that included Apples Jade and a surprise early faller in Buveur d’Air.
Harris on Day 1:
“An imperious display from the Willie Mullins trained Klassical Dream (6/1) got the meeting off to a flying start for the tens of thousands of Irish punters who braved the horrendous weather conditions that had turned the going soft by the off.
“Duc des Genievres (5/1) then routed the field in the Arkle to complete a rapid Mullins double. He was in complete control before the home turn with the UK runners all disappointing or falling at an early stage.
“The Ultima handicap chase saw the English got off the mark as Nicky Henderson’s Beware the Bear (10/1) gamely scrambled home in a tight finish. It was honours pretty even at this stage, as punters and bookmakers squared up for a fantastic Champion hurdle.
“Apples Jade was hammered in the late market down to a strong 7/4f, but she never looked happy as Melon took her on for the early lead. The bookmakers were left with a fantastic result when the unconsidered Espoir D’Allen (16/1) came home alone, ensuring this was very much a winning day both on and off course for the industry.”
Harris on Day 2:
“Wednesday’s action was subject to an early inspection due to the high winds forecasted, but now it has the go-ahead punters will be looking forward to fascinating battle between the unbeaten Altior and old rival Min the Queen Mother Champion Chase.”