Day one of the 2016 Cheltenham Festival has gone the way of the punters as Britain’s bookmakers were hit hard by the Willie Mullins/Ruby Walsh/Rich Ricci treble as Douvan, Annie Power and Vroum Vroum Mag all won their respective races.
The treble, which paid around 8/1, was well backed in many ante-post multiples, while it also proved popular on the morning of the action as many firms were offering competitive odds on the races to attract trade. The first leg of the treble was landed when Douvan took the Arkle in fine style. Last season’s Supreme Novices’ Hurdle winner jumped superbly and went clear from his rivals up the hill at Prestbury Park.
Later in the afternoon, Annie Power went off at 5/2 in the betting for the Champion Hurdle and she justified her connections’ decision to supplement for the leading 2m hurdle contest, rather than the Mares Hurdle’, as she scored by over four lengths. Ruby Walsh took up the running on the mare very early in the contest and she was very rarely tackled in a comprehensive win which makes her only the fourth mare in history to win the Champion Hurdle.
The treble was capped off in the Mares’ Hurdle as Vroum Vroum Mag kept up her unbeaten record to win at odds of 4/6. The mare improved Mullins’ excellent record in the contest as only once in nine years since the race was inaugurated has the Irishman not been successful. The Champion Irish Trainer shuffled his pack once Faugheen was ruled out of the Champion Hurdle, making Vroum Vroum Mag his leading contender for this contest.
The one rest bite the bookmakers had on day one of the Festival was in the opening race of the card as Min’s defeat put a stop to the Mullins’ four-time with Douvan, Annie Power and Vroum Vroum Mag.
The attention of punters now turns to the Cheltenham Gold Cup, the blue riband event of the week. The 3m2f contest takes more money than any other race at the Festival and is the second biggest betting race of the year, with only the Grand National ahead of it on the list.
Don Cossack has been well backed to give trainer Gordon Elliott his first success in the contest and can be backed at the time of writing at Gold Cup odds of 11/4 to come out on top this year.
Punters have been backing the Irish runner ever since his empathic 26-length margin win in the Melling Chase at Aintree during the Grand National meeting last year. The money also came for the Gigginstown House Stud-owned horse for the King George on Boxing Day at Kempton, however, he made a mistake at the penultimate fence when he came down in the race won by Cue Card.
A victory at Thurles in January proved he was confident again over fences and once Vautour was confirmed as a runner in the Ryanair Chase, rather than Gold Cup, more money has arrived for the Irish-trained horse where he was cut from 4/1 into 11/4.