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Day two of the William Hill Winter Festival is sometimes regarded as the the poor relation of day one but once again the Sunbury course was heaving with an excllent crowd. One bookmaker probably didn’t anticipate the attendance, Geoff Banks had apparently left the staff to get on with it and had jetted off sking somewhere, who said the game’s gone?!
Plenty of bookmakers were in evidence though, no doubt some of them re-routed from waterlogged Chepstow. Betting was lively in the opening William Hill Winter Festival Juvenile Hurdle with Favorito Buck’s backed from 9/4 into 11/8 plenty of monkey and rouf bets all rates down including a £3000- £2000 and Ashoka 15/8 into 13/8 before bouncing back to 2/1 bets including a £1500-£800. With that in mind there’s probably no need to tell people that the bookies were beaming when 8/1 Duke Of Medina jumped the last in front under an inspired Gavin Sheehan. Just when they were counting their winnings another combatant came flying from nowhere to collar the leader close home. An even bigger priced winner for the ring, Alan King’s Gibralfaro under Wayne Hutchinson getting home by half a length at 9/1 having been weak in the market from 7/1.
There was an odds-on shot to get stuck into the shape of Vaniteux in the williamhill.com Novices’ Chase. Those backers that lumped on to the tune of an even grand and even monkey, yes evens, come racing, must have needed rings of steel (to coin a Jack Lynn phrase) when he came precariously close to coming down at the first. It looked as if fortune was going to favour the brave, and that includes those that bet £1000-£1100 x 3 and plenty of lesser bundles at the price when the jolly took it up with the finish a couple of jumps away. Once again those steel rings were needed but were effective only in just keeping dignity when Ar Mad rallied under Josh Moore to get back up in the run-in. The bookies that stood the favourite were saved again but the winner was rewarding for punters who were on at 11/4 and 5/2, and there were plenty.
The feature race of the day, the williamhill.com Desert Orchid Chase saw just five runners go to post with Sprinter Sacre sent of the 4/5 favourite after being priced at 4/6 early and touching evens in isolated places. Really talking about the race in terms of bets might seem a little churlish because it panned out to be a cracking ding-dong battle. It was sport to be relished between Sprinter Sacre and 5/2 second-in Sire De Grugy which did justice to the race’s namesake. It did look as if those punters that had it on the jolly had done it once again but as soon as he appeared beaten rallied to win by just under a length on the run-in. At last favourite backers got a draw from the hods including a whole ledger of £400-£550 bets and an even £900 from someone obviously very fleet of foot.
The William Hill Handicap Chase featured 15 runners, very handy for the sponsors in which was a competitive affair, the principles in the betting were The Last Samuri and Ned Stark both clipped in a point from 11/2 into 9/2. The Last Samuri won the race, the bookies probably mostly lost but there were no bets of any size in evidence. A race to let the punters make their books so pot luck could have been on some of their sides.
The penultimate William Hill Exclusive Mobile Offers Mares’ Handicap Hurdle saw another smallish field with seven runners going to post. Betting was very lively though, Desert Queen solid at 2/1 attracting several £500 bets at the price to remain favourite. Tara Mist snapped at her heels in the market clipped from 10/3 into 11/4 after at least four bets of £2000-£600 seen on the rails. Tattersalls business appeared more modest with lots of bottle (£200) bets reported but little bigger. Desert Queen attempted to make it all but Sheena West’s yard came to the layers’ rescue. 7/1 Cannon Fodder proved a couple of lengths too good for the market leader with the rest nowhere so it was bulging hods aplenty again in the betting ring.
The lucky last was the 13-runner William Hill World Darts Championship Handicap Hurdle and was once again a wide-open event. The market-leader was the Skelton yard’s Two Taffs which drifted slightly from 3/1 to 7/2, Philip Hobbs’ Draytonian was reported to be well-fancied and hovered around the 9/2 mark while Harry Fry’s Zulu Oscar was nibbled from 6/1 into 5/1. There was plenty of business in the ring but once again it was largely made up of a bank holiday crowd staking bank holiday style money. Two Taffs finished a best positioned third, Draytonian was tailed off after losing all chance when up with the pace when blundering badly three out. So the books got the front two beaten but it wasn’t to be a bonanza for them, Zulu Oscar landed the spoils leaving the layers with lengthy payout queues. Of course, they probably all still won on the day, the figures were there and so was the money on a day of excellent National Hunt racing. Aye Aye!
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(c) Simon Nott
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