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Bookmakers hit by Mullins on day one of Cheltenham

State Man and Paul Townend State Man and Paul Townend
© Photo Healy Racing

Bookmakers were left reeling on the ropes following a Willie Mullins blitz on day one of the Cheltenham Festival – and they fear the Irish maestro will go on to deliver a knockout blow. Gaelic Warrior got the ball rolling for Mullins and Paul Townend when a well-backed 2-1 winner of the My Pension Expert Arkle Challenge Trophy Novices’ Chase.

The pair then teamed up again for Unibet Champion Hurdle glory with State Man and a Close Brothers Mares’ Hurdle success with Lossiemouth both rated odds-on bankers by many punters.

“It didn’t take Willie Mullins long to get on the scoresheet at this year’s Cheltenham Festival, his Gaelic Warrior was by far the best-backed Arkle contender and his many supporters had few concerns throughout the race as the 2-1 favourite strolled home in glorious isolation,” said Coral’s David Stevens.

“Odds-on shots State Man and Lossiemouth were in many Mullins-based multiples, and neither let their backers down, meaning we head into day two already knowing victories for their stablemates Ballyburn, Fact To File and El Fabiolo will make it another costly day for the layers.”

Lawrence Lyons, spokesperson for BoyleSports, said: “Results on Tuesday didn’t go our way and Willie Mullins will be the toast of punters up and down the land. The punters certainly have the advantage heading into day two and we can only hope a few unfancied outsiders bail us out later in the week.”

There was little relief for the layers in the other races, with no outsiders popping up at big prices to save the day.

The Rachael Blackmore-ridden Slade Steel was popular with punters at 7-2 in the opening Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle and even the sole British success was far from a surprise, with Kim Bailey’s Chianti Classico well supported at 6-1 in the Ultima Handicap Chase.

Joseph O’Brien’s Lark In The Mornin was the biggest-priced winner of the day at just 9-1 in the Boodles Juvenile Handicap Hurdle and Corbetts Cross rounded things off in the Maureen Mullins National Hunt Chase when romping home by a wide margin at 15-8 for Emmet Mullins.

That last result at least saved Paddy Power from a huge pay-out to a Chelmsford-based punter, who had picked out the first six winners in a £20 each-way accumulator and a £1 Super Heinz, but sided with runner-up Embassy Gardens in the finale.

The online customer did manage to cash out the accumulator for £36,000 and scooped up more than £14,000 in multiple bets on his other wager.

Paddy Power spokesperson Paul Binfield said: “It’s not been an ideal start to the week for the bookies and we’ve lost on the day.

“But it was nice to see one shrewd punter from Essex trouser £50k and we’re happy that our customers have full wallets for the rest of the action with everything to play for.”

Attentions are already turning towards next year’s Champion Hurdle, when Constitution Hill will hopefully be back in a bid to regain his crown and Lossiemouth could also be let loose against the opposite sex.

William Hill’s Lee Phelps said: “After what we’ve seen today, Lossiemouth could have the edge over State Man in next year’s Champion Hurdle. The grey mare was very impressive and is into 7-2 for next year’s renewal, with State Man available at 4-1.

“Constitution Hill is still obviously the one they’d all have to beat at 6-4, but he could have been backed at evens before we saw the performance of Lossiemouth, who don’t forget would be in receipt of 7lb in a Champion Hurdle.”