Profits at Ladbrokes, the UK's biggest bookmaker, tumbled by more than a third in the first four months of 2009 after it took a beating at the Cheltenham Festival in March and Premier League football matches.
Ruby Walsh, the star jockey, contributed to a 4 per cent decline in Ladbrokes' gross win in the four months to 30 April by romping home in seven races at the four-day festival, including on the favourite Kauto Star in the Cheltenham Gold Cup. Since then, its UK retail gross wins – the measure of total bets minus payouts – increased by 5 per cent, helped by a favourable Grand National when the rank outsider, Mon Mome, triumphed. Group profit tumbled by 34 per cent over the four months, driven by unfavourable results, as well as an increased investment in free bets and marketing for eGaming. The bookmaker said the rate of decline was "not representative" of expectations and that May had brought "more normal trends".