Annie Power’s dramatic fall at the last hurdle at Cheltenham yesterday saved the bookmakers an estimated £100m payout.
The thousands who backed Irish champion trainer Willie Mullins to win all four Grade One races on the opening day of the Festival were already calculating their winnings as Annie Power came to the last with a clear lead in the Mares’ Hurdle following the earlier victories of Douvan, Un De Sceaux and Faugheen.
As it was, the bookmakers’ haggard representatives were talking of their immense relief at facing just a £10m liability.
Mullins has never hidden his admiration for Douvan and the bookmakers were quick to promote Douvan to favouritism for next year’s Champion Hurdle, but the trainer also sees the French import as “every inch a chaser” and serious Gold Cup material in the future. “He has so much natural ability,” added Mullins. “Of all the horses I’ve trained, only Hurricane Fly would have been close to him in that way.”
Un De Sceaux was already favourite for next year’s Champion Chase before running his rivals ragged in the Arkle Trophy. It was a flawless jumping display, leaving his jockey Ruby Walsh to enthuse: “He reminds me of [2004 Champion Chase winner] Azertyuiop when he was a novice. He has a very high cruising speed, which is what these top two-milers need.”
There were comparatively slim pickings left for the rest to scrap over after Mullins had finished, but The Druids Nephew and Cause Of Causes both underlined their Grand National claims by winning the two staying chases.
The Druids Nephew was the first Festival triumph for his trainer, Neil Mulholland. “This is our World Cup and it’s where we want to be,” said the former jockey, now eagerly looking forward to running his best horse, The Young Master, in today’s RSA Chase.Reuse content