It’s hell for Cheltenham bookies as fans and favourites make light of wet | Chris Cook

There was no hiding place for the layers on day one of the Festival as, despite the soggy conditions, punters cashed in and had a day to remember

“When it’s wet, don’t bet,” says the old maxim, used by many a gnarled punter to warn youngsters against races run on heavy going. Not for decades has the Cheltenham Festival started on such a soggy surface as this time and it appears the old cliché has, on this showing, no wisdom in it whatsoever as one well-backed winner follows another up the famous hill.

“It’s turned into a bloodbath,” grimaces John Hughes, a bookmaker from Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland who has long held the treasured “number one” pitch in Cheltenham’s boisterous betting ring. In that position, he is the first of dozens of bookies that punters come across and he has queues in front of him all afternoon. Punters hand over their stakes and then, 10 minutes later, they come back for their winnings.

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