“I won an awful lot of money on Friday, you’ll be thrilled, I know,” on-course bookmaker Geoff Banks wrote of Gold Cup day at this year’s Cheltenham Festival.
And it’s not hard to see why: 10/1, 11/1, 33/1, 20/1, 15/2, 12/1 and 16/1 were the SPs of the seven race winners on the final day of the 2014 Cheltenham Festival. Not a favourite among them.

This included Lord Windermere winning the Betfred Gold Cup at 20/1 with well-backed favourite Bobs Worth beaten into fifth place.
Of course, the bookmakers did not have it all their own way over the four days with Willie Mullins’ winners Vautour (7/2f) Quevega (8/11f) and Faugheen (6/4f) doing some damage. But, overall, the bookmakers definitely had the better of the Cheltenham Festival 2014. 

To get a sense as to just how bad a Festival it was for punters, listen to the SportingLife Cheltenham Festival Review podcast. They sound like broken men, devoid of all the ante-post optimism of their pre-Festival podcasts. 
Will Hayler summed it up: “Sire De Grugy [winner of the Champion Chase at 11/4f] was the only saviour for me, everything else went belly up I’m afraid”. Dave Ord called it a “week of never-ending punting misery”. 
The importance of the Cheltenham Festival as a betting event in the bookmakers’ portfolio has certainly increased over the last decade and can influence the listed firms’ profitability in the first half of the year.
If they can now get another skinner in the annual ‘bookies’ benefit’, also known as the Crabbie’s Grand National Chase (recent winning SPs 66/1, 33/1, 14/1, 10/1jf, 100/1), then that really will cap a good Spring for the racing layers.
How the Gambling Commission and the Levy Board will have wished they had all those offshore internet betting firms already licensed in the UK to hoover up all that lovely extra betting tax and racing Levy from the bookies’ good run. Oh well. But as every die-hard punter knows, there’s always next year to get it all back.