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Page last updated at 20:45 GMT, Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Punters count Cheltenham cost after Dunguib defeat

Cheltenham Festival
Venue: Prestbury Park Date: 16-19 March
Coverage: Live text commentary and daily reports on BBC Sport website & mobiles. Live daily coverage on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra (1300-1400) and 5 live (1400-1600) and television coverage on Channel 4 (1230-1615)

Cheltenham Festival
There was a 51,000 crowd at Cheltenham on Tuesday

By Frank Keogh
BBC Sport at Cheltenham

There will be more than a few prayers said on Wednesday, St Patrick's Day, as punters seek to recover from the opening day of the Cheltenham Festival.

You could not hear the cries of anguish from Irish racegoers as their big favourite was beaten - just the sound of silence.

He was the supposed banker of the week, if not the year, for many of them but Dunguib had to settle for third behind Menorah in the meeting's opening race.

With his defeat, the bookmakers pocketed an estimated £10m and the sunny optimism among the 51,000 crowd in the Cotswold sunshine was suddenly darkened by a financial cloud.

Among the losing bets were separate wagers of £20,000 at evens and £30,000 at 5-6 on the morning of the race, reported Tony Kenny, spokesman for bookmakers William Hill.

"The annual St Patrick's Day parade in Dublin is in danger of being cancelled," joked Kenny.

Even the perennial punters' pal rubbed their faces in it.

If Master Minded is the horse he was two years ago, he's unbeatable, but I don't think he is the horse he was two years ago

Tom Cooper, trainer of Forpadydeplasterer

Fourteen-time champion jockey Tony McCoy produced the Lazarus result as a horse practically ruled out of the Festival less than a month ago triumphed in the Champion Hurdle.

Binoculars were almost needed to see the rest as Binocular's blistering turn of pace left his rivals toiling.

While his owner is the Limerick millionaire JP McManus, and McCoy hails from County Antrim, the win was masterminded by an Englishman, trainer Nicky Henderson.

The Berkshire handler was sealing his own resurrection after he served a three-month ban last year for a doping offence involving a horse owned by the Queen.

Henderson sent Binocular for extensive veterinary examinations and he was confirmed a starter after delighting McCoy in a schooling session.

The six-year-old horse, who was third in the race last year and had drifted out to 999-1 on an internet betting exchange when reports of his potential absence surfaced, ran out a winner at just 9-1.

"We have not had an easy passage," said Henderson. "We were nine-tenths of the way to taking him out of this year's race but a lot of work has been undertaken by a lot of people on both sides of the Irish Sea to get him here."

McManus, famed for his almighty wagers at the Festival -including on his former triple champion hurdler Istabraq - added: "I'd given up all hope so have only really been sweating since last week - I'd torn up my tickets.

"Nicky worked the oracle and brought him back and I just wondered if it was for real. I'm so pleased because he believed so much in this horse."

Three Irish-trained winners - Sizing Europe, A New Story and Quevaga - won on day one of the four-day fixture to leave the score at three-all in the annual battle with their British rivals.

But it was only the last of these that was really well fancied, the 6-4 favourite causing some of the day's loudest cheers in the final moments.

It was also a sign that trainer Willie Mullins could be a man to keep the right side of this week.

Paul Nicholls
Trainer Paul Nicholls with Twist Magic and Master Minded

On Wednesday, this most emerald of days, there could hardly be a more Irish-sounding contender than Forpadydeplasterer.

Supporters of the 2009 Arkle Chase winner are fond of a homemade ditty that goes: "Forpadydeplasterer - they never go fasterer."

But he may need to go a great deal fasterer to trouble the majestic Master Minded as he seeks to become only the second horse since Badsworth Boy in the 1980s to win the day's feature race, the Queen Mother Champion Chase (1520 GMT), three times.

Master Minded won last time out, but that was after a spell on the sidelines with rib trouble, and there are those who believe he may not be quite the same force.

"If Master Minded is the horse he was two years ago, he's unbeatable, but I don't think he is the horse he was two years ago," said Tom Cooper, trainer of Forpadydeplasterer.

"When Barry Geraghty schooled Forpadydeplasterer the other day, the first thing he said was that he'd love to go around again."

Champion Chase runners and riders

The horse is named after Paddy Burke, a plasterer, who helped Ireland's former leader Bertie Ahern out of some financial trouble.

Forpadydeplasterer runs in the same red and white colours sported by Sunderland FC as one of the owners, Dublin pub boss Charlie Chawke, is a former investor in the football club.

Walsh will be on board Master Minded in the two-mile chase for Somerset-based champion trainer Paul Nicholls, and the horse's owner Clive Smith said he "has never been better".

Surrey-based golf course entrepreneur Smith must have some lucky shamrock somewhere as the four horses he owns include the reigning Cheltenham Gold Cup champion Kauto Star, who will face Denman and others in the big race on Friday.

606: DEBATE
TipsterJoe

"Master Minded is in excellent shape. When Ruby Walsh schooled him the other day, he was more enthused than ever," said Smith.

An ominous warning to the Irish pretender on a day when 36,000 green rosettes will be handed out at the course to mark St Patrick's Day.

It is sure to be some party. The question is who will be celebrating the most?



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see also
Champion Chase runners and riders
16 Mar 10 |  Horse Racing
Big Zeb lands Champion Chase win
17 Mar 10 |  Horse Racing
Binocular lands Champion Hurdle
16 Mar 10 |  Horse Racing
Cheltenham Festival - Day one as it happened
16 Mar 10 |  Horse Racing
Cheltenham Festival photos
16 Mar 10 |  Horse Racing
BBC racing coverage
09 Apr 11 |  Horse Racing


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