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Bookmakers estimate losses of pounds 20m following heavy setbacks on last day.

Byline: Lee Mottershead

BOOKMAKERS left Cheltenham last night ruing "a desperately bad" festival that some industry insiders reckoned had cost them pounds 20 million over the four days with as much as pounds 5m lost due to Long Run's Totesport Cheltenham Gold Cup.

The painful outcome for the layers, and potentially bad news for racing due to lost levy earnings, was assured on a fourth day when 7-2 favourite Long Run's victory was compounded by the wins of Bobs Worth, backed down to 15-8 from 7-2, and 9-2 market leader Sir Des Champs.

Had Get Me Out Of Here, smashed into 7-1 from 16-1, not been nosed out in the County Hurdle, the final reckoning could have been worse for bookmakers. That, however, was slim consolation for them because they were also hit through the week by a series of Pricewise winners.

Ladbrokes spokesman David Williams, whose firm estimated that the industry was now pounds 20m the poorer, said: "Last year we were laughing but this year we're crying into our empty satchels.

"Wednesday went our way but on balance we've had a miserable time during the biggest week of the betting year."

Bet365 spokesman Pat Cooney said: "We've had great racing, record turnover and record new accounts but record losses. We now move on to Aintree where we are now non-runner no bet on the Grand National."

For William Hill, it was also a shocking Friday, but they judged the week as a whole had been less painful.

The organisation's Kate Miller said: "We've barely had the sniff of a result all day and the punters have hit the back of the net consistently. We cruised into the final day certain of victory, but it's ended up being a last-gasp 90th-minute equaliser."

In the ring, on-course bookmaker John Mulholland, who came to Cheltenham from Galway, reported "a break-even festival".

He said: "Long Run was a disaster but a 40-1 shot winning the last was a saviour. Big Buck's and Long Run were our worst results and all the Irish winners were no good for us at all."
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Mar 19, 2011
Words:348
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