This is part one of the series: How the Placepot was won. Part one looks at the 2019 Cheltenham Festival, where two seismic upsets amassed to one of the largest dividends in Cheltenham Festival Placepot history.
Ahead of the beginning of Day One, Tuesday 12th March 2019, over 1.3 million units entered the Placepot pool.
Here is how it happened...
As the Supreme Novices’ Hurdle was sent off by the starter, the infamous Cheltenham roar echoed across the grandstands and enclosures at Prestbury Park. The well fancied pair of Al Dancer and Angels Breath were both popular selections in leg one, with over 40% of Placepot players siding with the British challengers.
It was the Irish who got off to a fast start with Festival icon Ruby Walsh carrying 16.50% of pool aboard Klassical Dream. The Irishman drove the five-year-old clear up the hill, whilst being the only distinguishable figure in his yellow and red silks, all others were left labouring in behind with mud splattered goggles. Warwickshire trainer Olly Murphy’s duo Itchy Feet (11,167.07 units) and Thomas Darby (10,313.24 units) stayed on strongest of the rest to fill the places.
Just over 238,000 units survived the Irish upset in leg one and they were greeted next with a tricky renewal of the Arkle Chase. Hardline was popular for the Gordon Elliot stable with just over a quarter of Placepot players aboard the Irish hope, whilst Glen Forsa (56,496.52 units) was a common selection for others.
The Willie Mullins team made it a double to start the Festival with Duc Des Genievres (15.24% of pool) galloping the competitions into submission. Us and Them for the Joseph O’Brien team was a distant second with Articulum rounding off the all Irish places.
Leg three was the first handicap of the day, the Ultima handicap chase over three and a quarter miles. With there being more than 16 runners in this one, there were 4 places up for grabs in the Placepot. 43,952.86 units made it through to 24 runner affair, where co-favourites Coo Star Sivola and Up For Review accounted for 30% of the pool. Beware The Bear (8.42% of the pool) fought off late challenges from the Trevor Hemmings owned pair of Vintage Clouds (677.83 units) and Lake View Lad (966.34 units) to win, with Scottish raider Big River (219.28 units) coming a staying on fourth.
The fourth leg was the feature race on Tuesday, the Champion Hurdle. Just 5,563.11 units made it through this far, and now this is what is now referred to as the Torpedo leg. The two market principles in this race failed to hit the frame, 2018 Champion Hurdle winner Buveur D’air (27.54% of pool) falling at the third obstacle. Favourite, Apple’s Jade (36.37% of pool), was a tailed off sixth place. Big fancy, Laurina (27.38% of pool), could only manage fourth.
Espoir D'allen (85.66 units) won by a lengthy margin to Melon (86.61 units), who was again second in a Champion Hurdle and the Evan Williams-trained grey Silver Streak (54.72 units) was back in third.
If you were lucky to last this long, you were within touching distance of a gigantic, unprecedented payday. Leg six was the Mares Hurdle, for which Benie Des Dieux (25.51% of remaining pool) was strongly fancied. In a ghastly finish the eight-year-old came to a crashing fall at the final flight of hurdles when seemingly coasting, another shockwave that added more liquidity to those still in the Placepot pool.
The prize was won by the opportunistic partnership of Roksana (24.60 units) and Harry Skelton, Willie Mullins was doubly represented in the placings with Stormy Ireland (11.41% of remaining pool) in second and Good Thyne Tara (2.43% of remaining pool) in third.
Only 56.01 units made it to the sixth and final leg, which was the Novice Handicap chase. Luckily for the players left in, this turned out to be the most straightforward contest of the afternoon.
— Racing TV (@RacingTV) March 12, 2019
Well supported favourite A Plus Tard (11.61% of pool) scampering clear to win handsomely - “They play for places” said commentator Ian Bartlett. Following the empathic winner home at intervals were Tower Bridge (5.89% of pool) and Ben Dundee (1.25% of pool).
A total of 10.5 units managed to scoop the monumental Placepot dividend of £91,283.90, making it one the largest festival Placepot dividends wins in Cheltenham Festival history.