Davy Russell did the steering aboard all three of Byrnes’ runners
PICTURE: Caroline Norris (racingpost.com/photos)
By Mark Scully 8:20PM 2 AUG 2016
CHARLES BYRNES and Davy Russell were the toast of Roscommon on Tuesday evening after landing a “well orchestrated gamble” courtesy of three runners who were available at double-figure prices in the morning.
War Anthem was the first of the three to take his chance in the maiden hurdle at 6.40 and despite finishing down the field in his two most recent starts, scored stylishly under Davy Russell at 6-1, having been 16-1 in the morning and as short as 4-1 at one stage.
Next up was Mr Smith, a formerly John Gosden-trained gelded son of Galileo, who lined up in the 2m4f handicap hurdle at 7.10. Soundly beaten in a handicap hurdle last month, Mr Smith returned the 7-4 favourite, having been as big as 12-1 earlier in the day.
All eyes were then on Top Of The Town in the 2m7f handicap hurdle at 8.10. It had been more than a year since the gelding got his head in front but he did his job just as readily as his stablemates to land the gamble, returning the 5-4 favourite.
‘We needed it after Galway’
After landing the coup, Byrnes said the audacious bid had not been a long time in the planning but was a welcome boost after a tough week at Galway.
“After Galway we needed it,” he said. “I did my brains with Sea Light twice and Crystal Pearl getting brought down.
“It’s just the way it turned out. I won’t say that I planned this. I just had a bunch of six or seven horses that hit form and I thought, to hell with it, I may as well throw three or four of them in together and we only put it together in the last couple of weeks.
“To do something like this long term is impossible I think.”
Pay-out ‘well into six figures’
As the gamble began to pan out, Paddy Power’s Paul Binfield had said his firm was “praying for a miracle” but there was no divine intervention to come to the bookmakers’ rescue in the end.
“Even though we were onto the treble quite early, we’ve paid out well into six figures between the three of them,” said Binfield.
“Well done to Charles on a well orchestrated gamble!”
Betfred spokesman Matt Hulmes added: “Charles Byrnes and Davy Russell have had it off in grand style on what was expected to be a quiet evening.
“We managed to just stay on top of the liabilities early doors but it is still a hit in the satchels and coming on the back of Goodwood its certainly the punters who are in clover at present.”
‘A hard pill to swallow’
Boylesports Liam Glynn said the damage could have been much worse.
“We dodged some bullets by not having War Anthems race priced up overnight,” he said.
“Alarm bells rang early on Tuesday morning with every housewife across the country having their fivers on the three horses. Our wounds are sore but you have to admire Mr Byrnes on his training performance in what could have been a lot worse.”
However, William Hill’s Jon Ivan-Duke added: “It was an industry-wide move and all bookmakers, especially online, have been stung.
“Our traders were on top of the move early and mitigated the gamble but it is still a hard pill to swallow, especially given the previous form on the horses.”
Like Ivan-Duke, Ladbrokes David Williams did not praise Byrnes for the gamble and said his firm had been hit for “much more than pocket money”.
“The onus seems to be on bookmakers to have the best systems in place to limit their exposure to scenarios like the Roscommon gamble.
“We are happy enough with how we managed it, despite shelling out much more than pocket money. We could carry on lamenting or we could redouble our efforts to ensure the business is properly protected from future situations unravelling.
“We’ll make sure we now do the latter.”