Continuing our Countdown to Cheltenham, and with only eight days to go, SBC has been quizzing major operators on what we should expect from the four day event.
SBC caught up with Amy Jones, UK PR & Mischief Maker at Paddy Power, who revealed that the Irish are tipped to win big at the Prestbury Cup, and that the bookmaker doesn’t plan to lose any sleep over the threat of a Wednesday wipeout.
SBC: Paddy Power recently recruited Colm Meaney to send a message to the English racing fans … how has this campaign helped boost engagement with punters?
Amy Jones: The Prestbury Cup (or UK vs Ireland at Cheltenham) has grown in profile in recent years with such strength in depth being sent over by the Irish trainers and we enjoy getting behind the Irish challenge. Betting should be fun and we hope the campaign will evoke this spirit, especially during Cheltenham week!
It’s also a way of creating competition in our two main areas, and creating a conversation around the Festival. As an Irish brand, we of course love to poke fun at the Brits and what better way to do it.
SBC: Could we see the Irish win big at this year’s Cheltenham Festival?
Amy Jones: Ireland are currently 8/15 to win the Prestbury Cup which tells the story of just how strong the Irish challenge is, and has been for the last couple of years. Messrs Mullins, Elliott and De Bromhead all send a very strong team over to spearhead the Irish challenge. Willie Mullins is the 1/1 favourite to be the Top Trainer at the Cheltenham festival and Henry De Bromhead is punters choice having been backed into 10/1 from 20/1.
SBC: Three of the shortest-priced favourites of the week have been lined up to race on the Wednesday of Cheltenham Festival – is this a worry for Paddy Power? and how does Paddy Power plan to mitigate the risk of a ‘wednesday wipeout’?
Amy Jones: We feel talk of a ‘Wednesday wipeout’ have been overplayed. We do of course look ahead at the forecast starting prices on each day and Wednesday is undoubtedly the most daunting for the bookmakers with the big three Irish bankers Envoi Allen, Tiger Roll and Appreciate It all in action. If those three go in we’ll have a losing day but it’s a long week with plenty more battles so we won’t lose too much sleep over it.
SBC: Data has suggested that this year’s Cheltenham Festival has attracted – on average – 40% more ante-post punting in comparison to last year. Why do you think this is?
Amy Jones: Cheltenham gets bigger, more competitive and more anticipated every year so it’s no surprise to see increased interest in ante-post betting this year. A wide open Champion Hurdle, a hotly contested Champion Chase and a defending champion in the Gold Cup have added intrigue to the action. The additional appeal of 5 places for Paddy Power bettors in all Cheltenham handicaps has definitely spiked interest.
SBC: The Gold Cup hasn’t been defended since 2004, what are the chances of current joint favourite Al Boum Photo doing it for Willie Mullins this year?
Amy Jones: Al Boum Photo currently heads our market at 7/2. The Gold Cup is hard to win once, let alone back to back, so there will be plenty lining up to take him on but he was an impressive winner last year and arrives off the back of an identical preparation so he will be a tough nut to crack if in the same form. He’s probably the horse in the field with the fewest question marks.
SBC: And finally. what role will request a bets and promotional offers play in engaging punters with this year’s festival?
Amy Jones: Due to the competitive nature of racing at Cheltenham the week is always awash with promotions to help punters to find a winning bet. Requesting a bet is definitely the fastest growing area of our offering in recent years. Engaging customers through social channels has always been important to us and our ‘Whatoddspaddy’ offers allow our customers to build or request their own bet. I think it definitely adds to the satisfaction of a win if you request and land your own bespoke bet.