With only three days left in the Countdown to Cheltenham, SBC has continued to question the betting industry’s major operators on what to expect at the four day event.
Speaking to Geoff Banks of Geoff Banks Sports, we found out why he thinks the possibility of a Wednesday wipeout is a ‘figment of the imagination’, and why request-a-bets might not play a bigger role in fan engagement.
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 Geoff Banks Sports? and how do you plan to mitigate the risk of a ‘wednesday wipeout’?
Geoff Banks: I think the Wednesday wipeout is a figment of the imagination for PR reps from betting supermarket companies! Of course Tiger Roll looks a total penalty kick – and at prices around Even money represents for me the value short priced favourite of the festival. The feature race is the Betway Queen Mother Champion Chase and for me any of the front three can win the race.
I give preference towards Defi Du Seuil. For me Altior is this year’s hype horse. He’s had a very poor season. Well beaten at Ascot and sketchy against very weak opposition. I am a passionate advocate these horses show their best when actively campaigned. Altior dodges too many big matchups for me. I see Henderson failing notably here against Defi Du Seuil whose Clarence House win has been the best trial for Cheltenham.
Chacun Pour Soi could equally spring a shock. The race is wide open betting wise, we offer Altior at 5/2 and not being knocked over for that! The other feature event is the RSA Chase and that, again looks like an open heat. The wipeout won’t be happening as the fancied runners aren’t the overpowering stars of the infamous Annie Power fall last year!
SBC: What role will request a bets and promotional offers play in engaging punters with this year’s festival?
Geoff Banks: Cheltenham used to be the engine room of a bookmaker’s profits. These days the profits lie more in gaming and the great Festival is utilised to source custom with offers. Alongside the opposition we are offering rebates for all 2nd place runners in every race at the Cheltenham Festival. This type of offer is proving exceptionally popular and will cost us a pretty penny!
It is essential, however, to the modern world of online bookmaking to bet to a diminishing margin. Will request-a-bets play a bigger role? Not to the degree of soccer I would imagine, where the variety of wagering suits that type of enquiry somewhat better.
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? And what have you done to capitalise on this?
Geoff Banks: I’m not sure we have seen an uplift of 40% on the ante post market. But our promotion on horses finishing second throughout the festival applies to the ante post. With horses often double and even triple declared it’s always going to put the cautious punter off, and give oxygen to the conspiracy theorists when horses are laid and subsequently withdrawn.
I think the ante post market is more the tonic we employ to attract attention and comment, add flavour and anticipation for race fans. We are also 1/4 the odds in all the Cheltenham events, which makes for excellent value in heats involving shorter odds favourites.
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?
Geoff Banks: It wasn’t a blue riband gold cup last season. However I think Al Boum Photo’s prep has gone well this season, albeit he has not raced as often as I would like to have seen. These horses are athletes and in my opinion perform best when camp[aigned regularly. It’s a hard ask to win the Gold Cup in successive seasons, being such a tough race.
Again this season it looks like a rather weaker renewal. The front two look value to stand at coupled odds of around 5/4. The loss of Native River will be deeply felt as he brought star quality. Lostintranslation has the kind of profile I would be looking at. The ground will be of course a factor. With months of rain even the great track, with its well draining soil, will be extra testing if it continues to rain.
Can King George king Clan Des Obeaux do the double? The trip is clearly the issue here. Kempton form doesn’t travel well to Cheltenham. It’s hard to have a strong opinion in this race except I would see the Irish as dominant. Santini looks like a hard ride for the UK team, Bristol De Mai appears to have little chance at this track. It looks a bookie’s race if I can field money for Santini and match that for cash for Al Boum Photo and look on
SBC: And finally, are there any runners that SBC readers should be keeping an eye on?
Geoff Banks: A longshot for this season for me is the mighty Faugheen. Loves the track. Looks totally revitalised this season and at 10/1 looks a value alternative to Champ in the RSA. He stays 3 miles, and is incredibly versatile. Of course he’s older, and it’s a big ask at 12 years, but he jumps well and if he does take this, there won’t be a hat on anyone’s head