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Bookies Get Sweet Revenge

17 March 2004

CHELTENHAM – As reported by the Guardian: ``At 2.15pm yesterday the public announcer warned Festival racegoers: "Please be aware that pickpockets are operating at the racecourse this year. We ask you to remain vigilant in order that you are not a victim of this criminal and antisocial activity."

``Glancing up from his book at the No1 pitch on the rails in the Club Enclosure, the Irish bookmaker Gregory Hughes would have agreed. After the opening race, won by the combination that Cheltenham layers fear most, Irish and a favourite, it must have seemed that all 50,000 racegoers were set on robbing him blind.

``That was the first and last favourite to win, however, and by the end of a first day which saw three winners start at 33-1 or longer, Hughes could smile again. Last year, after nine of 20 favourites triumphed here, homes were lost, pitches sold and the wounds went deep. It did not take long for them to be reopened yesterday.

``…'We've had a good day,' said Hughes as the last punters sloped away, his voice hoarse from barking bets to his team. 'We're around £100,000 up for the day, which starts to put a hole in last year's losses. There were loads of euros around, but a lot of them are in my bag now. Rooster Booster was a screaming good result.'…"

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