|The whole of England is already looking forward to the Cheltenham Festival, which will once again keep the island in suspense from 14 to 17 March. Here and at the Grand National at Aintree and at Royal Ascot, there is more betting than at any other time of the year in the motherland of racing. Reasons enough for the Racing Post to take a closer look at the best gambles in history. We focus here on a case from 2006, it is about the horse Reveilliez in the Jewson Novices` Handicap Chase:
Reveillez, a former useful flat horse who came from the Newmarket stable of James Fanshawe and went on to win the 2006 Jewson Novices` Handicap Chase, provided one of the many special days in the life of owner JP MacManus.
It wasn`t a dramatic win, but it was a remarkable showdown between McManus and his "nemesis" Freddie Williams, two of Cheltenham`s greatest characters and most fearless bettors.
McManus went for the big blow when he asked for a £100,000 stake at odds of 6-1, and Williams, far from running for cover, met him without turning a hair. As the favourite in the famous racing colours went along at odds of 9-2 - cheering bettors were reported to be seen stuffing banknotes into black bin bags as their wallets proved woefully inadequate - the plucky gambler may have thought the day could not get any worse, but when McManus stepped in again, it did.
The knockout blow was a £5,000 bet on 50-1 contender Kadoun in the Pertemps final, and although Williams briefly clung to hope of salvation when the outsider and his partner Tom Ryan flopped in the final flight, this was McManus` day, and nothing could stop it.
"I couldn`t just let him go at 6-1 odds," JP said of betting on Reveillez, but if jockey AP McCoy felt the weight of the money on his shoulders, he didn`t show it. He was still looking for his first Festoval winner for his new boss, but the pressure had no chance to build as he steered the seven-year-old grey through the round without major incident.
The public suspected that last year`s Royal and SunAlliance Hurdle runner-up was favourably in the running with a mark 10lb below his hurdle rating, but up to that point his only win had been in a Novices` Race at Folkestone. Fears were soon allayed, however.
He followed the leaders and was just getting into a difficult position when he arrived in third, but that was more of a hindrance than a disaster, and he soon went to the front and passed challenge from Nicky Henderson`s Copsale Lad by a length and a quarter, while Tumbling Dice was third, nine lengths behind. The noise from the crowd was matched only by the rustling of banknotes. What a special Cheltenham moment.
The Racecourse Spy