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Nic Ladds 9th Mar 2012 - 13:44

Bookies fear The Defenders as Cheltenham foursome seek £6M

Bookmakers William Hill are anticipating a payout in excess of £6 MILLION over the upcoming four-day horse racing extravaganza - the Cheltenham Festival - where all four reigning big-race champions from last year are hot favourites to win again - a feat which has NEVER before happened.

The well-known names of Hurricane Fly, Sizing Europe, Big Buck's and Long Run all head their respective markets and have been the best-backed contenders of the highlight Championship races.

The ‘big four' accumulator alone has seen sustained support, to the tune of a £250,000 liability for William Hill with punters backing the quartet furiously down to 12/1 from 33/1 since last year's Cheltenham festival. And the bookies are expecting even more misery with ante-post and the frenzied day-of-race betting still to be totted up!

The four ‘bankers' currently account for a quarter of ALL Cheltenham bets so far struck over the Festival across the entire William Hill group, with defending Champion Hurdle hero Hurricane Fly currently the worst result of the Festival for the firm.

Kate Miller, Head of Racing for William Hill, said: 'Bookies traditionally fear any winning favourite, but this year punters deem 'the defenders' as the greatest foursome of Cheltenham fancies they've ever seen. Such is their popularity, that we expect to payout around £6million if they make history and all romp home again.''

CHELTENHAM FESTIVAL REPEAT WINS

Numerous horses have recorded repeat victories at the Cheltenham Festival - such as Master Minded, Big Buck's and Albertas Run, however all four returning big-race champions have

NEVER managed to retain their titles.

The last time more than one winner of one of the four Cheltenham Festival Championship races followed up was Best Mate (Gold Cup) and Baracouda (Word Hurdle) in 2003.

THE DEFENDING CHAMPIONS

HURRICANE FLY - CHAMPION HURDLE (TUESDAY) (CURRENT ODDS - 4/5 FAVOURITE)

The Emerald Isle flagbearer, Hurricane Fly, is viewed by many as the best winner of the Tuesday's big race seen for decades. Coming into this on the back of seven straight wins at top-class level, it's no wonder he's come to be known as the ‘Superfly'. Shares of Guinness will surely skyrocket should Hurricane Fly do the business on the opening day.

SIZING EUROPE - QUEEN MOTHER CHAMPION CHASE (WEDNESDAY) (CURRENT ODDS - EVEN MONEY FAVOURITE)

Sizing Europe loves it round Cheltenham and has never been out of the first three in all his fifteen starts over fences. This reigning champion has looked exceptional on return this season and looks solid in the betting in a race that appears to lack any serious rivals.

BIG BUCKS - WORLD HURDLE (THURSDAY) (CURRENT ODDS - 4/9 FAVOURITE)

Big Buck's is one horse that truly keeps delivering the dollars. Despite starting at prohibitive odds for most of his starts, he looks an investment for many, and is sure to prove an impenetrable force once again at Cheltenham. Having amassed fifteen straight wins over hurdles, and now fifteen straight lashings for the bookies, it's seems there are now three things certain in life - death, taxes, and Big Buck's.

LONG RUN - CHELTENHAM GOLD CUP (FRIDAY) (CURRENT ODDS - 6/4 FAVOURITE)

The young pretender Long Run overturned the old guard of Kauto Star and Denman in last year's Gold Cup, but despite a rejuvenated Kauto levelling the score to two apiece this year, the reigning champion is still hot favourite to defend his golden title. If the first three reigning champions do the honours then he's sure to shorten further still - and will be the final leg in thousands of bookmaker-bashing accumulators across the land.

VIEW ALL CHELTENHAM BETTING FROM WILLIAM HILL

Number of Repeat Winners of Four Championship Races (Hurricane Fly, Sizing Europe, Big Buck's and Long Run): 11-8 Two, 7-4 One, 10-3 Three, 12-1 None, 12-1 Four

Champion Hurdle: 4-5 Hurricane Fly, 5-1 Binocular, Zarkandar, 10-1 Rock On Ruby, 12-1 Oscars Well, 20-1 Thousand Stars, 25-1 Overturn, 33-1 Zaidpour, 40-1 Brampour, 50-1 Celestial Halo, 66-1 Kalann, Olofi (EW ¼ 1,2,3)

Queen Mother Champion Chase: Evs Sizing Europe, 9-2 Big Zeb, Finians Rainbow, 8-1 Somersby, 16-1 Kauto Stone, Wishfull Thinking, 20-1 Blazing Tempo, Realt Dubh, 25-1 Gauvain, 40-1 I'msingingtheblues, 66-1 BAR (EW ¼ 1,2,3)

World Hurdle: 4-9 Big Buck's, 4-1 Oscar Whisky, 8-1 Thousand Stars, 12-1 Quevega, Zaidpour, 14-1 Dynaste, So Young, 16-1 Mourad, Voler La Vedette, 20-1 Mikael D'Haguenet, Our Father, 25-1 Carlito Brigante, Smad Place, 33-1 Final Approach, Five Dream, King Of The Night, 50-1 BAR (EW ¼ 1,2,3)

Cheltenham Gold Cup : 6-4 Long Run, 7-2 Kauto Star, 6-1 Grand Crus, 7-1 Burton Port, 12-1 Midnight Chase, Synchronised, Weird Al, 16-1 Quel Esprit, 20-1 Captain Chris, 25-1 Medermit, What A Friend, 33-1 Diamond Harry, Tidal Bay, Time For Rupert, 40-1 China Rock, 50-1 BAR (EW ¼ 1,2,3)

FOR MORE INFO PLEASE CONTACT KATE MILLER - KMILLER@WILLIAMHILL.CO.UK OR TELEPHONE 07725446317

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