• Sprinter Sacre, Simonsig, Bobs Worth start Cheltenham run
• Finian’s Rainbow and Riverside Theatre complete five-timer
A stable worker from Lambourn has gone into hiding after apparently landing the bet of a lifetime, winning a sum that rumours suggest was approaching £1m. The “lad”, an Irishman in his late 40s who works for the trainer Nicky Henderson, placed his wager months ago, picking out five horses from his employer’s yard, all of which have won at his week’s Festival, netting him a life-changing sum.
The news was broken through Twitter last night by Clare Balding, broadcasting from the Festival for BBC Radio 5 Live. “The lad who looks after Finian’s Rainbow had a 5-timer on Nicky Henderson winners & has won £1 million!” she tweeted. “Says he’ll still be at work tomorrow.” Others on Twitter later named him as Conor Murphy.
Reporters scrambled to contact the lucky punter, who is thought to have remained at Henderson’s Seven Barrows stable on Thursday while the final runner in his bet was competing here. He was apparently contacted by phone by Sky but did not wish to be quoted and flatly refused the offer of an interview.
In ordinary circumstances, the bookmaker in such a case would attempt to make as much as possible from the related publicity. However Bet365, which is believed to have laid the bet, takes a different approach.
“We’re pleased for all our customers who’ve had a winning day today but we don’t discuss individual accounts,” said the spokesman, Pat Cooney. “This one particular customer’s had an extremely good time of it,” he added, but refused to confirm any details.
The bet got off to a flying start on Tuesday when Sprinter Sacre was an easy winner of the Arkle Trophy at odds of 8-11. It stayed alive through Wednesday when Simonsig (2-1), Bobs Worth (9-2) and Finian’s Rainbow (4-1) landed a series of top-class races and finally came to fruition on Thursday when Riverside Theatre (7-2) won the Ryanair Chase.
Had the bet been placed at those odds on Monday, to the £50 stake the lad is believed to have risked, his return would have been a mere £32,050. But his bet was placed towards the end of last year, when the odds on offer were much bigger.
David Williams of Ladbrokes estimated that at that time Sprinter Sacre would have been around 7-1, Simonsig 20-1, Bobs Worth 6-1, Finian’s Rainbow 12-1 and Riverside Theatre 16-1 for accumulated odds of 259,895‑1. An especially clever feature of the bet is that it anticipated Simonsig would run in the Neptune Novice Hurdle, as he eventually did, at a time when most people expected him to take part in a different race at the Festival.
Contacted as he was leaving the racecourse, Henderson said: “It’s absolutely wonderful. He’s the nicest, kindest, gentlest man and he rides Finian’s Rainbow every day. He’s got more confidence in me than I have and he obviously took a rather strong view, before Christmas, I gather.”
Asked if he expected the lad in question to turn up for work on Friday, Henderson laughed and replied: “He’d better.”
It has been a sensational week for Henderson, whose six winners have taken his career total of Festival winners to 45, five clear of the previous record. His four winners on Wednesday was unprecedented for one day at the Festival and there may be better to come.
He sends another 13 horses to Cheltenham today, including the favourites for two races, one of which is Long Run in the Gold Cup, the most important race of the week.