Cheltenham Pageant bookies concern Alex Ferguson will value them tens of millions with Gold Cup win

BOOKIES are worried Sir Alex Ferguson will ruin their week at the Cheltenham Festival and cost them millions.

They fear the iconic former Manchester United manager, 77, will pick up yet another trophy by winning the Gold Cup with his fancied runner Clan Des Obeaux on Friday.

Rupert Adams, a spokesman for bookies William Hill, said: “Cheltenham is the biggest betting week of the year and it can literally make, or break, our year.

“Under the guidance of Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United cost us millions, now he owns what could be one of the best-backed Gold Cup runners in the history of racing.”

But former champion jockey Sir AP McCoy, an Arsenal fan, is not backing Fergie’s horse as his bet of the week.

He believes Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has the banker of the meeting with Grand National winner Tiger Roll in the Cross Country Chase tomorrow.

Mr Adams added: “For bookmakers the Fergie and Sir AP McCoy double could be the biggest blow of the week.”

William Hill has cancelled all holidays for its 16,601 staff as the company anticipates a bumper turnover of £50million this week.

The first Cheltenham roar at 1.30pm today will coincide with a £15m industry-wide plunge on Al Dancer in the Sky Bet Supreme Novices Hurdle.

Meanwhile, analysis by Worldpay say online betting is set to soar by 50% over the four days.

But although punters are increasingly going online, bigger bets are still being made the old-fashioned way.

Punters wage £50 more per bet in-store compared to online.

Steffan Jones, vice president for gaming at Worldpay, said: “Horse racing is one of the most popular betting activities in the UK, and with over 9,000,000 people betting online in 2017, this figure is only set to rise.” Celebrities and royals will join in the celebrations over the week.

Although the festival could be hit by high winds and rain at times, officials say they are not concerned.

And there could even be snow after a dusting in Cheltenham Spa over the weekend, with Ladbrokes slashing odds to just 5-1 that the town sees some between Tuesday and Friday.

Spokesman Alex Apati said: “Punters may have to hold on to their hats with strong winds and rain supposedly on the way, but we are not yet ruling out seeing snow at this year’s Festival.”

If you wish to contact James, you can by writing to james.caven@dailystar.co.uk

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