Bookie lost £2.2m at last year's Cheltenham Festival – and didn't watch a single race – The Mirror

Just days away from the start of the one of horse racing’s biggest events, the owner of Star Sports is ready to make more bets despite losing a massive amount last year
The Cheltenham Festival – one of the biggest racing events of the year – is right around the corner.
Racing fans will be treated to some pulsating action at the iconic racecourse next week and punters will certainly splash the cash on their favourite horses hoping they will get lucky. But at last year’s edition of the event, one bookie wasn't so fortunate as he lost an astounding £2.2million.
In an interview with The Mail, Star Sports Owner Ben Keith – who didn't watch a single race of the Festival – said: "I lost £2.2million at Cheltenham last year.
"In the Racing Post, they had a good laugh and said Ben Keith left early after the Gold Cup! But I only lent them £2.2m. My game is the end of the year. If I have won five or six per cent I have done it. Punters are good at singing when they are winning. I love the silence of the betting ring when a 40-1 shot wins. It's beautiful.”
He added: "I bet to figures and faces, I don't bet to races. Five minutes before the off at Cheltenham, if you want to try to prove to me that you know better than the market, I am willing to let anyone in the world try to find that out. I am playing the man. I will lay what you want to bet. It is not my job to have opinions. I run my race. Three minutes before the off, if you want to back the favourite or second favourite, rock on baby."
Keith has been involved in the betting industry since his childhood and "advises both employers and employees on the best ways to progress in the industry".
At the 2022 Cheltenham Festival, the Queen Mother Champion Chase, which was won by the Willie Mullins-trained Energumene, cost Keith and his firm a staggering £500,000. While losing such a large sum of money from horse racing bets would send anyone into near meltdown, Keith remains calm, cool and collected.
In fact, he is relishing the prospect of adding to the millions he's previously taken from punters at this year's Cheltenham Festival. "Every single punter is different and I do a Shane Warne on them. The moment they are predictable and I can predict them I have beaten them," he explained.
"I've won tens of millions of pounds off some punters. But you would love to be as big a mug as them because they've made billions doing something else. Because they are used to getting what they want in business they think they can make what they want to happen in gambling.
"They are used to saying to bookmakers I want £50,000 and being told they can have £5,000 on. I go, that's a bet, do you want it again? A wealthy man takes longer to beat but when the fruit machine goes, it goes big." Ahead of next week’s event, the recent extreme weather resulted in a major going change.
Conditions have eased to soft following a wet 24 hours with the track covered under a layer of snow. The ground had been described as good to soft on Thursday. The weather change has disrupted parts of this week's racing programme and Saturday's Imperial Cup meeting at Sandown will need to pass an 8am inspection if it is to go ahead as planned.
With further rain forecast and temperatures set to dip below freezing tonight, clerk of the course Andrew Cooper called for the inspection, with the track currently in a “difficult situation”.
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