Betting frenzy leaves punters out of pocket

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The Independent Online
About pounds 200m was believed to have been wagered over the weekend in what is believed to have been Britain's biggest ever flutter.

Millions of people gambled on a host of top sporting events which coincided for the first time with the National Lottery, but the vast majority ended up out of pocket.

In the Grand National, the housewives' choice Superior Finish, finished a disappointing third and a few hours later no one scooped the lottery jackpot.

Perhaps most disappointed was an anonymous punter from Sale in Greater Manchester, who was just 90 minutes away from winning pounds 183,000 on a pounds 5 stake.

He was hoping Aston Villa would win their FA Cup semi final to clinch a 12-way bet, but they lost 3-0 to Liverpool.

Manchester United, who beat Chelsea 2-1 had earlier become his 11th correct prediction and he had already forecast the results of 10 matches on Saturday.

A Ladbrokes spokesman said: "You cannot describe what those 90 minutes must have been like for him. We may never know who he is now. It was the bet of a lifetime running on to two exciting semi-finals."

An estimated pounds 70m was riding on the 28 runners at Aintree. And although favourite Rough Quest rode home victorious, an army of once-a-year gamblers had opted for Superior Finish, leaving bookmakers faced with a pounds 2m pay out if it won.

Many had been lured to gamble by the promise that the unusually small field gave them the best chance of picking the winner in a generation.

Money poured in on the 9-1 shot trained by Jenny Pitman, known as the "Queen of Aintree", and ridden by Richard Dunwoody.

But Superior Finish eventually came only third - a result which did leave the bookies smiling, however.

Graham Sharpe, of William Hill, said: "It was a pretty good day and we certainly paid out less than we took. It would have cost us lots more if Superior Finish had won or done better than third.

"The public - especially the once-a-year gambler - had latched on to it because of who trained it and who was riding it.

"If it had come in it could have been disastrous for us," he said.

In the National Lottery, there was no jackpot winner, and fans of the weekly draw can now look forward to competing for a pounds 20m rollover prize next week.

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