Haunted by pounds 20 double

WILLIAM HILL could be forced to pay out pounds 275m if the 90,000 punters who have missed its stockmarket flotation win one of the most difficult bets of the racing season.

The bookmaker has given each retail investor who subscribed for thelisting a pounds 20 voucher to bet a "Spring Double", on the Grand National and the Lincoln Handicap.

William Hill yesterday quoted the odds for the two favourites to win - the most likely event - at 152-1. A correct pounds 20 bet on the two horses - Double Thriller at the National and Right Wing at Lincoln - would net a shareholder over pounds 3,000.

Such a win is "nearly impossible", say experts, but given the potential payout William Hill would lay off some of the risk.