Punters are off for the pounds 75m National return stakes: Bookmakers consider legal action after Aintree fiasco

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The Independent Online
THE QUEUES in betting shops today will be long and they will be miserable as punters collect the pounds 75m wagered on Saturday's Grand National, rendered void by a false-start fiasco, writes John Cobb.

As one bookmaker said yesterday: 'People don't care whether they win or lose just as long as they get a run for their money.'

Bookmakers promise all punters will have stakes refunded, but some may have to wait until tomorrow or Wednesday. One firm, William Hill, has suggested it might take legal action against the racing authorities to recover the pounds 2m it believes was lost by abandoning the race. Bookmakers will have no chance to recoup money from punters this year - Aintree executives decided yesterday it would be impractical to rerun the race.

As the Jockey Club, racing's rulers, begin today to examine exactly what went wrong at Aintree, one official they are likely to absolve is Ken Evans, the man at the first fence who could have waved down the runners. Examination of recordings of the race shows that he had no reason to do so as the starter's flag, which should have signalled a false start, was raised but never unfurled after the second false start.

Spectators who paid admission prices of up to pounds 60 will be granted free entry to Aintree's November meeting, but for one horse there may be no return. In the melee at the start, the tape became wrapped around the leg of Travel Over. He suffered tendon damage and is unlikely to race again.

Leading article; letters, page 19

Reports, pages 31, 34