Ladbrokes still ready to take on Golan

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The Independent Online

When it comes to ante-post betting, bookmakers tend to resemble a large herd of gnus making their way across the African savannah, and they are eager to huddle together for much the same reason. Like the average herbivore in Kenya, they know very well that if they stand out in any way, they know very well that the predators will soon be on their trail.

When it comes to ante-post betting, bookmakers tend to resemble a large herd of gnus making their way across the African savannah, and they are eager to huddle together for much the same reason. Like the average herbivore in Kenya, they know very well that if they stand out in any way, they know very well that the predators will soon be on their trail.

There are always a few differences of opinion, of course, simply to keep the market moving, but the choice for punters is usually between 5-2 and 9-4, rather than between 7-2 and 8-1. Every now and then, however, a bookmaker takes an opinion about a horse's chance and sticks to it, the latest example being Ladbrokes' quote of 8-1 against Golan for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp on 7 October.

Just as in nature, the firm's apparent bravery – and let's not forget that it will hardly break them, however much they lay – is likely to result in one of two outcomes. Either their bones will be picked clean by the vultures, or they will be able to claim alpha-male status among the rest of the herd.

The 10-1 available with Ladbrokes against Golan after Sunday's success in the Prix Niel, which has in recent years been by far the best Arc trial around, lasted almost until midday yesterday, despite the fact that neither of their main rivals, Coral and William Hill, were offering even half those odds. The quote came in to 8-1 once the shops had been open for an hour or so, but even that is still the best price on offer. "We've not been bowled over," Matt Finnigan, Ladbrokes' spokesman, said yesterday, "it's been more of a trickle of money through the day."

Coral, who were most impressed by Golan, quoting him at 3-1 on Sunday, have now eased his price to 7-2, while they, along with Ladbrokes, have the longest odds, 6-1, about Saturday's St Leger winner, Milan. "He has been tapped for toe in both his French races this season and we are happy to lay him for the Arc despite the fact that his trainer is hoovering up Group Ones for fun," Simon Clare, Coral's spokesman, said.

The only areas of agreement concern two more of Sunday's successes, the Prix Foy winner Hightori, 6-1 generally but 7-1 with the Tote, and the unbeaten filly Aquarelliste, the winner of the Vermeille, who is priced at between 7-2 and 9-2.

There is far more agreement when it comes to next year's 2,000 Guineas. Hawk Wing, who became yet another Group One winner for Aidan O'Brien when landing the National Stakes at the Curragh on Sunday, was cut by most bookmakers yesterday. He was a 10-1 chance in the morning, but is no better than 7-1 with most layers today (Coral being the ones to wander away from the herd by keeping him at double-figure odds). Perhaps most significantly, given the firm's strong connection with Ballydoyle, Hawk Wing is now the clear favourite for the Classic with Ladbrokes at 5-1, with Dubai Destination, the winner of the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster on Friday, knocked into second place in the list at 6-1.

While betting activity centred on the Group One Flat racing yesterday, the jumps meeting at Plumpton produced yet another record for Tony McCoy, when he reached 100 winners for the season a full seven weeks earlier than he ever has before. Present Bleu took him into three figures in the claiming hurdle, beating the mark he set on 5 November two years ago.

Whether the new record would pass muster with Ross McWhirter is another matter, though, since the jumps season now begins immediately after the Whitbread Gold Cup meeting at Sandown in April. Until last year, the campaign started around a month later, and McCoy's 100 for 2000-2001 arrived on 6 November, after his start to the year was troubled by injury and suspension. The most that can really be said of this latest achievement is that it gives him something to aim at next year.

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