Racing: 'It's like telling a 14-year-old that Santa Claus doesn't exist'

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The Independent Online

If racing's latest fixing scandal really has sent the punters' confidence in the sport of stings spiralling to an all-time low then somebody forgot to tell the crowds who packed the high street bookies yesterday.

If racing's latest fixing scandal really has sent the punters' confidence in the sport of stings spiralling to an all-time low then somebody forgot to tell the crowds who packed the high street bookies yesterday.

The Big Three bookmakers revealed that business was as brisk as ever while the main betting exchange, Betfair, were even reporting that this was busier than the usual Wednesday. Indeed, in the William Hill office in Mare Street, the main thoroughfare in Hackney, the main beef was not with the jockeys and trainer who had been arrested but with the police for denying them their hero's services for the afternoon. "Kieren Fallon is the punters' jockey," said John Blakeman of Bow. "They can tell us he loses races he should be winning, but just ask anyone in here who watches racing day in, day out, and they will say he wins races other jockeys would lose."

Such faith in Fallon was borne out by one customer who arrived to view the 3.15pm at York and was stunned to see that the champion jockey was not riding the favourite, Red Bloom. "I had £500 on at at 5-4 this morning," he said. "But now Fallon's not riding I want my money back." In the event, Kevin Darley proved a worthy replacement.

Not everyone was so enamoured of Fallon, however. "If he has been fixing races he should get a life ban," said Tim Daniels of Hackney. "The majority of us in here are addicts who will gamble every day whatever, but it's the next generation who may be put off by corruption."

The general feeling was that the allegations were nothing new. "Everybody knows races are fixed," said Mr Daniels. "That's part of the game, part of the allure. There might be 'shock, horror!' in the rest of society but to punters it's more 'tell us something we don't know'. It's like telling a 14-year-old that Santa doesn't exist. It's not going to put them off Christmas."

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