Racing: Windfall for bookies as Yeats is ruled out

If it is hard to feel too upset for a pair of serial winners in John Magnier and Aidan O'Brien as their colt Yeats limps out of the Derby, think of the punters who nurtured ante-post betting slips bearing the colt's name through the long winter months only to see their dreams die at the eleventh hour.

If it is hard to feel too upset for a pair of serial winners in John Magnier and Aidan O'Brien as their colt Yeats limps out of the Derby, think of the punters who nurtured ante-post betting slips bearing the colt's name through the long winter months only to see their dreams die at the eleventh hour.

When Yeats won a maiden race at the Curragh late last September he was immediately installed as favourite for the Derby, nine months hence, at odds of around 12-1. Some, seemingly astute, punters lumped on there and then, and spent the intervening months trying to pat themselves on the back as the colt emerged as O'Brien's flagbearer to follow in the hoofprints of Galileo and High Chaparral, and his price for the premier Classic tumbled to as low as 9-4.

Those punters have, sadly, contributed to a windfall for the bookmakers, which the layers admit could amount to £1m.

It is also a triumph for the bookmakers', and indeed punters', grapevine as all money for the colt had dried up long before O'Brien first began giving assurances last week that all would be well with his charge despite the fact that he was receiving physiotherapy for a minor muscle problem. Anyone who stepped in to back Yeats as the bookmakers set bait for the uninformed by easing him to a seemingly generous price was not in on the inside information.

"We looked at him again this morning," O'Brien said yesterday, "and his muscle problem has not improved sufficiently, so we think it is in the best interest of the horse not to run in the Derby. We plan to give him a complete rest.

"It is bitterly disappointing for everyone here at Ballydoyle as Yeats has always worked like a champion. He is a very similar horse to Galileo and I've tried to take the Galileo route with him to Epsom."

On the day the colt departed from the race it emerged that he is not, as widely thought, named after the poet William Butler Yeats, but his brother Jack, the painter. Even poetry has flown from the fallen idol.

In the absence of Yeats, Godolphin's Snow Ridge has move to the head of the market for racing's Blue Riband and the Dubai team now have the favourites for all three Group One races at Epsom this weekend, with Punctilious and Sundrop vying for top spot in the Oaks, and Doyen in the Coronation Cup.

Simon Clare, of Coral, however, believes that there could be another upheaval in the betting before the colts line up for the latest-starting Derby ever at 4.20pm on Saturday. "Ultimately, the betting public will decide who starts favourite," Clare said, and after last year's plunge on Kieren Fallon and Kris Kin, I am certain the Sir Michael Stoute runner this time, North Light, will be backed into favouritism on the day."

Percussionist, now as low as 7-1, has been cut from 12-1 over the last couple of days, and is another on a march up the betting.

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