Pied Piper will lead punters back to bookies

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The Independent Online
It was an outstanding day for racing. Frankie Dettori recognised it, and so did the spectators who happily let him douse their finery with champagne after his seventh winner, but the significance was lost on several bookmakers. One was even daft enough to call it Black Saturday.

As several layers' representatives opined that this was the worst day for their trade since the sun started coming up, they carried with them the demeanour of pall bearers (this pantomime would be easier to swallow if they wore party hats and plastic noses on the many profitable days). There was talk of the "millions" that had been surrendered.

If we have to worry it should be for the on-course bookmakers and for smaller shops, some of whom may have taken a fatal hit to their limited funds from the smaller prospectors who bet blindly on jockeys.

The "Big Three" firms, though, usually send sparks from their palms when they hear of punters employing such systems. Those that effect this bet regularly are not difficult to identify; they are usually sitting on benches with a can of Special Brew, wearing several layers to prepare them for the night ahead. If any of the fabled folk who are meant to make a living from punting were ever caught backing a jockey's mounts through a card they would have their "I'm a professional punter" badge taken away.

Even one of the bookmaking moaners on Saturday admitted that money had been won by those most likely to return the windfall whence it originated.

It was the on-course bookmakers who had most cause for complaint as they were on the receiving end of huge amounts of money being hedged by the betting-shop chains on Dettori's winners. Forcing down the starting-prices of Decorated Hero from 14-1 to 7-1, of Fatefully from 5-1 to 7-4 and of Fujiyama Crest from 12-1 to 2-1 (William Hill estimate that they alone invested pounds 100,000 just on the last winner) hugely reduced liabilities in the shops. Had they not done so, the accumulator on Dettori would have paid around 445,000-1 rather than the 25,095-1 that it did.

The day, of course, should have been one of celebration even for the immediate losers, an afternoon that captured much broadcast time and all the back pages with the insidious message that pounds 25,000 can be earned for a pounds 1 coin without much science.

As the big bookmakers sob in the corner about the effect of the Lottery, they should contemplate that the money they lost plus a zero could not buy the publicity Dettori gave them on Saturday. This fact was recognised at least by Mike Dillon of Ladbrokes. "It was a great day for racing and, believe it or not, for the betting industry," he said. "To have the game's most charismatic rider win those races and raise the whole profile of the sport can do nothing but good."

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