Racing: Aitken reluctantly quits while he's ahead

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The Independent Online
FOR most punters it would be a wild fantasy. Stewart Aitken, the owner of Samah, watched his horse win the H & K Commissions Handicap here yesterday, picked up pounds 10,000 in prize money and a little something for the mantlepiece, and acknowledged the applause knowing that he had staked pounds 5,500 each-way at 10-1 on his colt. But Aitken was not a happy man, writes Greg Wood.

He had wanted rather more on Samah, but could not find a bookmaker willing to accommodate him. Since he touched the bookies for almost pounds 300,000 when Sarawat won the Ebor last August, layers have treated him with caution bordering on hostility, and it was little different yesterday morning when Aitken contacted William Hill.

'I asked for pounds 5,000 each- way at 10-1, but they would only let me have pounds 2,000,' Aitken said. 'Then I rang Victor Chandler and asked for pounds 5,000, and he would only give me pounds 3,000.' You might think that he was talking about a one-man operator in the Silver Ring, rather than nationwide businesses with a turnover measured in tens of millions of pounds.

At least Hill and Chandler still take a part of Aitken's bets - three major operators have closed him down altogether in recent months. 'My message to them is that I'm retiring, I've had enough,' Aitken said, though with something less than utter conviction. He will at least surely wait until after his Urgent Request has contested the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot later this month.

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