Racing: Punters must play their cards to participate: John Cobb explains how to place a bet on a historic meeting

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THE BOOKIES will still pass the collection plate tomorrow, but punters who want to make a donation will have to contribute by credit card rather than cash.

Betting shops will remain shut and the clamour of the on-course ring will be silenced. Queues that usually form at Tote windows will be directed instead towards telephones as gamblers try to place a bet through their off-course credit accounts.

For punters who lack that facility it is too late to apply for an account as bookmakers vet their clients thoroughly - you need references before you can lose money this way. But they will, willingly and unsurprisingly, take a cash deposit today that can be used to feed bets made by phone tomorrow.

Using Switch or Delta debit cards is an alternative and it may save time to supply a bookmaker with details of the debit card today so that he can provide a pin number that can be quoted when betting tomorrow.

Simpler still is to have a cash bet today. The leading bookmakers have been quoting prices on the main handicaps since Tuesday and will have marked up all the races by this morning.

Whichever method is chosen it will almost certainly be best to shop around and take the biggest odds available. As there is no on- course market there can be no starting prices and different bookmakers will use various methods to settle bets where no price has been taken. Check before placing the bet.

Ladbrokes and William Hill will calculate the bet at the last price they were quoting, but Tote Credit will be operating pool betting and all bets placed with Coral on Sunday will be added to that pool. Coral will accept bets at a fixed price today. Other firms will use the Tote pool returns to settle bets where the odds are not specified.

And the names to scrawl on the slips. Congress (nap 3.20) is handily weighted and Breezy Day (next best 3.45) has the benefit of being drawn near the stands' rails, but the best bet on Sunday racing has already been missed by months. When the Jockey Club announced they intended holding an experimental meeting, Ladbrokes, in a rare miscalculation, offered 4-1 against the fixture taking place before the end of 1992. Judging by the determination of the Jockey Club to bring about tomorrow's card, a few of the members must have got on.