PAT KEANE: Punters battling against odds

A LETTER in the Racing Post last Sunday didn’t half catch the eye of this observer.

It was written by an Edward Benson from London, a son of the late Charles Benson, who was well known in his day in journalistic circles.

Anyway, Benson took William Hill to task for their failure to lay him a bet. Benson said he walked into one of their shops in London and requested an ante-post wager of £1,000 each-way Peddlers Cross at 14-1 for the Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

Benson takes up the story: “I have never been more astonished than to be told that I was only allowed £200 each-way, despite the fact the race is over a month away and at the biggest turnover meeting of the year. They then had the audacity to cut the horse to 12-1.”

The Racing Post then wheeled in William Hill public relations director David Hood.

Hood began well enough with the following: “It’s a fair cop guv. Sometimes, we have to hold our hands up and say yes, sorry, we got this one wrong.”

But after that it was all downhill! He then launched into largely irrelevant rubbish and by the time he was finished his essay, you were almost fit to puke.

Benson was a high-profile customer, who refused to accept William Hill’s messing the way most punters would, and proceeded to write to the Post.

That was enough to get Hood out of his bunker and he battled, almost pathetically, to defend the indefensible.

William Hill know the vast majority of punters are mugs. There are more than enough of them to go round and why have anything to do with someone who might have a chance of beating you?

And that, in a nutshell, is why Betfair exists and will continue to expand and grab more and more of the market.

Last Thursday there was a meeting at Clonmel and here’s how Ladbrokes behaved with an early-morning visitor.

He thought Frosted Grape was value in the first, a maiden hurdle, and headed to Ladbrokes, who were going a top-priced 7-1.

He asked for €300 each-way and was immediately knocked back. All they would take was €100 each-way.

Unlike Benson, however, this guy was far from astonished, accepted the inevitable and continued on his merry way with another €200 each-way to invest. The horse finished second.

Do you know what’s even worse than all of this behaviour, though, is when the off-course PR merchants are given free rein on the airwaves to spew out any old garbage unchallenged.

To my mind At The Races are the worst offenders. They do a fantastic job for Irish racing and no one is a bigger fan of the channel. But when they cover an Irish meeting, with someone on track to ask the questions, it really can often take a fair bit of swallowing.

These PR people are allowed to waffle endlessly without any fear they might just be asked an awkward question.

* I WILL be more than interested to note how the Itsallaracket affair pans out.

This is the story of the Irish mare who was pulled up in a bumper at Folkestone on December 1, 2008.

Her owners, two of them, have been charged with laying the horse to lose, following an investigation by the BHA’s integrity services team.

The reason this case is exercising the mind is because I actually backed Itsallaracket that afternoon, having been particulary impressed by her previous eight lengths success at Downpatrick.

I have to admit to never giving the matter any thought subsequently, until this week. Following Fokestone, of course, she went on to win easily at Clonmel and Downpatrick.

* ALAIVAN was promoted to second favourite, at around 6-1, for Cheltenham’s JCB Triumph Hurdle, following his 17 lengths win at Fairyhouse last Saturday.

I’m a fan of Edward O’Grady’s gelding, but do believe this was something of an over-reaction.

He certainly doesn’t look an easy ride and Andrew McNamaradid a really fine job to get him beautifully settled at Fairyhouse.

Perhaps, the likely end-to-end gallop at Cheltenham will play to Alaivan's strengths, but at 6-1 he is hardly a tempting proposition.


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