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Thursday, October 24, 2002
Contact: Notes Team (847) 385-7472/7473

British Bookmakers Add Different Spin To Championship Day

For one glorious evening, England is a true punter's paradise, and the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships races are responsible.

For only on Breeders' Cup Day can Great Britain's horseplayers shop for odds among the bookmakers and on the American tote, insuring them the best possible price on any starter in any Breeders' Cup race.

"It's the one meet of the year where punters can have two bites of the cherry," said Simon Clare, who is representing Coral Bookmakers at Arlington Park. "They can either take the odds a bookmaker is offering, or they can choose to take the tote odds, whichever is highest. For us, it's just good customer service.

"Last year, for example, Banks Hill was 5-2 in England, but 6-1 on the tote in America, so the punters who took the American odds made out very well."

For their part, the British bookmakers have several options to protect their interests. While competition has made customer service essential, they are not about to give away the store.

"Well, we couldn't afford to do this all the time, which is the reason it's just one day a year," Clare said. "But as bookmakers, we have the choice of standing the bet, which is what we do for the most part, or putting it into the tote ourselves (laying it off)."

Bookmaking in Britain is a highly competitive sport, with Coral, William Hill and Ladbroke's the main players. Punters can bet by phone, in person at the shops, or over the internet in an attempt to beat the odds. The bookies set odds designed to attract the most attention, while at the same time maintaining a margin of profitability.

"The Breeders' Cup is a truly exciting event," Clare said, "because it brings together European horses and American horses, with the Europeans on alien turf. When we set the odds, we take into account patriotic punting, where our players drive down the prices of European horses.

"In the (Long John Silver's) Juvenile Fillies race, Storm Flag Flying is at evens in most places, but we made her 11-10, hoping to attract some play. If we think a horse will win, we might offer lower odds than the others. It's called taking a position."

The hottest European in this year's Breeders' Cup is Rock of Gibraltar, who will try to make the NetJets Mile his eighth straight victory. Arlington Park linemaker Mike Battaglia installed the Aidan O'Brien trainee as the even-money favorite in a full field of 14. Yet Coral has the colt listed at 5-4.

"The draw could have been better," Clare said after Rock of Gibraltar drew an outside post (10), "and that's mainly why we raised him above evens. We feel only luck will beat him here, but the race has a history of bad racing luck for the favorite."

But the beauty of Breeders' Cup Day in Britain is the right to choose the best odds, and play is expected to be heavy.

"It's a thrilling day on many levels," Clare said. "For one thing, the show is on at prime time (6:00 to 11 p.m.) and everybody can watch. Then the ability to shop for odds keeps everyone hopping. I know we'll be busy."

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