Punters rejoice

By Michael Guerin

 Here is the updated score board from Inter Dominion Grand Final night: Punters 9.5, All Stars 7, Bookmakers 0.5.

 But the TAB’s head racing bookmaker Thad Taylor says there is a silver lining to the second worst meeting in history of the harness racing book at Alexandra Park on Saturday night.

 The near complete domination of favourites, headlined by Interdom winners Ultimate Sniper and Winterfell, was only halted when second favourite Havehorsewilltravel won the last of the 10 races.

That was the race where the bookies got their gold star for trying but by then the horse hadn’t just bolted, it was already in another post code.

Multi bets had left the bookmaking team shell shocked after the favourites refused to lose and the harness book suffered its worst single-meeting loss since the great bookie-bash of May 31, 2008 when the Harness Jewels was a strip out.

 The TAB never officially commented on just how bad that Black Saturday in 2008 was but estimates range range between $750,000 and $1million went back into punter’s pockets.

The truth will never be known. After all, this is not the sort of savaging anybody likes to admit to.

Saturday night was not quite as bad because the bookies didn’t get much wrong, they priced most of the favourites closed enough to their closing prices. The problem was they just kept winning.

 While the night belonged to the All Stars they weren’t the only villains for the odds setters, with Barry Purdon’s magnificent mare Belle Of Montana justifying her red hot favouritism for the $100,000 Queen Of Hearts, watching her made easier for punters by a brilliant Zachary Butcher drive.

 His father David matched that three races earlier by staying calm when heavily-backed favourite Copy That, trained by Ray Green, galloped early but recovered to win the $50,000 Alabar Classic.

 The exciting three-year-old was one of several chances for the bookies to stem the flow. Winterfell was rocky at times before outstaying his rivals in the Trotting Final but the baddest beat came when Another Masterpiece overcame losing 30m in an early gallop to win what was effectively the pacing consolation.

“That was our real chance to get one of the favourites beaten and when he got up to win we were done,” says Taylor.

 “Obviously all those All Stars winners didn’t help but the team (bookies) didn’t do much wrong.

“It was just one of those nights, a wake up call for us after a good start to the summer for the harness book.

 “I said to the guys afterwards we have copped it but the good news is the money has been shared around between a lot of punters. Almost everybody got some and we would rather that than say somebody landing $300,000 worth if multis to one person.

 “So the punters got us but there is plenty of racing coming up so they will have plenty to spend.”Taylor wouldn’t be drawn on how deep the well of red ink ran on Saturday night but a loss of $500,000 perhaps slightly more is realistic, which is a lot for any race meeting in this country.

 Their under belly was multi bets, which have always been popular with harness punters and even more so now as many of the most successful punters are restricted on how much they are allowed to bet to win.

 The limits for multi bets are much higher, for the obvious reason fewer of them win, but when the favourites refuse to lose like on Saturday night, the numbers add up.

 If Another Masterpiece or Copy That had kept galloping, or Winterfell had reverted to the trotter of just four weeks ago, the bookies would have got away with it.

 But for punters the night was almost as perfect as the entire series was for new pacing champion Ultimate Sniper.

 No matter what was thrown at him during the series the four-year-old ball of muscle found a way to win, often not my much, but the history books rarely care about margins.

Just ask the harness bookies. Winning is winning. But where there are winners there will be losers.

On Saturday night the winners were at Alexandra Park. The losers were at TAB head office in Petone.

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