When is a runner not a runner. That is the question? Ascot’s King George VI and Queen Eizabeth Stakes card on Saturday resulted in betting chaos when the heavily backed 4-1 favourite Speculative Bid failed to give his supporters a run for their money when eventually leaving the stalls without his rider Jamie Spencer in the major handicap of the day, the Gigaset International Stakes, run thirty five minutes before the feature race won by Postponed in a thrilling finish from 5-2 favourite Eagle Top.
As the stalls opened for the seven furlong Heritage Handicap the David Elsworth-trained four-year-old had his head turned towards the adjacent berth giving Spencer little chance of joining the other 20 runners as they went on their merry way, leaving favourite backers’ fuming at the likely prospect of losing their hard-earned cash. What followed next entered the realms of pure farce, with embarrassing consequences for the sports’ governing body.
Following the ‘all-clear’ weighed-in signal boomakers paid out on the popular 7-1 joint second favourite winner Heaven’s Guest in the belief that Speculative Bid was therefore deemed to have taken part. A situation which led to confusion when BHA director of raceday operations and regulation Jamie Stier stated: “The punters get refunded and successful bets are subject to Rule 4 because that horse has taken no part in the race.”
To muddy the waters yet further, at 4.55pm, a further announcement was made that, for betting purposes, the 4-1 market leader should be regarded as having taken part with no deductions warrented, a decision which flew in the face of the previous statement.
Not surprisingly the turn of events, reminiscent of a Keystone Cops movie, resulted in some schathing comments from the betting industry, led by Coral spokesman Simon Clare, who claimed: “This has achieved new levels of farce. Mistakes happen but it has cost the industry a lot of money. More importantly it has caused confusion in our shops, online and in the betting ring. All of that will have impacted on the King George betting – with the farcical race coming just 35 minutes earlier – on a big day.”
BHA head of stewarding Paul Barton in an attempt to explain a complicated chain of events only left the majority of bookmakers and punters alike scratching their heads in an effort to take in the bizarre proceedings. However, the one thing that was agreed by all and sundry is that a similar situation can not be allowed to happen again in an industry criticised far too ofter for ‘shooting itself in the foot.’