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The BBC's Rob Nothman
"The only doubt surrounds the well-fancied Red Marauder"
 real 28k

banner Friday, 7 April, 2000, 12:44 GMT 13:44 UK
National going firms up

The going on the Grand National course at Aintree has been altered to good, good to firm in places.

The change followed a dry, slightly frosty Thursday night. The ground is also the same on the Mildmay course and the hurdles track.

Clerk of the course Ian Renton said the course would be watered on Friday night in an attempt to get the going back to the officially good state of Thursday, though he thought this would not be possible..

"We plan to water all the track on [the stands] side of the Melling Road after racing this evening. This will cover all of the Mildmay and hurdles courses and just less than half of the Grand National course. This is where the good to firm places are," he said.

Maximum field possible

There were no further withdrawals from the race on Friday morning, meaning that none of the reserves will get in.

This is particularly bad news for the connections and ante-post supporters of Cavalero, winner of the Christie's Fox Hunters Chase at Cheltenham last month. Cavalero had been backed down to as low as 16-1 for the National.

The other reserves were Overflowing River, Cariboo Gold and River Unshion.

One possible doubt is over Red Marauder, who does not like firmish going. His trainer said a final decision would be made on Saturday morning.

But even if Red Marauder is withdrawn, none of the reserves will be called up as the deadline for their participation was 09.30 GMT Friday.

Loss to the Treasury

The bookmakers are generally making last year's winner, Bobbyjo, and Star Traveller joint favourites at around 7-1.

The Irish-trained Bobbyjo is attempting to become the first horse since the great Red Rum in 1973-74 to win the National in consecutive years. He will have to do so carrying 11st 6lb compared to the 10st 0lb he had in 1999.

The bookmakers are anticipating breaking the 100 million takings barrier, with one significant factor being the rise of internet betting.

"Betting via the Internet is the fastest growing part of our business and this year for the first time hundreds of thousands of punters will have their Grand National flutter via the internet," said William Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe.

One reason for the change is that internet betting tends to be tax free because it is offshore, compared to the 9% levied on punters in most UK betting shops.

Along with the rise in offshore telephone betting, with its 3% deduction, this is going to cost the Treasury a lot of money as the bookmakers estimate that 10% of this year's takings will be placed in one of these ways.

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06 Apr 00 | Business
Odds favour offshore betting
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