‘Brexit makes picking the Grand National winner look easy’

At Aintree, bookies and punters were hedging their political bets

In the glorious spring sunshine at Aintree on Saturday, it was all but impossible not to feel optimistic about the future. The immediate future, at any rate, and the spectacular opportunity for short-term financial gain when 40 horses and riders set off to tackle the most famous and capricious race of them all.

But finding the Grand National winner looked like child’s play when set against the other fiendish puzzle of the moment. For most of the punters in a sell-out crowd of nearly 70,000, and most of the bookies too, finding a solution to the Brexit conundrum was something to park for another day.

“Don’t get me started on Brexit,” said Paul Gold, taking bets on the Pickwick Racing pitch in the betting ring. But then, like the horses, he was off and running. “It’s a shambles,” he said. “Most of the MPs in the House of Commons voted to remain, but they’re trying to do what’s been voted for in the country and it’s all half-hearted.

“It’s going to drag on for years and everyone is sick of it. The Grand National is a doddle by comparison. There’s only a dozen that can realistically win and by 5.25pm we’ll have the result and it’s done and dusted.”

On the pitch next door, Andy Melia was thinking along similar lines. “Brexit will go on for 10 years, in my opinion,” Melia said. “It think it will be Brino (Brexit in name only), but I wouldn’t like to say what the odds are. We won’t crash out, put it that way, and we may in name leave the European Union, but only in 10 years’ time. But I’ve applied for my Irish passport, so I’m hedging my bets.”

This could prove a shrewd move. The odds on a no-deal Brexit with leading off-course bookies have drifted of late, from 5-2 to 4-1 – but those are still roughly the same odds as Grand National winner Tiger Roll.

Among the racegoers too – or those, at least, who could even think about Brexit on a sunny Saturday afternoon – there was almost complete unanimity that while the Grand National is difficult to predict, it is at least done and dusted in time for Match Of The Day.

“Brexit is harder [than the National]. It’s awful at the moment,” Paige, who lives “about half an hour away” from Aintree, said. “I don’t really care what happens with it in all honesty. It’s taken way too long. I just want it to end.” She did not vote in the first referendum, when Sefton Central, Aintree’s constituency, was 51.9% for remain but the five neighbouring constituencies voted to leave. Would she vote in a fresh referendum? “Probably not.”

But Linda Sleightholm, over from Northumberland, says she would. “My view would be, go back to the country and ask them again because we were misled on the first vote,” she said. “I voted to leave and I would vote to stay now, because we were given false promises. But it would be great to put the news on and not just hear ‘Brexit’, because nobody understands it, including the politicians.”

Holly, on a day trip from Hull, was one of very few exceptions to the rule. “The Grand National’s harder. Brexit is simple,” she said. “We voted to leave, so you just leave. Don’t get backed into a corner, tell them we’re leaving on so-and-so day and give them the rules of leaving. It’s not that hard. We have idiots in power.”


Greg Wood

The GuardianTramp

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