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Bookies receive Royal hiding

Bookmakers were left reeling after a string of well-backed horses put punters in the driving seat on the opening day of Royal Ascot.

The layers need a few big-price winners -- and quickly -- if they are to recover from a nightmare start.

It was one long tale of woe in the first four races and backers got off to a flier thanks to French superstar Goldikova justifying favouritism in the opening Queen Anne Stakes.

Equiano then landed a major gamble in the King's Stand Stakes before a Richard Hannon double through Canford Cliffs in the St James's Palace and Strong Suit in the Coventry left the bookmakers on the ropes.

Ghimaar's defeat in the Ascot Stakes, won by Junior, offered little respite, while the concluding Windsor Castle Stakes was little better as even though the gambled-on market leader Metropolitan Man got turned over, the race was won by the well-backed Marine Commando.

Paddy Power remarked: "Punters knew full well that this was a brilliant opening day's card, but they probably couldn't have done any better if they had tomorrow's newspaper in front of them!

"The books just about got their heads out of the water when Equiano won the King's Stand, but Richard Hughes well and truly stamped on them when he got Strong Suit up on the line in the Coventry.

"A great, great start for punters and if this is the starter, God help us when the main course is served!"

David Williams of Ladbrokes added: "Goldikova, Canford Cliffs and Strong Suit all combined to hand punters a cracking start to the Royal meeting.

"Even Equiano was backed off the boards and after four races we were ready to pack up and walk home. It's been the best opening day for punters for decades. Our only consolation is we've got four days to claw it back."

William Hill had to admit that too many fancied horses were successful.

"Too many good things won today to satisfy a bookmaker. But punters buoyed by healthy profit have definitely spun-up their winnings on the pair of Hannon hotpots," said Hills' spokesman David Hood. "We're on the ropes."