The bookies take a hit on colour of Queen's hat
By Paul Stokes
(Filed: 17/06/2005)

In pictures: Royal Ascot

A shadow was cast over Ladies' Day at Royal Ascot yesterday with a small betting coup involving the colour of the Queen's hat.

Bookmakers suspended betting on the Queen's choice of millinery hours before she appeared in procession at the event's temporary York venue.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at Royal Ascot in York
As predicted by punters in the know in multiple bets throughout the country, she was wearing a brown hat (with cream trim).

The bookies William Hill became suspicious after it received a number of simultaneous bets for brown during the morning.

It decided to close its book when a punter walked into its Windsor shop wanting to lay more than £1,000 in cash on the outcome.

Another bookmaker, Paddy Power, suspended the betting as odds on brown tumbled from 12-1 to 8-11 in two hours.

Mr Power, who runs a chain of betting shops in Britain and Ireland, said: "If it has been a horse race we would have been asking for an inquiry. It cost us around £10,000."

The bookies suspect a "mole" with access to information about the royal wardrobe.

Mr Power introduced the quirky annual Ascot hat bet 10 years ago and it has proved popular with people who run sweepstakes.

He said: "This is our worst result. For some reason this year the word got out very early. It could be somebody who works at Buckingham Palace.

"It is supposed to be a fun bet and it would be a shame if we could not run it because someone is not entering into the spirit."

David Hood, a spokesman for William Hill, said: "Someone must have been in the know. We laid £50 at 20-1 and £200 at 10-1 and some smaller bets but it was when a cash punter walked in to our shop in Windsor and asked for a good four-figure bet that we became really suspicious and closed the book. Somebody has made a tidy sum."

Philip Somerville, whose London firm made the hat, said: "We keep it a great, great secret. Her Majesty would have the choice of maybe four or five hats and we never know until the last minute what she will wear."