Man, 103, hopes for National winner

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Undated Darren Starling handout photo of George Atkinson, a 103-year-old who is believed to be Britain's oldest punter, who is hoping for a winner on this year's Grand National - after betting on the race for more than seven decades without success. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday April 3, 2014. Mr Atkinson said he is hoping to finally have a successful bet on the world-famous race, so he can

A 103-year-old believed to be Britain's oldest punter is hoping for a winner on this year's Grand National - after betting on the race for more than seven decades without success.

George Atkinson said he is hoping to finally have a successful bet on the world-famous race, so he can "die a happy man".

Mr Atkinson has placed bets religiously on the Grand National each year since the 1940s.

But he has never managed to back a winner, and fears the 2014 race is his last chance.

And after such a long run of betting, he has decided to pin his hopes on 2011 Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Long Run, owned by Robert Waley-Cohen and trained by Nicky Henderson.

Mr Atkinson said: "Any winner is nice - but the national would be a dream come true - I could die a happy man."

The 103-year-old, from Swaffham, Norfolk, placed his first bet on the Grand National in the 1940s after leaving the Army.

He had placed his first ever bet when he was just 12, when his bookmaker grandfather took him to the Epsom Derby.

He said: "I can't remember the name as it lost - in fact they all lose. I've never even had a place.

"I was once told to back Oxo in 1959 but I didn't place a bet on it - it won and I've regretted it for 55 years."

The Grand National is not the only competition Mr Atkinson has a flutter on - winning £301 from a £1 stake in 2013 by correctly predicting three of the numbers on the Irish Lottery.

"Horses are my favourite, but I love a dog race too," he said. "Number seven is my lucky number, but I'm not the luckiest punter."

The widowed father-of-seven, who is a grandfather and great-grandfather, goes to his local branch of bookmaker William Hill in Swaffham twice a day and even celebrated his 103rd birthday there.

Believed to be Britain's oldest punter, the company has given him a £103 bet - £51.50 each way - as he tries to fulfil his dream of a Grand National win.

He has decided to put it on Long Run - whose odds of winning are currently at 14/1 - and said: "It has been a long run without a winner and it feels like my time."

William Hill took more than five million bets on the Grand National last year and is expected to accept over £30 million in wagers in 2014.

According to the bookmakers, around 57% of Britain's adult population is expected to place a bet on the Grand National, with 51% of those who bet making their selection based on personal preferences.

Based on a survey of 2,066 people conducted for the firm by Populus, 36% of people will choose a horse by name; 17% make their selection by odds; 9% will leave it purely to chance, and make a random selection; and just 2% will pick because of the colours worn by the jockey.

Yvonne Dobinson, manager of William Hill Swaffham, said: "George is living proof of how hard it is to win the Grand National with over 70 years failing to pick a winner.

"But he has picked a corker this year and even we will be cheering Long Run on for his sake."

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