Allen has Spirito to brave Chief

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The Independent Online
The former lives of some of Britain's racehorse trainers would undoubtedly qualify as film-script material, but Conrad Allen must be the only one to have already served his time in front of the cameras. Anyone hooked on TV ads during the Sixties would have seen Allen eating Rice Krispies, scoffing Smarties and Jaffa Cakes, having his blond locks shampooed with Vosene and rolling around in the mud in order to be hosed down with Persil.

As the son of an actor, his stint as a cute tiny-tot star was perhaps inevitable, but, despite a small part in the movie Smashing Time he did not progress to the silver screen, opting instead to join a London bank, Williams and Glyn. It was thanks to the manager there that he switched to a career in racing. "I had been learning to ride at a school in Enfield and I was keen on racing [his grandfather had been a White City bookmaker] and he suggested that as I was the right size I might make it as a jockey."

A career in the saddle brought four winners from 60 rides, but his time as a trainer has been markedly more successful. And today in the Hong Kong Jockey Club Trophy at Sandown, his tough little filly Spirito Libro will try to produce her own snap, crackle and pop for his tiny Newmarket yard.

After a miserable season last year, Allen's horses have hit form with a vengeance this term, with six wins from 23 runners in the past month. Spirito Libro has won twice since she was claimed from Sir Mark Prescott at lowly Folkestone last year, most recently over today's trip at Epsom. Before that she was less than two lengths behind one of today's favourites, Missile, over an extended seven furlongs at York, and though she faces her toughest task yet, Allen feels she deserves her place in the field for the season's most valuable handicap to date.

"The distance is right for her, the strong pace will suit her, and she's in great form," he said, "and although she's out of the handicap, the race is worth a lot of money and she's not such a no-hoper as her odds [66-1] imply."

Spirito Libro may reward a sporting each-way investment, but for the winner I look towards the top of the handicap and Chief Burundi (3.10). The four-year-old was rated a smart prospect by Luca Cumani until problems forced him to miss his three-year-old season, but he made a pleasing return to action by beating Dawna (twice a winner since) at Thirsk before running third to the subsequent Group Three winner Blomberg over a mile of today's course.

As a son of Alleged, Chief Burundi will appreciate the step up in distance and his trainer is an old hand at winning this sort of race with this type of relatively unexposed horse.

The two two-year-old races on the card offer opportunities for Royal Ascot failures to regain the winning thread. The Chesham Stakes third, Belgravia (3.40), can take the HSBC Trophy, and speedy Vax Star (4.10), who ran into a tartar in Dazzle in the Windsor Castle Stakes, can lift the Sino Group Dragon Trophy.

Tomorrow's Eclipse Stakes at the Esher track has lost another fancied contender with the news that last year's runner-up, Singspiel, will be diverted to the lesser Princess of Wales's Stakes at Newmarket on Tuesday.

His absence will reduce the field for the Group One contest to a maximum of seven (Definite Article has been confirmed as a runner but doubts still surround the participation of Beauchamp King) and has caused the favourite, Pentire, to harden to 6-4.

Dazzle will attempt to add more lustre to her reputation in the Cherry Hinton Stakes at Newmarket on Tuesday. The pounds 35,000 contest has also drawn the Paul Cole-trained Queen Mary Stakes runner-up, Dame Laura, and her highly rated stablemate More Silver. The leading French jockey Olivier Peslier, on the mark with Glory Of Dancer and Shake The Yoke in British Pattern races this season, has the chance to add to his haul next week, having been booked to ride the Richard Hannon-trained Lucky Lionel in the July Cup.

ECLIPSE STAKES (Sandown, tomorrow): Coral: 7-4 Pentire, 5-2 Halling, 9-2 Valanour, 6-1 Definite Article, 13-2 Bijou D'Inde, 14-1 Ela-Aristokrati, 25-1 Beauchamp King.

William Hill: 6-4 Pentire, 11-4 Halling, 5-1 Definite Article, 13-2 Valanour, 7-1 Bijou D'Inde, 12-1 Ela-Aristokrati, 33-1 Beauchamp King.