Charity in bookies' Pearl price

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The Independent Online
The British Horseracing Board chose yesterday afternoon to announce that it is to conduct a detailed and open-ended analysis of racing on television, as an aid to selling the sport to potential sponsors, which was an unfortunate piece of timing since the domestic action on our screens today is about as poor as you will see on a Saturday all year.

Is it really 12 months since the last showbiz charity day at Sandown? Apparently it is, so prepare to be underwhelmed by poor handicaps which defy solution, leavened only by a little celebrity-spotting, of the "Good Lord, I thought he was dead" variety. No-one expects to see Group One races every Saturday afternoon, but surely today's card would be improved immeasurably by the addition of the Group Three Solario Stakes, which produced a thrilling finish at the course yesterday in front of a handful of spectators and, no doubt, an only slightly larger television audience.

There are all manner of pitfalls for punters at Sandown. Of four televised events from the Esher track, there are sound reason for ignoring at least two. The Atalanta Stakes for fillies and mares offers at least four possible winners on bare form alone, and more when you consider that fillies often improve dramatically as the nights draw in. The stayers' handicap has even more imponderables, but the two remaining contests bear further analysis.

The sprint handicap is interesting because the draw will probably be critical. A high number is always important when the stalls are against the far rail, and even more so when the ground is good or softer, so the top five boxes are the ones on which to concentrate. It goes against the grain somewhat to select the favourite in a tight sprint handicap, but given that Pearl D'Azur (next best 3.40) is useful, improving and from a stable in excellent form, the morning price of 9-2 (Coral) seems very reasonable. It would be no surprise to see David Loder's colt start at 7-2 or shorter.

It is 15-2 the field in the feature handicap, over 10 furlongs, which is clearly another difficult contest, but the interesting one here is GAME PLOY (nap 4.15). His winning run ended at Newbury last time out, but over today's extra furlong, and on a much easier surface, he appears overpriced at 10-1.

There are no fewer than 17 British-trained runners at the Curragh today, including a dozen in the Breeders' Stakes, a welcome addition to Channel 4's running order. Miss Stamper, winning of the Super Sprint at Newbury last month, holds a strong chance, but does not appeal for betting purposes in such a big field of juveniles.

Other British trippers include Luso (Clive Brittain) and Pilsudski (Michael Stoute), who travel to Germany to contest the Group One Grosser Preis von Baden tomorrow. Polyglote, Sunshack, Definite Article and last year's appropriate winner, Germany, also line up for a fascinating race which should prove to be a useful Arc trial.