Dettori hopes may go up the Spout

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The Independent Online
Punters get the chance to increase their self-knowledge this morning, such is the disparity between this afternoon's two televised meetings.

There is Ascot, which offers useful horses, manageable fields and the clear hope of finding a winner or two without undue difficulty, and then there is York, where the smallest cast-list for a televised handicap runs to 23 names. Study the options and ask yourself honestly: am I an Ascot or a York person? The answer should reveal whether you have any serious wish to break even, or are simply one of the tens of thousands of mug- punters who are the lifeblood of bookmaking.

The problem, of course, is that while many of us like to think we are Ascot types, there is a strong Yorkist streak in most backer's souls which few can suppress, not least when it is just a fortnight since the bookies were finally forced to cough up a few million pounds after 35 years of making outrageous profits from Goliaths and Super Yankees.

Today's card at the Berkshire track is not nearly so competitive as the one which Lanfranco Dettori went straight through 14 days ago, but while the Italian again has seven rides this afternoon, it is a measure of the magnitude of that achievement that his chance of emulating it is effectively nil. Catwalk, his mount in the opener, is possibly "over the top" according to Willie Haggas, her trainer, and in any case, Henry Cecil's High Roller (2.00) will surely prevail, albeit at an unappealing price for punters.

The remaining three televised events at Ascot offer betting opporunities, for backers if not for Dettori. Easycall, who has had a busy year, must be vulnerable under a 6lb penalty in the Cornwallis Stakes, and while Carmine Lake ran particularly well to finish fifth in the Prix de l'Abbaye last Sunday, the proximity of that race must be a worry. The value alternative is Meliksah (2.30), who has finally started to turn early-season promise into results and may have more improvement to come.

Altamura, possibly Dettori's best chance of a winner this afternoon, will be strongly fancied to follow up a recent course victory in the Princess Royal Stakes, but John Gosden, her trainer, hinted yesterday that Spout (next best 3.00) and Papering are dangers, and it is the former, another course-and-distance winner, who can prevail.

Previous Ascot form also points to an excellent bet in the sprint handicap. Bolshoi has improved rapidly since Emma O'Gorman became his regular partner earlier this year, and his second victory at the track, 13 days ago, was his finest performance yet.

The bookmakers fancy Samwar, second that day, to reverse the form, but at around 10-1, BOLSHOI (nap 3.35) can again prove superior.

As for York, Russian roulette would be a safer gambling medium, though Nightbird (3.15) should win the Listed juvenile event, and it is worth noting that Alex Greaves is reunited with Pride Of Pendle in the nine furlongs handicap, in which several fancied runners have a dangerously high draw. The hopelessness of any attempt to solve the remaining races is demonstrated by the fact that in Timeform's adjusted ratings for the 4.45, there is no more than 8lb between all 27 runners.

British interest abroad centres on Longchamp, where Peter Chapple-Hyam's Revoque to tackles the Grand Criterium. Further afield, Irish Stamp should secure another British win in the Czech Republic's Velka Pardubicka, in which last year's winner, It's A Snip, also has an excellent chance.