Diffident for Newmarket

RICHARD EDMONDSON NAP: Emerging Market (Folkestone 4.30) NB: Double Matt (Folkestone 4.00)
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The Independent Online
One punter's faith in Celtic Swing amounted to £50,000 yesterday, the sum he staked on the colt at even-money to win the 2,000 Guineas. But not everyone believes he is unbeatable. Rather than take the easier option of the French equivalent to the Guineas, Sheikh Mohammed and Andr Fabre will pit both Diffident and Pennekamp against the favourite at Newmarket on Saturday week.

The Sheikh's racing manager, Anthony Stroud, said yesterday: "Sheikh Mohammed has confirmed that, barring unforeseen circumstances, both Diffident and Pennekamp will run in the English 2,000 Guineas."

Pennekamp, a winner over the Rowley Mile course in the Dewhurst Stakes last October, cemented his position as second favourite behind Celtic Swing with victory in the Prix Djebel at Evry nine days ago. Diffident recorded one of the most impressive Classic trials of the past week when winning the European Free Handicap at Newmarket last Wednesday in a fast time.

The decision had surprisingly little effect on ante-post betting for the Guineas. William Hill now offer Diffident at 5-1, compared to 9-2 "with a run" prior to the announcement, with the prices of Celtic Swing and Pennekamp unchanged. Coral and Ladbrokes have left Diffident's odds unaltered at 8-1 and 5-1 respectively, but the latter firm, recipient of the £50,000 bet, cut Celtic Swing to 4-5.

If history is any guide, the Celtic Swing supporter need not fear Sheikh Mohammed's pair. Although he has been champion owner on the Flat in Britain eight times, Sheikh Mohammed has not won the 2,000 after 10 years of trying.

None of his 17 runners in the past decade has gone closer than Bairn, who was beaten just a head by Shadeed in 1985. Bairn's trainer, Luca Cumani, also sent out Barathea to finish second to Zafonic in 1993, two years after Lycius occupied the same position for Fabre behind Mystiko. Among the biggest disappointments were favourites Ajdal and King's Theatre.

n Lochsong's owner, Jeff Smith, has failed in his appeal against the decision of the Beverley stewards to demote his Blue Siren to second in a race on 8 April. It was the second time Blue Siren had been demoted. The same happened in the Nunthorpe Stakes last year.

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