In his 70s heyday as Ladbrokes' PR man, Ron Pollard used all manner of ruses to wheedle his way into the rehearsal before the annual Miss World contest, and gain crucial first-hand information before pricing up the field. Modern bookies, however, seem rather less resourceful, and when an immensely significant equine beauty pageant takes place in Dubai over the next two days, both punters and bookmakers will be conspicuously absent.
Instead, the results and full implications of the Godolphin operation's private trials at Nad El Sheba racecourse will probably leak out slowly, causing even more problems for punters trying to find the Guineas winners. Godolphin still has 28 colts entered in the 2,000 Guineas, at least half a dozen of whom are quoted on the fringes of the betting at 33-1 or shorter, and 20 in the 1,000 Guineas. It is unlikely more than a couple will line up for either race, so when their names become clear, the effect on the market will be dramatic.
Fath, Bachir, Best Of The Bests and Dubai Two Thousand are among the names which could soon accelerate towards Distant Music and Giant's Causeway at the top of the betting. Island Sands did something similar before winning the 2,000 Guineas last year, and in what may be a weak renewal of the Classic, it would be foolish to back anything before Godolphin's plans become clearer. Kings Best, second in yesterday's Craven Stakes, may well improve for a strong pace and a delayed run, but the best advice for now is to sit tight and wait for Godolphin's next move.
The Craven meeting did at least identify a solid favourite for the 1,000 Guineas in Petrushka, who beat a previous Group One winner easily in the Nell Gwyn Stakes. It is hard to see past her, and while 2-1 is a slim price, should could easily start at shorter odds two weeks on Sunday.
As for the markets on the Derby and Oaks, which are now barely a month and a half distant, the mist is impenetrable in advance of the trial meetings at Chester and York.
However, anyone who left Newmarket early on Tuesday might just have missed the chance to see a serious Derby candidate. Bien Entendu won the 10-furlong maiden in impressive style - seven years after Henry Cecil, his trainer, gave a similarly low-profile debut to a horse called Commander In Chief.
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