Jailhouse can rock bookies in sprint

One of the fascinations of following the turf is that no two days are alike, and while there are three Classics - two Derbys and the Oaks - to look forward to over the coming week, today presents an altogether different challenge. There are Listed events at both Lingfield and Newmarket, as well as the Horse & Hound Cup for hunter-chasers at Stratford, but the simple fact is that most punters will look on this weekend as a success only if they can find the winner of the three-year-old sprint handicap at Newmarket.

One of the fascinations of following the turf is that no two days are alike, and while there are three Classics - two Derbys and the Oaks - to look forward to over the coming week, today presents an altogether different challenge. There are Listed events at both Lingfield and Newmarket, as well as the Horse & Hound Cup for hunter-chasers at Stratford, but the simple fact is that most punters will look on this weekend as a success only if they can find the winner of the three-year-old sprint handicap at Newmarket.

Try as you might to tear yourself away from contests like this, they are the fodder which keeps the whole of racing on its feet. A field of 30 horses, many of them no more than six races into their careers, pelting down the last six furlongs of the Rowley Mile is the sort of challenge which few backers can refuse, and will probably leave 95 per cent of them out of pocket, but for the few who get it right, it will be as rewarding as backing half a dozen Classic winners.

There is no easy way to tackle a race like this. In fact, there is not even a difficult way, although since it often helps at Newmarket to race fairly close to a rail, it is probably best to start by deciding where the pace will be, and thus which side is likely to fare best.

Thus since Pipadash (drawn 28), who showed plenty of speed over five furlongs last time, as well as previous pace-setters Pedro Jack (20) and Peruvian Chief (18) are all towards the far side, it may be that the high numbers are the ones to study more closely.

This logic removes two of the favourites, Ravishing and Arabesque, from the equation, but still leaves more than enough meat on the bone. Salviati, narrowly beaten by Ravishing last time out, as well as the admirably consistent Kathology, and Corridor Creeper, the mount of Tony Beech, all hold solid claims, but this is reflected in their odds. At the early prices, though, it is impossible to resist a horse who may not be the wild outsider his odds suggest, Jailhouse Rocket (next best 4.10).

The reasons the boomakers have 40-1 (50-1 with William Hill) chalked up against him this morning include the fact that he is one of only three horses making their seasonal debut, as well as a rather disappointing end to his juvenile career, when it seemed that temperament might be getting the better of him.

Yet he had looked a very promising sprinter in the first half of last season, has been gelded over the winter, and, best of all, is trained by Sir Mark Prescott. Prescott has yet to saddle a winner this year, drawing a blank from 12 runners, but few trainers place their horses more shrewdly, or have a better record when it comes to getting horses ready first time up. At 50-1, Jailhouse Rocket is certainly a very sporting each-way bet.

Another seasonal debutant, TOUGH SPEED (3.35), showed enough last year to trouble Shibboleth, the probable favourite for the King Charles II Stakes, while Hot Tin Roof (Lingfield 3.20), Fire Dome (Lingfield 4.25) and Grimley Gale (Stratford 2.45) must also go well.

The main event of the weekend, however, is tomorrow's Prix du Jockey-Club (French Derby) at Chantilly, although French-trained runners will be in a minority in the 14-runner field. Last year's Continental two-year-olds, particularly the colts, were a poor bunch, and following Bachir's victory in the French 2,000 Guineas, this may be another Classic which is ready for export.

Bachir's stablemate Roscius will give a good account, while Ciro, from Aidan O'Brien's yard, has a clear form chance of winning the third French Group One race of his career.

Kutub, narrowly beaten by Ciro in the Prix Lupin last time out, is the main hope of the home side, but the one to back may prove to be Holding Court. Though he started the season in a rated stakes, Michael Jarvis's colt has since won the Prix La Force, over today's 12-furlong trip, by an impressive three lengths. Though he held an Epsom entry, he was supplemented for tomorrow's race at a cost of £25,000, and it should prove to be money well spent.

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