Place and time for Where Or When

Never mind finding the winners at Sandown and Chester this afternoon, simply guessing the state of the going is enough of a task since the first heavy showers of autumn started to sweep across the country yesterday. No bookmaker worthy of the name schedules holidays or weddings in September and October, when huge fields and softening ground always herald a succession of unexpected results, and this year, it seems, they may not need to wait for the bonanza to begin.

Never mind finding the winners at Sandown and Chester this afternoon, simply guessing the state of the going is enough of a task since the first heavy showers of autumn started to sweep across the country yesterday. No bookmaker worthy of the name schedules holidays or weddings in September and October, when huge fields and softening ground always herald a succession of unexpected results, and this year, it seems, they may not need to wait for the bonanza to begin.

The problem with intermittent drenchings like the ones which arrived at Sandown yesterday is that their effect on the going is very difficult to predict. Prolonged rain will inevitably turn the ground soft and then heavy, but whether the going in Esher is still good with good to soft patches, as it was last night, or soft, or something in between, may not be fully apparent until after the first race. And by that time, of course, many high street punters have already placed their bets.

The most reasonable assumption, though, is that there will be some juice in the Sandown going, which will make the seven furlongs and uphill finish of the Group Three Solario Stakes a thorough test for its 10 runners, eight of whom hold entries in Group One events later in the season.

Dulcet Spear, who will probably start favourite, if only because he is David Loder's chosen runner from three initial entries, is entered for both the Dewhurst Stakes, over seven furlongs, and the Racing Post Trophy over a mile, but not for the six-furlong Middle Park. This implies that whatever else may beat him today, it will not be lack of stamina, but while he has progressed steadily, he does not seem to be one of the stable's brightest stars, and for all his lofty entries, it is worth remembering that Loder entered 31 colts in the Dewhurst alone.

A better alternative may be Where Or When (next best 3.10), who might well have been predicted to start favourite for today's race himself had it not been for a dismal effort at Goodwood sandwiched between two impressive victories. Terry Mills, his trainer, believes that the tricky downland course was to blame for that performance, and the remainder of his form makes him a prime contender today.

The field for the Listed Atalanta Stakes includes two fillies, Foodbroker Fancy and Candice, who ran in the Oaks. Foodbroker Fancy also took her chance in the International at York last week, and finished only four and a quarter lengths behind the runner-up. Both will have their supporters today, but neither has shown their form over this trip of one mile this term, and Sonatina (2.40), who is lightly raced and progressive, deserves to open her account in Listed company after a series of solid efforts.

Dumaran, who has a 6lb penalty for a four-length win last time out, has a favourite's chance in the nine-furlong handicap, but his draw in stall one may not be ideal and the race is best avoided. THE TRADER (nap 4.20) is worth a bet, though, as he attempts to recoup losses from Monday's farcical sprint at Epsom, when half of the stalls – including his – opened late. The Trader was backed down to favouritism there, and should be able to track the pace today before striking late from his excellent high draw.

At Chester, where there was plenty of rain yesterday, Jalousie (2.55) is on a fair mark in the listed handicap, while Faithful Warrior (3.30) will find seven and a half furlongs ideal and has a good draw too.

The main event abroad this weekend is the Moyglare Stud Stakes at the Curragh tomorrow, when Seba may land a rare punch for Sheikh Mohammed against Aidan O'Brien's four runners, headed by Quarter Moon. In Germany, the Grosser Preis von Baden, the latest leg of the Emirates World Series, sees Sabiango leading the home-trained team, while Michael Jarvis's Morshdi, the Derby Italiano winner, is the sole contender from Britain.

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