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The day which many punters imagined they would never live to see is now barely a month away, and a market has now been formed on the first big betting race of the tax-free era. There were 127 entries yesterday for the Cambridgeshire Handicap, and it seems certain that a maximum field of 40 runners will thunder down nine furlongs of Newmarket's Rowley Mile on 6 October, the day when there will be no deductions from bets on the high street for the first time in almost 40 years.

The day which many punters imagined they would never live to see is now barely a month away, and a market has now been formed on the first big betting race of the tax-free era. There were 127 entries yesterday for the Cambridgeshire Handicap, and it seems certain that a maximum field of 40 runners will thunder down nine furlongs of Newmarket's Rowley Mile on 6 October, the day when there will be no deductions from bets on the high street for the first time in almost 40 years.

The Tote, which sponsors the Cambridgeshire, will launch the new era by settling all each-way bets on the race, both ante-post and on the day itself, at one-third, rather than one-quarter, of the odds for a place in the first four. Their early favourite for the race is Sir Mark Prescott's Alphaeus, who has won both his outings this season and has been allotted 8st 7lb. Prescott, who has won the race twice before with Quinlan Terry (1988) and Pasternak, who landed a huge gamble in 1997, has also entered Foreign Affairs (9st 7lb), the winner of the Magnet Cup at York and the runner-up in last week's Ebor Handicap. Katy Nowaitee, last year's Cambridgeshire winner, is also among the initial entries, although she has failed to add to that success in three outings so far this year.

"It is her main target," Peter Harris, Katy Nowaitee's trainer, said yesterday. "She is always a bit free in her races, but providing they go a reasonable pace, she'll settle well, but if they don't go her pace, she decides she ought to be going a gear faster. They should go fast enough for her at Newmarket."

The second-favourite in the Tote's early betting is Smirk (12-1), who runs in the colours of Michael Tabor and was a close second in a competitive handicap at the Ebor meeting, while Halland, a three-year-old with just six races behind him, is a 14-1 chance. The colt, trained by Geoff Wragg, won a four-runner handicap at Newbury earlier this month, and was also successful with some cut in the ground at Yarmouth last season.

The Cambridgeshire was not the only valuable handicap to attract an extended list of entries yesterday, as no fewer than 180 sprinters, a new record for the race, are in contention for the Ayr Gold Cup on 22 September. Only 29 will be able to run, however, with the consolation for the next 29 in the list that they can run in the Silver Cup the previous day.

There were several discrepancies when the odds-compilers drew up their ante-post lists yesterday, one of the most notable concerning Sir Michael Stoute's Ghazal, who was the winner of a conditions race at Yarmouth last week. The Tote offer him at 8-1 favourite, but 16-1 is available with Coral, who rate Antonia Canova, who landed a gamble in the Great St Wilfred Handicap at Ripon last time out, their market leader.

David Nicholls, the country's leading trainer of sprint handicappers, won the Gold Cup last year with Bahamian Pirate, and he has 14 entries for the latest renewal including Continent and Undeterred, both of whom looked a little unfortunate in the Stewards' Cup at Goodwood.

Tatling, bought recently out of Michael Bell's yard for 11,000 guineas, is also a possible runner.

"We got Tatling in July," Alex Greaves, Nicholls's wife and assistant, said yesterday, "but he has been gelded and has only just come back into work so we will have to play it by ear as far as he is concerned. We will run whatever we can in one or the other depending on the ground conditions. Most of them like it fast but some don't mind a bit of cut so we have a few options."

Scotland's richest Flat race has not been won by a Scottish-trained horse since Roman Warrior's success in 1975, but local trainers including Jim Goldie and Linda Perratt, whose yard is within sight of the course, are well represented. Goldie's Orientor heads the weights with 9st 12lb, but whether he will take his chance depends on his performance in his next race, the Group One Haydock Sprint Cup. "If he won, he'd have a penalty, and then we wouldn't have to think about Ayr," Goldie said yesterday. Perratt, meanwhile, has 16 entries, including Ho Leng (8st 3lb) and Get Stuck In (8st 4lb).

Darley closes title gap

Kevin Darley made further inroads into Kieren Fallon's lead in the jockeys' championship when completing a double on Hireath and Soba Jones at Catterick yesterday. The reigning champion has now ridden 113 winners during the confines of the Turf season – which determines the title race – and is only six adrift of Fallon who drew a blank from three rides.

Fallon gave up the mount on Open Warfare in the concluding Haweswater Handicap, but as he left the racecourse he said: "I will be all right tomorrow. I will be going to Salisbury and it looks as if I have some nice rides there."

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