Joey handily perched for Cup swoop

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What a week it has been for the car salesmen of Chichester. As favourite after favourite up on the hill at Goodwood has dribbled in down the field, the only problem for the bookmakers has been what to do with their profits, and what better option could there be in the first week of August than to head for the nearest showroom and pay cash for a gleaming new P-reg. Now all the layers need is a good result in the Stewards' Cup and it will be time to hire a chauffeur too.

If the evidence of recent years is any guide, they might as well start advertising now, for only once in the last 10 years has the big sprint been won by one of the first three runners in the betting. Last year, Shikari's Son burst through in the final strides to win at 40-1, while Madraco's victory at 50-1 nine years ago is also fresh in the memory.

That said, the most common starting price for a Stewards' Cup winner is around 16-1, but only because perhaps a third of the field will start at that price. Yet this statistic alone should be enough to steer us away from Coastal Bluff and Cyrano's Lad, neither of which can be backed at single-figure odds in such an open race.

It is better instead to study those further down the list whose current form has not been so widely advertised. Even then, the shortlist stretches to at least 10 names, including excellent performers as last year's Wokingham winner, Astrac, Emerging Market, who won this year's renewal of the Ascot handicap, and To The Roof.

The only way to reduce the possibilities any further is to take a view about the effect of the draw this afternoon. Since Goodwood has recently installed a new watering system, it is not possible to use previous results as a guide, but there can be little doubt that the real pace in the race will be on the far side. Cyrano's Lad is a proven front-runner, and should give those drawn high a crucial tug for the first half-mile.

Taking into account the weight, the draw and the odds, three names present themselves: Shikari's Son, Sir Joey and Sylva Paradise. Since a three- year-old has not won the Cup since 1982, the last-named can also - reluctantly - be discarded. And then there were two.

Given that he won so well 12 months ago, it seems astonishing that Shikari's Son will set off today on a handicap mark of 84, 8lb lower than last year. He is the best handicapped horse in the race and saves his best for high summer, but one doubt remains in the mind of John Cullinan, who has taken over training duties from John White.

"He's a lot better in, we've got a good draw and he goes well on the track," Cullinan said yesterday. "But they've put a lot of water on the track and this is a horse who needs to hear his hooves rattle. He will go there as well as he can be and if it was like it was last year I'd be quite confident, but he may end up finishing too late."

Given that he has so many other factors in his favour, that Goodwood do not intend to water the straight course, and that a hot day is forecast, Shikari's Son may be worth an each-way interest at around 25-1.

The best win option, though, is SIR JOEY (nap 3.45), who ran exceptionally well to finish sixth when poorly drawn for the Wokingham and was unsuited by a slow pace at Chepstow last month. Elsewhere on the card, the Nassau Stakes seems to be at the mercy of Last Second (3.10), who was runner- up in Ascot's Coronation Stakes, while Golden Fact (next best 2.30) must go close in the nursery.