With the BBC's Match of the Seventies currently earning impressive ratings, Channel 4 too seems to have decided to enter the sporting nostalgia market this afternoon by reviving the ITV Seven. Most of the essential ingredients are there: six handicaps and a maiden, a visit to one of the country's less glamorous venues, and competitors whose fame does not extend much beyond their stable door. Not, of course, that that will deter Bank Holiday punters from attempting to back all seven winners, any more than it did 20 years ago.
The feature event, in theory at least, is the Moet & Chandon Silver Magnum at Epsom, which would be just another 12-furlong handicap were it not for its importance to those riders with the time and resources to consider themselves Gentleman Amateurs. This is the "Amateurs' Derby", over the Classic's course and distance, and the problems Epsom can pose even for professional jockeys are doubly significant today.
If the riders are a little lacking in technique, however, it is impossible to argue with Reg Akehurst's record in valuable handicaps, and the trainer seems likely to add to his haul today. Proton (3.40), his runner in the Magnum, has finished second on his last two starts, but on both occasions showed sufficient form to win this afternoon. By contrast, Casual Water, perhaps his most significant rival, has superficially impressive form figures but has run up his sequence in some very weak 14-furlong events.
It is not just Epsom's Classic course which asks some unique questions of horse and rider. Thirty minutes after the Magnum, 11 runners will set off down the straight five furlongs, the fastest sprint track in the country, and one on which course-specialists are always worth following. In particular, it may find out Painted Desert, a lightly raced filly from Roger Charlton's yard, whose recent han- dicap debut was over Sandown's very stiff five furlongs.
One runner who adores Epsom, though, is ALLTHRUTHENIGHT (nap 4.10), who swoops down the hill with such delight that he should even overcome the additional handicap of a wide draw. General Rose (3.05) is another who should go well, having recently finished a good second at Brighton, which closely resembles the Surrey switchback.
At Newcastle, an impressive pounds 20,000 has been added to the stakes for the two-mile handicap, attracting runners from as far away as Arundel. John Dunlop's Shining High is one of two three-year-olds in the field, and both have the potential to succeed, but an opponent who is old enough to be their grandfather may put them in their place. Good Hand (3.20) is still capable of useful form, and has now dropped to a handicap mark which gives him a chance to produce it.
Bonne Etoile (next best 3.55), has a very generous weight in Newcastle's Listed handicap, while Western Fame (2.50) can ensure that John Dunlop does not leave the North empty-handed.
Dunlop enjoyed success rather closer to home yesterday when Bint Shadayid got up in the last strides to beat Papering in the Prestige Stakes at Goodwood. "That frightened me to death," the trainer said. "She lost her action down the hill and from there it was a bit of a panic."
Bint Shadayid's odds for next year's 1,000 Guineas are unchanged at 14- 1 with William Hill, and she will now face her sternest test to date in either the Fillies' Mile at Ascot or the Prix Marcel Boussac at Longchamp.
Swain may soon be a very familiar name to British punters following his comfortable defeat of Michael Stoute's Zilzal Zamaan in the Group Two Grand Prix de Deauville yesterday. Andre Fabre's colt is entered for the St Leger, but Sheikh Mohammed, his owner, also has Affidavit entered for Doncaster and a decision on their participation will not be taken until next week. William Hill, though, clearly feel that Swain will go to Town Moor, and he is now their 11-2 second favourite for the final Classic.