Punters lost in Mist's mile

Greg Wood reports from Goodwood on how one of the year's top betting races turned into a bookmakers' benefit
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The idea of race sponsorship is to promote your product, but if Schweppes notice a sudden drop in sales over the coming weeks, it will be because the nation's backers are insisting on something else in their gin and tonics.

The results have been bad for punters throughout Goodwood week, but the most vicious blow of all was delivered in yesterday's Schweppes Golden Mile, one of the biggest betting races of the year, as the hot favourite Missile was short-headed by an unconsidered 66-1 chance, Moscow Mist.

In another stride, Missile might well have poked his nostrils ahead of the outsider, but Moscow Mist, the only maiden in the 18-strong field, had stolen just enough of a lead a furlong from home to keep the 9-4 favourite at bay. Mere inches separated them at the line, but each one must have been worth a million pounds or more to Britain's bookies.

Even Lady Herries, Moscow Mist's trainer, did not consider the Golden Mile a realistic target for the gelding when choosing her team for Glorious Goodwood.

Several other runners needed to come out in order for Moscow Mist to even take part, a lesser handicap on the opening day was pencilled in against his name.

But Alan Davies, his owner, was going to Goodwood on Thursday, not Tuesday, and at his insistence the Golden Mile became the prime target. Moscow Mist managed to sneak in at the bottom of the handicap, and the rest is the sort of history which punters would rather forget.

Punters, that is, apart from Davies himself, whose pounds 400 each-way bet at 66-1 returned a little over pounds 33,000.

It was an exceptional payday too for Declan O'Shea, the winning jockey, who has struggled for rides since arriving from Ireland in January but produced a priceless advertisement with his coolly-judged ride yesterday.

"I had a good draw and I jumped out well," O'Shea said, "but I got a bit squeezed on the bend and had to drop back a little. I thought I'd traffic problems but I got a good split when I needed it. I could see something coming quick on the outside, but he hung on."

So too did Grey Shot, who led throughout the Group Two Goodwood Cup and held the persistent challenge of Lear White to record an outstanding success both for himself and for staying races in general. Ian Balding, his trainer, was close to tears in the winners' enclosure after what will surely turn out to be the finest finish of the meeting.

"I love the horse," Balding said, "and I can tell you, he's twice as good on soft ground. We're lucky that Double Trigger and Double Eclipse weren't here, but we not avoiding them and if we meet them on soft he'll have every chance of beating them."

With courage and stamina in such abundance, Grey Shot might have a lucrative future over hurdles, but there seems little chance that he will be asked to embark on a winter campaign. "Jeff [Smith, his owner] was offered a lot of money for him last year to go jumping, but when he found out that's what it was for, it was no deal," the trainer said.

Easycall ran out the easy three-length winner of the day's other Group Two contest, the Richmond Stakes. This was not, to be fair, the strongest renewal of the Richmond, but Easycall won with great authority and the two-year-old will hold his own in the Gimcrack Stakes at York, his next scheduled engagement.

The generosity of the bookmakers this week has been matched only by that of Lanson Champagne, who, according to a press release, are celebrating the conjunction of Goodwood with the Olympics by presenting a magnum of fizz to the owner of every horse running at the meeting which has the word "Olympic" in its name.

This magnificent gesture will amount, it seems, to a grand total of one magnum for the connections of Olympic Spirit, a juvenile who runs in the Group Three Molecomb Stakes this afternoon.

This is probably all Olympic Spirit's owners can hope for, since Tipsy Creek (3.50) will take some beating. After such a miserable meeting in this quarter, it may now be time to admit defeat, but Son Of Sharp Shot (next best 3.20) and DOUBLE BLUFF (nap 2.45) make some appeal.