Racing: Arc winner has Ascot in his sights

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The Independent Online
THE FIELD for Saturday's King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot is barely into double figures after the latest declaration stage yesterday, but in terms of quality, there can be no complaints. Of the 10 contenders who remain, six can already point to a Group One success in the form book, a collection of prizes which includes three British Classics and a Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe.

It was the possible arrival of this last belt, which would be carried to the ring by Sagamix, the Arc winner at Longchamp last season, which prompted the most excitement yesterday. Oath, the Derby winner, as well as horses like Silver Patriarch, Daylami and Fruits Of Love, were already familiar names in the King George betting. Sagamix, though, had not been expected to line up at Ascot, and while Andre Fabre, his trainer, will not make a decision until later in the week, his continued presence in the race is encouraging.

Ladbrokes had not even bothered to quote Sagamix before yesterday, at which point they introduced him at 14-1. The mighty Ribot - who won the Longchamp race in 1955 and the King George and the Arc again in 1956 - is the only Arc winner to have followed up in the following season's King George. A select band - Ribot, Ballymoss, Mill Reef, Dancing Brave and Lammtarra - have completed the double in the same year. If Sagamix runs, he will be ridden by Olivier Peslier, who will otherwise partner the better-fancied - in betting terms at least - Fruits Of Love for Mark Johnston.

There may be a space too on Indigenous, who will be the first horse based in Hong Kong to contest a race in Europe. Douglas Whyte, his regular partner, arrived in Britain last week to prepare for the King George, but a grumbling appendix, which has just been removed, has ruled him out of the race. Ivan Allan, Indigenous's trainer, is now looking for a locally-based jockey to replace him.

The most interesting betting moves yesterday concerned two of Godolphin's entries, Daylami, the Coronation Cup winner, and Nedawi, who took the St Leger last season. Daylami was the favourite in Coral's book yesterday morning, but by the evening he had been overtaken by Oath, as money also arrived for Nedawi.

However, Simon Crisford, Godolphin's racing manger, insisted yesterday that Daylami is their "number one candidate and Frankie Dettori will ride him. As for our other entries, we are keeping our options and will make decisions about whether they run and who will ride them later in the week," Crisford said. "Last year we felt that Daylami, when fourth behind Swain, was feeling the effects of his race in the Eclipse, so we decided to keep him fresh for the King George this season."

As trainers apply the finishing touch to their King George runners, the Tote is doing much the same thing to its new big-money bet, the scoop6. Punters will attempt to pick the winners of six televised races on Saturday afternoon, although the precise identity of the events involved has yet to be decided.

"The King George and the Crocker-Bulteel Handicap, the Showcase race, will be the two pillars around which the scoop6 will be based," Rob Hartnett, the Tote's public-relations director, said yesterday. "As regards the others, we will have to wait, particularly as we are likely to experience warm, drying weather and possibly faster ground [and thus smaller fields] than might have been anticipated."

There are eight other races on television this Saturday for the Tote to choose from, two at Ascot, three at Market Rasen and three at Newcastle. One of the Market Rasen events, however, is the Health Scheme Selling Handicap Hurdle, which may rule it out, and punters hoping to do homework before the launch of scoop6 would be well advised to concentrate on Ascot and Newcastle.

The minimum bet on the scoop6 will be pounds 2, although backers will have three possible dividends. Those whose selections are all placed will receive a consolation dividend, while any with six winners will win both the consolation and a share, at least, of the main pool. They will also qualify for a bonus pool, on a specific race the following weekend. Nominating the winner will earn a share of the bonus, which initially at least will be guaranteed at pounds 100,000.

n John Reid, who won the King George on Ile De Bourbon in 1978 and Swain in 1997, and who broke his right leg on Easter Monday, is aiming to return to race-riding within a fortnight. Reid, 43, sustained his injury when his left stirrup broke on Dower House in the Magnolia Stakes at Kempton, causing him to take a heavy fall.

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