Racing: Backers can take comfort from Afar: Jodami runs at Chepstow but Sandown's big handicap will be a potent distraction for punters

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The Independent Online
AS JODAMI, the best chaser in training, sets off around Chepstow this afternoon, backers in betting shops throughout the country will be glued to the screen. The screen in question, though, is likely to be relaying the opening show in the William Hill Handicap Hurdle at Sandown.

If it's unquenchable optimism you're after, pick a punter every time, even after a week in which William Hill's ghost has been hard at work, making mischief in the ante- post market on the race which bears his name.

Bold Boss, winner of the Gerry Fielden Hurdle at Newbury last Saturday, was set to carry just a 4lb penalty in this afternoon's race and was heavily backed to do so successfully. By Thursday, though, he was a non-runner, and it was a double twist of the knife. Not only were the bookmakers tens of thousands of pounds richer, but they also had a much more competitive race to exploit today. For many of Bold Boss's backers, the urge to chase their losses will prove irresistible.

Some will look to Leotard, the likely favourite, for redemption, but his two wins this year have been in relatively weak races and supporters would probably be throwing good money after bad. By contrast, the Tote Silver Trophy over two and a half miles at Chepstow last month was perhaps the strongest handicap hurdle of the season so far. Triple Witching, the winner, franked the form in Grade Two company at Newbury a week ago, and three of the horses behind him at Chepstow, Taroudant, Land Afar and Maamur, contest today's main event.

The bare form implies that Taroudant, who was third that day, should again beat Land Afar (fourth) and Maamur (fifth), but with four furlongs less to travel this afternoon, their placings may be juggled. LAND AFAR (nap 2.25), who was going as well as the winner two out but found his stamina stretched close home, will be well suited by today's trip.

Baydon Star has launched his chasing career with three wins, but the fact that his starting price has not risen above 4- 6 says much about the quality and quantity of his opposition.

The quantity is still poor - just three take him on in the Grade Two Henry VIII Novice Chase - but the quality has improved considerably, and One More Dream (next best 1.50) should beat him. In the other televised events, Travado (2.55) is a solid favourite for the Tingle Creek Trophy while Muskora (1.20) may prevail in a competitive novice handicap.

The Ewell Chase, in which Barton Bank, a 12-1 chance for the Gold Cup, takes on Cab On Target (also 12-1), is too early to receive live coverage, but worth a trip to the betting shop. Cab On Target (12.50) should make up the two lengths by which Barton Bank beat him in Wetherby's Charlie Hall Chase, while Jodami (2.05), who towers above them both in the Gold Cup market, will surely add the Rehearsal Chase at Chepstow to his tally. The supporting races are more problematic, but Sunley Bay (1.00) and Meditator (1.30) are unlikely to be also-rans.

(Photograph omitted)