Racing: Barron to get serious with Bluff

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The Stewards' Cup at Goodwood and the Ayr Gold Cup a few weeks later are probably the most fiercely competitive sprint handicaps of the season, and it takes a horse of unusual ability to win both in the same year. Lochsong, who completed the double as a three-year-old in 1992, soon developed into the best sprinter of her generation, so there should be no need for pessimism when Coastal Bluff, winner of both events last season, makes his long-awaited seasonal debut in the July Cup at Newmarket next week.

David Barron, Coastal Bluff's trainer, might have opted to run instead in a Listed event at Sandown tomorrow, but when your stock in trade is handicappers, it is difficult to resist a Group One entry when the opportunity arises. Coastal Bluff roared down Barron's gallops yesterday morning and the trainer needed no further encouragement.

"He worked well and he will go to Newmarket," Barron said afterwards. "We are taking a hell of a big bite but he worked every bit as well as he ever did last year and Kevin Darley said he has done a lot of good physically since he last sat on him six weeks ago. The race at Sandown wasn't a gift at all, the prize money if he is placed in the July Cup is more than if he won at Sandown, and if he is going to get beaten he might as well be stuffed by good horses."

If the gelding is approaching peak fitness, however, there is little reason to think he will be beaten all that far. His cosy victory under 9st 10lb at Ayr last September was one of the most impressive performances in a handicap all year (and his previous success at Goodwood was another), and as the season progresses, Coastal Bluff may well prove to be the most significant rival to Royal Applause in the major sprints.

Barry Hills's colt, already a winner at York and Royal Ascot this year, will probably start as favourite for the July Cup, and is certainly Barron's idea of his most dangerous opponent. "He has come back really well this year," he said. "People say that there are no good sprinters around but you don't realise how good they are until they are gone."

When the weights for this year's Stewards' Cup were published on Monday, Coastal Bluff was at the head of the list, but his handicapping days are surely behind him and there will be few takers for the early price of 16-1 against him. Instead, punters yesterday launched a gamble on Danetime (at least, that is the bookies' story), who runs in the seemingly ever- present colours of Michael Tabor.

Danetime was responsible for the second and last major reverse of Tabor's otherwise impeccable season when, having been backed down to favouritism, he just failed to overhaul Selhurstpark Flyer in the Wokingham at Royal Ascot. Tabor, who is not exactly a 50p each-way man when it comes to betting, will be hoping to get his money back at Glorious Goodwood, and Danetime is now an 8-1 chance from 12-1 with Coral.

The same firm sponsors the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown tomorrow, and while they have seen steady support for Pilsudski, the second-favourite, all week, Bosra Sham remains a solid market leader for the race. Those who wish to back her without having to accept odds-on can now do so, since Coral have opened a book on whether she will win by more than two lengths. Henry Cecil's filly is 2-1 to beat her four rivals by up to that margin, while it is 11-4 that she will win by further. Given her performance in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot, when she quickened right away to win by eight lengths, there may be plenty of takers for the latter offer this morning.