Racing: Bookies afraid of Inquisitor

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The Independent Online
Big reputations will be on the line at Ascot this weekend but, so far, the big sweat for most punters will be when Inquisitor goes to post for the Sunday Special Handicap.

A gamble on the colt continued yesterday when the Tote, sponsors of the pounds 50,000 race, cut his odds from 11-4 favourite to 5-2. When the Tote began betting on the 12-furlong event three weeks ago, Inquisitor was perched on 20-1.

Yesterday, Ladbrokes also cut the price of John Gosden's runner to 5- 2 favourite following solid support throughout the last fortnight.

``He is the best backed of any horse in the two big Ascot Festival handicaps,'' Ian Wassell, of Ladbrokes, said last night.

A lightly raced three-year-old, with a decided preference for a soft surface, Inquisitor runs here instead of a tilt at the St Leger. He landed some hefty bets when winning on softish ground at Haydock three weeks ago.

Inquisitor, to be ridden by Pat Eddery, has a touch of class and looks well handicapped. But his supporters will be hoping that the Ascot turf - currently good to soft - does not dry out too much before Sunday.

The track's other top Tote-sponsored race is the 30-runner seven-furlong Festival Handicap tomorrow. Gosden's Decorated Hero is among the favourites for this, but in the last few days the most heavily backed contender has been Belfry Green.

A five-year-old roan, Belfry Green won three good handicaps last season, racing off official ratings of 73, 78 and 84. He has risen in the weights and runs off a mark of 92 tomorrow, which gives him a tough task at the weights.

But all bookmakers have been slashing their odds on this one during the last three days. Ladbrokes have cut his price to 14-1 (from a quote of 33-1 on Tuesday).

Belfry Green, the mount of Wendyll Woods, had not run since Ascot in July until turning out at Newbury a week ago. He ran respectably from a disadvantageous draw, eventually staying on to finish 9th of the 22 runners in the race won by Champagne Grandy.

The market, though, indicates that confidence is high at Billingbear Stables in Berkshire. But Con Horgan, the trainer of Belfry Green, was unable to throw any light on this yesterday. He was keeping a hospital appointment for a throat problem.

``Con is going to be very sore when he gets back and won't be able to talk,'' a stable spokesperson said. ``All I can say is that we're keeping our fingers crossed for Saturday.''

Michael Kinane feels he is sure to be fit to ride at the Ascot Festival despite a recurrence of a back injury which forced him to miss yesterday's meeting at Gowran Park.

The Irish champion jockey is booked to ride the highly promising Shawanni, for Barry Hills in the Group One Fillies' Mile on Sunday and the Luca Cumani-trained Noble Rose in the listed Harvest Stakes.

So far, Kinane does not have a mount in tomorrow's pounds 250,000-added Queen Elizabeth II Stakes, one of the few Group One prizes in Britain to have eluded him.

n The stewards at Taunton yesterday probed the running and riding of Buster, who finished fourth in the opening race won by The Bobtail Fox. Buster made significant progress in the closing stages of the race. Barbara Waring, the trainer, and jockey Edd Byrne, told the hearing that they were worried about the horse getting the trip, and that he would have finished closer barring a mistake at the final hurdle. The stewards ordered that the explanations be recorded.

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