Racing Commentary: Island backers in dangerous waters: Sangster's colt wins his Classic trial in style but now offers poor betting value compared with a rival under wraps in Redoubtable

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The Independent Online
PUNTERS are a difficult breed to satisfy. No matter how many winners they find during an afternoon, there's always the one in the last at Kelso that they had been waiting for for weeks, but overlooked. The week's two major 2,000 Guineas trials offer another example. They could scarcely have produced more contrasting outcomes - one was a blanket finish, the other a procession - but most backers are more confused this morning than they were seven days ago.

True, Turtle Island is now firmly established as the Classic favourite, and could scarcely be anything else after winning the Greenham Stakes at Newbury on Saturday by eight lengths. Yet the very fact that Peter Chapple-Hyam's colt is now a 4-1 chance, rather than 6-4, is evidence enough that there might be less to his performance than meets the eye. Bookmakers are seldom more dangerous than when offering apparently generous odds about big-race favourites.

The accepted procedure for assessing whether or not a bet represents value is to add up the number of doubts and dangers, add one to the total to account for the unexpected, and compare the sum to the odds on offer. At Turtle Island's new price, therefore, it is necessary to find only three good reasons why he might not win to shift him into the bad value category.

It is not difficult to find half a dozen. Though the bookmakers are currently quoting a number of horses who are most unlikely to run, let alone win - Gunboat Diplomacy, Fadayev, Lost World and Magnasonic to name but four - King's Theatre and Suplizi, first and third in the Craven Stakes, must have a serious chance. The colt who split them in a finish of short-heads, Colonel Collins, is a stable- mate of Turtle Island and can perhaps be viewed as Chapple- Hyam's second-string, but Richard Hannon's Redoubtable, though he will go to the Guineas without a prep race, has drawn confident noises from his trainer and must therefore be respected.

And while British trainers complain that the wet spring has held up their Classic prospects, State Performer, a high- class juvenile for Chapple- Hyam last year, is being accelerated towards his peak by the heat of Dubai.

It is also likely that while Turtle Island was at home on the soft ground at Newbury on Saturday, his opponents were not, and probably did not stay anyway. Certainly, the margin of his success seemed to come as something of a surprise to both his trainer and Robert Sangster, his owner.

None of this, of course, means that Turtle Island will not win the Guineas, only that he is a miserable price to do so. Even in a year such as this, when the form lines are twisted together like spaghetti, the bookmakers give little away. It is interesting, though, to plot the recent path through the market of Redoubtable, despite his absence from the trials.

A 16-1 chance on Tuesday morning, he was down to 12-1 the following evening, after the success of Bluegrass Prince, his stable-mate, in the Free Handicap, had prompted a clear indication from Hannon that Redoubtable was far superior. Now, though, he is back out to 25-1 with Coral.

If a good Guineas bet remains, this is surely it. Hannon has trained three previous winners of the Classic and is thus a man worth listening to when making confident predictions about his runner. Given Newmarket's famously swift drainage, by Saturday week the Rowley Mile will surely offer Redoubtable the sound surface he requires.

The worst price of all in the ante-post betting is surely the 6-1 (with a run) offered by William Hill against Manntari. The colt who made such an impression by running away with a Group race at The Curragh last season (much as Turtle Island did on Saturday, in fact) produced a thin imitation of that form at Leopardstown this weekend, maintaining his unbeaten record against inferior opposition but nothing more. Even if he appears at Newmarket - which must now be very doubtful - he will surely start at better than 6-1.

With Manntari a probable absentee, the purists will no doubt complain that the 2,000 Guineas lacks a potential star. Maybe it does, but a more positive attitude is that this is now a race to generate as many fiercely held opinions as there are runners. Find the winner from this mass of possibilities, and it will be an achievement to remember with pride for years to come. That should satisfy even the most demanding of punters.

(Photograph omitted)

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