Racing: Conspicuous back on the right track

Glorious Goodwood: Veteran handicapper can get punters off to a winning start in first race of big summer meeting
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The Independent Online
THERE ARE probably better things that we could all do with our time than throw money at racehorses, but there is definitely no better place at which to do it than Goodwood. For the next five days, the course which clings to the side of the south Downs will draw in punters by the thousand, many of them there to back some horses, but others, no doubt, simply hoping to admire the view.

The good news for all of them is that fine weather is predicted for the whole of Glorious Goodwood. Whether this is quite the forecast that the competitors would have wanted, however, is another matter. The clerk of the course has been watering for days, but a mixture of burning sunshine and a brisk coastal breeze have quickly removed whatever moisture he has added to the ground. The going will be fast this week and, particularly when they thunder down the hill towards the straight, some horses will not like it.

Others, though, will know what to expect and, as ever at Goodwood, runners with promising form at the track deserve close scrutiny this week. Horses, for example, like Supply And Demand, who won the Chesterfield Cup on the opening day 12 months ago, and attempts to win its new incarnation, the Marchpole Cup, off a 4lb lower handicap mark this afternoon.

Though it has moved from the middle of the afternoon to the first slot of the day, this race is still the richest on the card, and from a punters' point of view, possibly the most interesting. There are just nine runners to worry about, yet all but one of them goes to post with a fair chance. But the one the bookmakers are most worried about is Supply And Demand.

Which is fair enough, given that racecourse rumour insisted a huge gamble was landed by connections when Gary Moore's runner came galloping down the outside in the final furlong last season. Like much talk in the ring, however, this seems to have been such a good story that no-one stopped to wonder whether it was entirely true.

``I read all these things about a massive gamble afterwards,'' Stephen Ross, one of Supply And Demand's owners, said yesterday, ``and I was curious to know who'd had all these lumps of money on it. I asked around and I was told that Coral had had a lot of people with multiple bets with Supply And Demand as the last leg. They were so worried about it that they had a big bet on him just before the off.'' The bookmakers, it seems, always win one way or another.

This time around, Ross's mood is optimism rather than confidence. ``Either the horse is good enough, in which case he would win off a handicap rating of 94,'' Ross said, ``or he isn't quite as good as he was. I'm not sure whether he is, and we'd have been more confident if there had been a downpour over the last few days. I wouldn't be surprised if he won, but I certainly wouldn't be surprised if he got beat.''

Supply And Demand certainly likes Goodwood, and Moore is a trainer who always gets the best results from his horses when it really matters. Yet it is hard to recommend him at such short odds, and there may be more value to be had in backing Conspicuous (2.15) at around 8-1. Fourth in this race last year, he has come down the weights this season after some promising but unlucky performances, and is another who goes best around Goodwood.

The draw may be crucial in the King George Stakes, with a low number generally best on the straight course when the stalls are on the stands' side. Three of the leading contenders, though, have been drawn in the three highest boxes, and Rambling Bear (next best 2.45), who won this race three years ago, may swoop late from off the pace.

King Adam (3.50), once talked of as a Derby horse, will be very difficult to beat in the Gordon Stakes. The stayers' handicap has more to recommend it, though, and JUST IN TIME (nap 3.20) could be the one. He didn't get home over two miles last time, but this easy 14 furlongs should be ideal.