Racing: Fearby Cross an enticing prospect

RICHARD EDMONDSON Nap: Agent Mulder (York 2.10) NB: Entwine (York 3.45)
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The Independent Online
BOOKMAKERS WERE aghast on Thursday when Peter Savill, the BHB chairman, claimed that a survey of 1,000 betting shop customers showed that only 17 per cent of them believed that the people taking their bets were "honest". Since most surveys tend to say what the people paying for them want to hear, this result is, like Norton's Coin's Gold Cup, best seen as a bizarre aberration. Savill's willingness to broadcast it, though, does tell us a great deal about his personal opinion of Britain's punters.

Look at it this way. The poll implies that 83 per cent of punters do not believe that their local bookie is entirely honest - and yet, they keep going in, day after day. To a business brain like Savill's, this can only mean that they are complete morons. In other words, the odds are approximately 1-5 that the chairman of the BHB thinks that you - yes, you, with the Yankee and the optimistic grin - are a half-wit.

Charming, no? And just think of all that Levy money, deducted from the "tax" we pay on our bets which finds its way into the pocket of Savill and other wealthy owners like him. It is enough to make you wonder why you bother, particularly on a handicap-ridden Saturday three days before the opening of the Royal meeting at Ascot.

On closer inspection of the cards at York and Sandown, however, it is hard to believe that many punters will boycott their trip to the betting shop in a fit of pique. Handicaps they may be, but at York in particular, the racing has depth and fascination, most notably in the William Hill Trophy, a valuable sprint for three-year-olds.

As always, the key entry in the form book for this race is the Sandy Lane Rated Stakes at Haydock, a similar contest in which seven of today's runners had their last outing. The third that day was Guinea Hunter, but only for 10 minutes or so, until the stewards placed him last for causing interference when he started his run.

According to the Haydock form, there will be little to choose today between Guinea Hunter, Munjiz and Threat, all of whom were in the shake-up two weeks ago. A key difference, though, is the state of the ground, which was good to firm at Haydock, but could easily be soft on the Knavesmire by the time of today's race.

This could count against most of the Haydock principals, not to mention Alegria and Pepperdine, who both have good recent form, but on a sound surface. As a result, there could be a surprising result today, and a horse who has proved himself on the going, and has valid excuses for two poor finishes this season, is the selection. FEARBY CROSS (nap 3.45) was well down the field in the Sandy Lane, but found trouble in running and has dropped 5lb in the weights since. He was also an impressive winner on soft ground at Ayr last season, and is available this morning at a very enticing 25-1 (with Stanley). In terms of value, that price is outstanding.

The supporting events are also tricky, although Goodbye Goldstone (next best 3.10), another with form on easy ground, is overpriced at 12-1 after his good second at Epsom last weekend. Sharh (4.45) acts in the soft, too, while Bluewain Lady (4.30), with Kieren Fallon booked, is an obvious but solid choice at Sandown.

The latest big race of the Classic season is the Prix de Diane (French Oaks) at Chantilly tomorrow. John Dunlop, whose runners finished well beaten in both Epsom Classics last weekend, will saddle Nasheed, a Listed winner at Newbury last time out, while Godolphin send Calando, third in the French 1,000 Guineas. Apple Of Kent (John Gosden) completes the British challenge, with Karmifira, second in the French Guineas, and Cerulean Sky, winner of the Group One Prix Saint-Alary, leading the home defence.

n Sunstreak, the ante-post favourite for Wednesday's Royal Hunt Cup at Ascot, will miss the race. He is suffering from an allergy, and medication will not clear his system in time for him to run.

Results, cards, page 26