Racing: Fontana flier

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The Independent Online
THE rain came to Haydock Park yesterday and Lavinia Fontana danced home in the Sprint Cup. The five-year-old Sharpo mare, who joined John Dunlop from Ireland this year, is her father's daughter when it comes to underfoot conditions and, once the heavens had opened, the betting market told the story of the Group 1 race.

Owington, 4-5 favourite with Ladbrokes overnight, was friendless on course and drifted out to 2-1 before finally attracting some bets to start at 15-8. In sharp contrast there was a flood of money for Lavinia Fontana who - 12-1 in the morning - was backed at the track from 10-1 down to 5-1 at one stage, finally starting at 11-2.

The mare's last two wins, in Italy and France last year, had come on heavy going, and she had finished third on soft ground at Deauville last time out, with Unblest and Owington behind her. Yesterday, Jason Weaver had her out of the stalls smartly and, though Blyton Lad and Tabook ran with her early, by the half-way mark it was clear that nothing was going better and she drew away in the final furlong for a very easy win.

Owington flattered for a moment when Paul Eddery brought him round the field for his challenge, but the July Cup hero found nothing and Piccolo came with a late run to claim second place, with Unblest fourth.

At Kempton Park, Wagon Master supplanted Urgent Request, whose best form has been on top of the ground, as favourite for the September Stakes after being backed on- course, and the punters got it right there, too, when the verdict of a head was in his favour as the two improving four-year- old sons of Rainbow Quest fought out the finish. Neither is entered in - or likely to be supplemented for - the Prix de L'Arc de Triomphe.