Racing: Hashar to quell Wild Fire: Greg Wood on the Magnet Cup and a Classic at The Curragh

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The Independent Online
THE VERY name of the Magnet Cup Handicap should warn punters what to expect this afternoon: an irresistible force, tugging them towards a betting shop, followed immediately by an unexpected winner and cash-flow problems. Not that anyone will take the slightest notice.

The Curragh offers Group One competition with User Friendly, the Oaks winner, defending her unbeaten record in the Irish equivalent, but it is the challenge of York's feature race which will occupy most betting brains. Even predicting the likely favourite is far from simple, with Steerforth and Wild Fire both quoted at around

9-2, but thankfully deciding to back neither is rather easier - Steerforth's trainer, Alec Stewart, is badly out of form, while Wild Fire has yet to act on an easy surface.

At this morning's early odds it is Hashar (next best 4.15), trained by David Elsworth, who stands out. A 16-1 chance with Coral, it requires only a modicum of forgiveness to see him running a big race, since his disappointing effort when joint- favourite for the Bessborough at Royal Ascot last month was preceded by a convincing defeat of Fire Top, subsequently the winner of a rich Sandown handicap.

Hashar's trainer believes that the distance and going were against his colt at the Royal meeting. 'He's going to go well,' he said yesterday. 'He didn't get a mile and a half at Ascot, but as Cash (Asmussen, his jockey) said, he ran too damn well to the two- furlong marker to have got the trip, he just stopped.'

The ground was good to soft when User Friendly won the Oaks, so the similar conditions at The Curragh this afternoon can only enhance her chance of following up. Ivyanna, one of the leading home challengers, will be ridden by Christy Roche, who has been granted a temporary injunction lifting a 15-day suspension, the same suspension that failed to stop him partnering St Jovite in the Irish Derby two weeks ago. His reward is unlikely to be so lucrative today, though, since User Friendly (3.20) is a worthy favourite.

INVIGILATE (nap 4.45) met a lifetime's helping of bad luck at Sandown last time and will surely find compensation today, while at Lingfield, Bog Trotter (2.40) should improve on his recent third to Dilum at Longchamp.

The Surrey course stages both the first televised nursery of the season and the first televised all- weather race ever. The former is a lottery, with George Roper (2.10) perhaps best treated, but the latter contest offers a worthwhile bet in Appealing Times (3.40). One of the all-weather winners in the field, he is 2lb lower than when recording his last course-and-distance success.