Racing: Inchinor can halt Zafonic hype

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The Independent Online
ZAFONIC's position as 5-2 favourite for next year's 2,000 Guineas - feel free to snigger - will be tested to the limit this afternoon when France's pre-eminent two- year-old tackles Fatherland, Inchinor and Petardia in the Dewhurst Stakes, the race that has illuminated the last two Derby winners in Generous and Dr Devious.

If Zafonic wins the way his advance publicity suggests he should he will merit inclusion in the Queen's Christmas speech under the heading of reasons to be cheerful. Newmarket could do with a few of those this week, obsessed as it is with the belief that the problems of the rich are equal to the problems of the poor.

One quick way to get unspeakably skint is to plunge on 5-2 shots for Classics that are still seven months away. There are two ways of regarding Zafonic's form: one is to say that he has not yet beaten a rival of the highest quality, and so represents bad value this afternoon; the other is to hail the manner in which he skipped away from Kingmambo and Splendent in the Prix de la Salamandre and sit back to enjoy the pyrotechnics.

Consider the fact that Kingmambo was beaten further by Tenby in the Grand Criterium than he was by Zafonic and it will come as no surprise that Geoffrey Gibbs, the Jockey Club's senior handicapper, rates Tenby the leading European two-year-old. Both are owned by Khalid Abdullah and each has a different target (Tenby has looked more of a Derby horse), so whatever the calculations of us touchline tommies, the Abdullah empire blossoms.

Fatherland represents arguably the most famous combination in racing - Vincent O'Brien and Lester Piggott - but like Zafonic, this unbeaten colt moves up sharply from exhibition games. The two attractive each-way bets are Petardia and Inchinor (3.40), who draws rare praise from his trainer, Roger Charlton, and has solid credentials in the shape of his victory last time at Ascot.

Half of racing's problem, you suspect, is that there is no correlation between supply of the sport and the demand for it, as measured by attendances and betting turnover. The Dewhurst is the season's best two-year-old race and yet here it sits at 3.40pm on a Friday, when three men and a dog are at the track. Alongside the Champion Stakes and Cesarewitch tomorrow would be a more sensible location.

A couple of other features for the absent hordes to consider: Rainbow Corner, one-time Derby contender, has his first run for Henry Cecil in the Darley Stakes - Calling Collect (next best 3.05) is a better bet - while in the Rockfel Stakes, YAWL (nap 2.35) is rated 'my best chance of the week', by Barry Hills, her trainer.