Racing: Lottery rests with low numbers

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The Independent Online
TWO SPRINTS offer a chance of deliverance on Ascot's final day. Whether you opt for the fairly predictable King's Stand Stakes or the hopeless lottery of the Wokingham Handicap depends on how big your problems are.

If they are big enough to warrant an all-or-nothing punt on the Wokingham, it may be time to find a different hobby. It hints at a divine warning to find that the field includes Hard To Figure, but while logic is an inadequate tool with which to prise open a headlong charge of 30 handicappers, short of black magic there is little else to hand.

The starting point is to consider the effect of the draw. Low numbers were best in the Hunt Cup, and now that the ground has been turned over down the centre and far side, the advantage may be more pronounced. Scratch anything drawn higher than 20.

A search through the remainder for a horse proven on the going, and with tolerable recent form, brings a shortlist of four: Amron, Cumbrian Waltzer, Nagida and Arabellajill (3.45). The latter has Lanfranco Dettori holding the reins and may come out best for that reason alone.

The King's Stand needs less analysis. Lyric Fantasy had outstanding juvenile form, but her ability to handle the ground is in such doubt that her trainer was reluctant to run her at all. No such worries attach to WOLFHOUND (nap 4.20), whose form when runner-up to Paris House on his seasonal debut was as good as anything Lyric Fantasy has achieved this year.

Wolfhound's trainer, John Gosden, has the likely favourite for the Hardwicke Stakes in Red Bishop, but though he beat Sapience (3.05) in the Brigadier Gerard Stakes at Sandown, David Elsworth's stayer will be too good over an extra two furlongs.

The Britannia Handicap is less challenging than the Wokingham, as only 25 go to post, but still demands the utmost respect. Just You Dare (next best 4.55) is hardly unexposed, with six races already this season, but that experience may serve him well against lightly raced rivals. He will also be leaving stall three.

Bandon Castle (2.30) won the season's first juvenile event but has not been seen since. The absence is a worry, but he showed a round action then and may find today's ground ideal.

A winter of hard labour is all that many of the runners for the Queen Alexandra Stakes can look forward to. The same will be true for many punters if Riszard (5.30) does not connect.

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