Racing: Manntari waits for spring: The 2,000 Guineas favourite has completed his juvenile campaign: Irish colt's supporters hope that winter will bring a change of heart by his owner. Greg Wood reports

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THE DREAMS of the punters backing Manntari for next year's 2,000 Guineas seem sure to survive the winter. Heavy ground at The Curragh has forced John Oxx to scratch his colt from Saturday's Beresford Stakes, and his unbeaten record is unlikely to be put to the test again this year.

Form students will now look to City Nights, who finished 10 lengths behind Manntari in the National Stakes at The Curragh last month, to affirm the merit of that apparently outstanding performance. Alaflak and Sheridan, from John Dunlop's Arundel yard, are also among the five-day entries for the Beresford.

'It has been pouring with rain and it is going to be very soft,' Ghislain Drion, stud manager to Manntari's owner, the Aga Khan, said yesterday. 'That was a good enough reason not to declare him and I doubt if he will run again this season. What he showed us in the National Stakes was very impressive and hopefully he will be trained for next year's Classics.'

But which Classics? While Manntari's ability is in no doubt, the odds that his owner, the Aga Khan, will settle his differences with the Jockey Club and allow his horses to return to British racecourses remain as fluid as the Irish going.

The most useful information for anyone contemplating a bet in next year's 2,000 Guineas might come not from Oxx's gallops, but from an inside source on the European Scientific Liaison Committee. This body is due to report on the harmonisation of drug testing procedures throughout the continent, and the Aga has hinted that if his concerns following the disqualification of Aliysa from the 1989 Oaks are suitably addressed, a return to British racing could soon follow.

Both punters and bookies, though, are far from convinced. Yesterday morning William Hill offered Manntari for the Guineas at both 10-1 'with a run' and 16-1 all in, but it was the former price, with its money-back guarantee if Manntari does not appear, which attracted interest. The firm now show 7-1 with a run, which could still look generous if Oxx's colt actually makes it to the Rowley Mile next May.

Less patience will be demanded of backers of Irish Stamp for the Cesarewitch on Saturday week. Jeff Pearce's lightly-raced gelding, the expected mount of Willie Carson, has been steadily supported from an opening quote of 50-1, and the run continued yesterday.

Ladbrokes cut Irish Stamp to 12-1 from 16-1, while Hills took less dramatic action and offer 14-1. The latter firm's list now shows just three horses ahead of Irish Stamp: Hasten To Add, the 7-2 favourite, My Patriarch (8-1) and Martin Pipe's Balasani (10-1).

Safety In Numbers could be a big Cesarewitch fancy in 12 months' time if his current rate of improvement can be maintained. At Redcar yesterday he won his third handicap in 19 days, and his four-length margin over Collier Bay could easily have been doubled.

Safety In Numbers has been schooled for a hurdling campaign, but is in such fine form that a swift reappearance under a penalty seems certain.

(Photograph omitted)