Racing: Odds point to Azzilfi's chance: Dunlop's colt has youth on his side in the feature race at Newbury. Greg Wood reports

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The Independent Online
CERTAINTIES are the Turf's rarest commodity, but Newbury offers one this afternoon. Just five runners have bothered to turn up for the pounds 50,000 Geoffrey Freer Stakes (last year there were four), but you can bet what you like that many owners, most of them already extremely wealthy, will continue to moan that purses are too small.

Only Sheikh Mohammed will be getting much richer if Sonus justifies short-priced favouritism, though in his case a cheque for pounds 40,000 is hardly worth the effort of walking down to the bank. Sonus will head the market on the strength of his cosy win in the Goodwood Cup last month, but managing to overtake the acutely one-paced Assessor at the end of a two-mile slog hardly stamps him as a wonderhorse, while the faster ground today may find him with acceleration problems of his own as they pass the furlong pole.

Shambo is getting on and Zinaad has deteriorated since winning at Newmarket in April, so the most realistic chance of upsetting the odds may be held by Azzilfi (3.00). The only three- year-old in the race, John Dunlop's colt has made the frame in good races at Ascot and Goodwood and has scope for a little improvement over today's extra furlong.

The feature race may struggle to distract punters from the competing attractions at Anfield and Highbury, but the handicaps which prop it up demand close attention.

The interesting one in the sprint is CANTORIS (nap 2.30), who will have caught the eye of perceptive viewers in a similar race at Haydock a week ago. She was clearly back to her best form, but found a tightly-packed wall of backsides in her way as she tried to stay on. She finishes particularly well from off a strong pace - which seems guaranteed today - and traffic problems are less of a worry from her outside draw.

Surprisingly few of the runners for the Silver Trophy Handicap have encouraging recent form to their name. Kayvee (next best 3.30) is one of the exceptions, while Petula (2.00) is from a stable which has started to find its form.

The Yattendon Maiden Stakes has a reputation for introducing a useful performer, but with 25 runners it could hardly fail to. Most of the leading stables are represented, and while betting is extremely risky, it is worth knowing that Peter Chapple- Hyam, who saddles Pencader (4.35) has a 29 per cent strike rate with his debutants.

The weekend's most fortunate backers are the ones who have turned their backs on Newbury and decamped to Deauville, where the Prix Jacques le Marois will take centre stage tomorrow. Travelling patriots will hardly be spoilt for choice at the pari- mutuel windows, however, as only Clive Brittain's 1,000 Guineas winner, Sayyedati, makes the trip to challenge the best French milers.

Sayyedati's fine second in the Sussex Stakes, her first race since the Newmarket Classic, gives her a sound chance, but she faces the irresistible combination of Stavros Niarchos, Francois Boutin and Cash Asmussen. It is most unlikely that anything can beat Kingmambo (3.00).

(Photograph omitted)