Racing: Petardia is Free choice

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The Independent Online
TODAY'S Free Handicap at Newmarket may be described as a trial for the 2,000 Guineas, but if the Classic betting is to be believed, the jury will be asleep, writes Hyperion.

Of the seven-runner field, only Silver Wizard, a 25-1 chance, and Petardia (33-1) hold any ante-post prominence in the Guineas betting, with no glowing gallops reports offering any indication that they will shift significantly after today's race. The contest should be a good one, however, as none of the field is without a reasonable chance.

Both colts disappointed on their last juvenile starts. Silver Wizard was beaten over a furlong out in the Middle Park Stakes, while Petardia could finish only sixth to Zafonic in the Dewhurst. Petardia (3.40) was also a long way behind Silver Wizard in the Gimcrack at York last season, but preference today is still for Geoff Wragg's colt. He is certainly entitled to win on the best of his two-year-old form, which included success in the Coventry Stakes at Royal Ascot.

EZZOUD (nap 3.05) has not been out since finishing fifth to St Jovite in the Irish Derby in June last year, but even if he is a little short of fitness, the balance of his form gives him every chance in the Earl Of Sefton Stakes. Little Bean (next best 2.35) was on the go throughout last season, showing consistent improvement in the process, and may still be ahead of the handicapper. Sovereign Page (4.10) is a more speculative choice, but he has an attractive weight and can go close, particularly if the ground does not soften any further.

Thourios and Mellottie, who will challenge for valuable races at Sha Tin, Hong Kong, on Saturday, are reported to have acclimatised well. Thourios, trained by Guy Harwood, will contest the pounds 250,000 International Bowl over seven furlongs, while Mellottie will line up for the pounds 390,000 International Cup over an extra quarter of a mile. 'I can't believe how well Thourios looks,' said Ian Shoemark, Harwood's assistant. 'We weighed him before he left and he is now exactly the same weight, which shows how well he's taken the trip.'

Seattle Rhyme, winter favourite for the 1992 Derby, was destroyed yesterday after shattering a leg on the gallops. David Elsworth's colt was injured as he was completing his preparations for a four-year-old campaign. 'This is a terrible blow for the stable,' said Elsworth's assistant, Suzanne Roberts. 'Along with Sapience he was the best older horse in the yard.'