Racing: Sayyedati to sidestep Ascot

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RAIN AT Ascot has further improved Selkirk's chances of continuing his reign as Europe's champion miler. Ian Balding's colt, the winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Stakes a year ago, is generally an 11-8 chance to retain his crown as the advent of soft ground has thrown the participation of several of his rivals into doubt.

Early morning calls to the Berkshire course today will determine whether Second Set, fourth in the race 12 months ago, and Rodrigo De Triano will be on duty on Saturday. The latter, who missed the Irish Champion Stakes 11 days ago because of the going, appears most unlikely to be in the line-up.

Peter Chapple-Hyam's colt is now expected to warm up for an assault on the Breeders' Cup Classic in either the Challenge Stakes or the Champion Stakes at Newmarket next month.

If the ground at Ascot, good to soft for the last two furlongs and soft elsewhere, deteriorates, Marling may also be among the absentees. 'I will have to play it by ear, but as long as it is only soft we should be all right,' Geoff Wragg, the filly's trainer, said yesterday. 'However, if it gets bottomless then I would think everyone will be pulling out in hordes.'

The two inches of rain that fell overnight precipitated support for two horses in Selkirk, who won in similar conditions last year, and All At Sea, who won another Group One race, the Prix du Moulin, in the mud of Longchamp earlier this month. William Hill reacted most violently about Henry Cecil's filly, cutting her to 7-2 from a morning 6-1.

Another race which is in danger of losing its lustre is the Fillies' Mile, for which Clive Brittain's Sayyedati, the ante-post favourite for the 1993 1,000 Guineas, is a doubtful runner. The Newmarket trainer, who will probably supplement Sayyedati for the Cheveley Park Stakes today, is likely to rely on Ivanka this weekend.

The other event to provoke market interest was the Festival Handicap. Ladbrokes reported business for John Sutcliffe's Jaldi, who came down through the rates from an overnight 20-1 to 12-1 and is now their clear favourite.

William Hill's 'springer' was Consigliere, whom they make a 10-1 chance (from 14-1) to continue the good form of his trainer, Roger Charlton.

QUEEN ELIZABETH II STAKES (one mile, Ascot, Saturday):

Coral: 11-8 Selkirk, 7-2 Marling, 4-1 All At Sea, 8- 1 Lahib, 10-1 Brief Truce & Second Set.

Ladbrokes: 11-8 Selkirk, 7-2 Marling, 4-1 All At Sea & Rodrigo de Triano (with a run), 9-1 Lahib, 10-1 Brief Truce & Second Set.

William Hill: 11-8 Selkirk, 7-2 All At Sea & Marling, 12-1 Brief Truce & Lahib, 14-1 Second Set.