Racing: Scudamore starts Fountain spree

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CONFUSED movements and messages for the King George VI Chase yesterday as arrangements settled for the most important steeplechase outside Cheltenham.

With the form laid bare, market changes for the Kempton Boxing Day event are now determined by the identities of men booked to ride the protagonists.

Understandably then Kings Fountain, who is to be partnered by the champion jockey, Peter Scudamore, was reduced in price by Ladbrokes yesterday, though less easy to fathom was the pushing out of Josh Gifford's preferred entry, Bradbury Star.

Kings Fountain, as is his wont, performed like a sluggard in comparison with his stablemate Docklands Express on the build-up to Kempton, but this activity did less to persuade the layers than trainer Kim Bailey's jottings against their names. Shortly after the surname of Scudamore was filled in next to Kings Fountain, Ladbrokes cut his price to 7-1 (from 10-1).

The bookmaker reaction to Gifford's pair of entries was far more complex. Despite the Findon trainer's assertion that Declan Murphy, his stable jockey, would be on Bradbury Star, the juggling in the book suggested his Deep Sensation was the coming horse. The former was pushed out to 11-2 (from 5-1) with Ladbrokes, while Deep Sensation was in to 8-1 (from 10-1).

Murphy's thought processes were proved right in the H & T Walker Chase at Ascot last month when he chose Deep Sensation to carry the Sussex stable's standard. But yesterday Gifford indicated that the jockey's allegiance had shifted.

'Richard Dunwoody has confirmed his availability for Deep Sensation and he will ride that one with Declan on Bradbury Star,' the trainer said. 'I haven't spoken to Declan, but unless anything untoward happens that is the way it will stay.'

These lines, however, had not been rehearsed with Murphy himself, who believes options are still open. 'It's a very hard decision indeed,' he said yesterday. 'But I'll make my decision on the available evidence nearer the time.'

The contribution from another stable, that of Jenny Pitman, was hardly clarified by the trainer's refusal to publicise her thoughts. The book, though, suggests that Royal Athlete, who missed a comeback from injury at Nottingham on Saturday because of the ground, will not participate.

But while Royal Athlete was removed from some lists, Pitman's The Illywhacker, brought down at Cheltenham last time, was cut to 20-1 (from 33-1). Definite arrangements, however, were hardly stamped by the Lambourn stable's spokeswoman, who said: 'Plans for both horses will not be finalised until Wednesday.'

KING GEORGE VI CHASE (Kempton, Boxing Day): Coral: evens The Fellow, 9-2 Bradbury Star, 6-1 Kings Fountain, 7-1 Deep Sensation, 10- 1 Docklands Express & Tipping Tim, 12-1 Pat's Jester, 20-1 The Illywhacker.

Ladbrokes: 4-5 The Fellow, 11-2 Bradbury Star, 7-1 Kings Fountain, 8-1 Deep Sensation & Docklands Express, 14-1 Tipping Tim, 16-1 Pat's Jester, 25-1 The Illywhacker.

William Hill: evens The Fellow, 9-2 Bradbury Star, 5-1 Kings Fountain, 8-1 Docklands Express, 10-1 Deep Sensation & Tipping Tim, 11-1 Pat's Jester, 25-1 The Illywhacker.

(Photograph omitted)