Racing: Sprinklers of hope for Stoute

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Michael Stoute yesterday answered the prayers of punters and bookies alike when he declared Pilsudski an almost certain runner in the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot tomorrow. The most important all-aged race of the summer will thus be a head-to-head-to-head between the three most successful middle-distance horses in international racing.

Unless the ground becomes any firmer, which seems most unlikely since Nick Cheyne, Ascot's clerk of the course, is prepared to continue watering until tonight if necessary, Pilsudski will join Helissio and Singspiel in tomorrow's field.

"The ground is in good shape," Stoute, who trains both Pilsudski and Singspiel, said after walking the course yesterday. "The going description is perfectly accurate, it's good, good to firm in places, and they've done a really good job. If it is like it is at present, Pilsudski will run, but there's still 48 hours to go, so I would advise punters not to back him without a `with a run' proviso."

Pilsudski has been improving with every race for almost two seasons, but despite his recent success in the Eclipse Stakes at Sandown, punters seem unable to forget the five comfortable lengths which separated him from Helissio in the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp last autumn. When added to the doubts over his participation, this has seen his price for tomorrow's race drift out as far as 11-2 in recent days, with Helissio, attempting to become the first French-trained winner of the race since Pawneese in 1976, a solid favourite with most firms at 13-8.

Whoever wins the main event tomorrow - and it is far from being a three- horse race - punters with the right name on their betting slip can be fairly sure of being paid out. The same was not true after the Derby, unfortunately, when it emerged that a bogus bookmaker betting on the Hill - the free area of the Epsom Downs - had absconded shortly after the big race with many thousands of punters' pounds.

The man, who called himself John Batten, has yet to be caught, and the Epsom authorities acted yesterday to prevent anyone else pursuing a similar get-rich-quick scheme during future meetings at the course.

Clearly defined betting areas will be established on the Hill before the next meeting there on 25 August, the Bank Holiday weekend, and the allocation of pitches will be supervised by the Bookmakers' Protection Association, which performs the same task in the enclosed betting rings at other tracks. Advertisements will be placed in the racing press to inform bookmakers of the changes and of the need to apply to the BPA in advance if they wish to operate on the Hill.

"Not only do we wish to increase customer confidence," Ron Whytock of the BPA said yesterday, "but we also wish to preserve the character of the Hill and the good reputation of the bookmaking profession."

As for today's card at Ascot, many backers may decide that Magic Combination, a runner in the Brown Jack Stakes, could hardly have been better named, since he is trained by Barney Curley, the bookmakers' sworn enemy, and ridden by the man who went through the card at this course last September, Lanfranco Dettori.

A winner three weeks ago, it would be no surprise to see Magic Combination overcome a 4lb rise in the weights, but he has yet to win over today's two-mile trip, which takes plenty of getting around Ascot. Preference is for SHINING DANCER (nap 2.45), whose finishing kick could prove decisive, while Twice As Sharp (next 3.15) seems sure to go well in the sprint handicap under the promising apprentice Carl Lowther.

Yesterday's results, page 27