Racing: Steam into Salford for Express bet

York Ebor meeting: Dante Stakes winner looks outstanding value at 33-1 in International Stakes on opening day
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The Independent Online
WHEN YOU are in a hole, it is best to stop digging, so the thousands of punters who marked Royal Anthem down as their horse to follow long before the season began face a difficult decision today. Already, you can barely see their shoulders, after two runs and two defeats for Royal Anthem, both of them as favourite. If he cannot win the International Stakes at York, his supporters would probably prefer us just to shovel the earth back in on top of them and arrange for a suitable headstone.

Royal Anthem had been the favourite for this race, the feature event on the first - and arguably best - day of the Ebor meeting, ever since Coral were first to open a book on 14 July. His first two races this season, so the reasoning of both bookies and Henry Cecil went, had been over 12 furlongs, which on reflection he probably did not quite stay. He was still a Group One horse, though, and York's galloping, extended 10 furlongs would surely be ideal.

As of this morning, though, doubts are starting to creep in. There has been plenty of rain in Yorkshire recently, and while the official going is still described as good, the Knavesmire does not absorb water nearly so readily as many other tracks. One decent downpour between now and post- time could easily send it to the soft side of good, and that would suit others far more than Royal Anthem.

The most obvious of these is Greek Dance, whose finest moment to date probably came in the Glasgow Stakes over today's course and distance back in May 1998. That sent him to Epsom for the Derby as one of the favourites, but he finished only fifth, apparently sustaining an injury in the process, and was not seen again until June of this year.

What with the rain, a good win in a much weaker race last time out, and Sir Michael Stoute's record with older horses, Greek Dance has supplanted Royal Anthem at the top of the market. Now that his odds are as low as 11-4, though, his claims deserve the closest scrutiny, and since he has no outstanding form at Group One level, his price is too short.

The same is true of Royal Anthem, who never quite delivers on his promise, while Almutawakel, the Dubai World Cup winner, is also horribly short given that the sand in the Emirates seemed the primary reason for his improvement. And these are the top three in the betting.

Clearly, there is value to be had further down, and while Compton Admiral and Golden Snake seem sure to run well, the outstanding price has to be the 33-1 against SALFORD EXPRESS (nap 3.10). True, he did not run too well in France last time, but foreign travel does not agree with everyone, and his run down the field in the Derby can also be excused on account of the trip and the ground.

Before that, though, he won the Dante over today's course and distance, and on similar ground, beating Golden Snake into second. The runner-up would have been closer with a better ride, but would still not necessarily have won. Yet Golden Snake is a 10-1 chance today, and Salford Express is out with the rags. With first-time blinkers, David Elsworth's runner demands to be backed.

Bienamado (next best 3.45), who ran with great promise on his belated return, should also offer some value against Mutafaweq and Elmutabaki in the Great Voltigeur Stakes, while Rainbow High (2.35), narrowly beaten by Arctic Owl at Sandown in May, is weighted to reverse that form in the Lonsdale Stakes.

The Acomb Stakes is really a race to watch, although Giant's Causeway, from the Aidan O'Brien stable, could make the market for Race Leader (2.05), who won a strong maiden at Newmarket's July meeting. There is more to bet on in the Knavesmire Handicap, however, where the lightly-raced Architect may not have the know-how to see off an experienced Irish raider in She's Our Mare (4.15).

The most important result of the day for some punters, though, will come if Travelmate, the ante-post favourite, is declared today for tomorrow's Ebor Handicap. James Fanshawe, his trainer, said yesterday that "if it did turn very muddy, we'd have second thoughts about running him."