Racing: Zafonic in Classic clamour: An accolade from the champion jockey starts a plunge by backers on a French contender for next year's 2,000 Guineas

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The Independent Online
MORE punters yesterday joined the long-range gamble on Zafonic for next year's 2,000 Guineas, causing bookmakers to cut the odds for France's latest wonder horse to only 4-1.

Zafonic, who won Sunday's Prix de la Salamandre at Longchamp by three lengths, began yesterday as the 8-1 favourite for the Newmarket race next May. But the big layers reported heavy backing for the Andre Fabre-trained colt, soon cutting that price in half. A measure of the clamour was that on the same day 12 months ago, Arazi's Guineas odds were 8-1.

The impetus for the Zafonic bets came from Pat Eddery. After the champion jockey had dismounted he paid a huge tribute to him with a favourable comparison to those venerable 2,000 Guineas winners of 1984 and 1986, El Gran Senor and Dancing Brave.

Corals laid Zafonic to lose pounds 100,000, including one bet of pounds 24,000 to pounds 3,000, as well as several pounds 8,000 to pounds 1,000 wagers. Malcolm Palmer, of Corals, said: 'It used to be that at this time of year you'd be waiting for something to skate up in the Dewhurst or in one of the other leading autumn two- year-old trials, and then that was your winter Guineas favourite. But we've been inundated today.'

Zafonic is due to run next in the Grand Criterium at Longchamp on 3 October, a race Arazi won last year. If Zafonic can emulate that display his backers may claim vindication for their boldness. But it will still be a long winter.

French horses had their odds clipped yesterday for a much more imminent contest. Jolypha, another Pat Eddery success in Sunday's Prix Vermeille, is now 7-1 with Ladbrokes for the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe. The same firm cut Magic Night, who took the Prix Foy on the same Longchamp card, to 8-1 from 9-1. Eddery, in the mood for accolades, instigated Jolypha's market move too. The rider of four Arc winners said he was 'excited' about the filly's prospects.

Dr Devious, the victor in Sunday's epic finish to the Irish Champion Stakes, had his Arc price eased to 4-1 from 3-1 by Ladbrokes, while St Jovite, second at Leopardstown, was made 2-1 favourite, from 7-4, with User Friendly at 4s.

Dr Devious's trainer Peter Chapple-Hyam said: 'He's come back with no problems. He had a hard race but none of them have been easy and he seems to thrive on it.' Jim Bolger reported St Jovite had also come out unscathed. France's top contenders for the Arc will be the freshest, however, having had a mid-season break and it may be imprudent, as well as impudent, that British and Irish challengers are currently so dominant in the betting.

Luca Cumani, whose lightly- raced Cunning finished second to Jolypha on Sunday and may be a supplementary entry for the Arc, said yesterday: 'Over here we tend to keep our horses going all season so that, by Arc time, the horses have often lost their edge. The French do things differently, so I would always give their Arc runners the utmost respect.'