Racing: Zieten endorses Fabre favourite: Zafonic's 2,000 Guineas odds shorten still further as his stablemate pays handsome tribute to the market leader

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ZAFONIC became an even shorter-priced favourite for the 1993 2,000 Guineas yesterday following a splendid performance in the Middle Park Stakes. But not by him.

The victory of the colt's stablemate Zieten and the subsequent comments of the pair's trainer, Andre Fabre, prompted both Coral and Ladbrokes to reduce Zafonic to 5-2 for the first colts' Classic next year.

'Zafonic seems to be the better horse at home,' Fabre said, a handsome recommendation in the wake of Zieten's display. Apparently struggling two furlongs out, the Danzig colt produced a burst of acceleration that surprised even his jockey, Steve Cauthen. 'He was a bit green and today was the first time he's had to be picked up,' the American said. 'But once I started quickening we didn't stop.'

While jockey and trainer were united in admiration by this run, their thoughts diverged about Zieten's future capacities. 'He showed so much speed that I would have my reservations about him getting a mile,' Cauthen said.

Fabre shared this opinion before racing, but his mind changed in the 70 seconds of the race. 'I thought he was just a sprinter, but he looks as though he'll get a mile now,' the trainer said. 'We will prepare him for the Guineas (almost certainly the French version, the Poule d'Essai des Poulains).'

That would leave Zafonic, who runs next in the Dewhurst Stakes in two weeks' time, as the standard bearer over the Rowley Mile. He may be joined next May by Silver Wizard, the hot favourite for yesterday's race who could finish only fourth after pulling hard throughout. 'He has been working really well, so I'm not going to offer any excuses,' Geoff Lewis, his trainer, said. 'I still regard him as a Guineas hope.'

The statistical revelation here was that this win was owner Sheikh Mohammed's first at Group One level in Britain this season; less arresting was the fact that it clocked up yet another century, an 11th, for Cauthen.

Zafonic's standing means that just two other horses, Tenby (who is trained by Henry Cecil) and Fatherland (Vincent O'Brien), are now quoted at less than 25-1 for the Guineas. Two more colts joined the fringes yesterday following the meeting's opener fought out by Placerville and Storm Canyon.

The former's victory was spirited enough, but the consensus was that John Gosden's Storm Canyon, who did an impression of Silver rearing on the skyline as he left the stalls, will be a better long-term prospect.

Cecil, though, was cheered by Placerville's movements. 'He's run a very good race considering he's such a backward horse,' the trainer said. 'He's very immature, not like Tenby, who is much more forward and stronger.'

Classics were once on the agenda for another of yesterday's winners, Zinaad. The son of the 1978 Derby winner, Shirley Heights, and Time Charter, who captured the Oaks in 1982, Zinaad was favourite for the Blue Riband following success in a Newbury maiden last September. But then came a blow to his leg and ante-post backers.

'He chipped a knee at the beginning of April, probably a self-inflicted wound, and we didn't get him back into full work until August,' Michael Stoute, the colt's trainer, said.

The Listed Godolphin Stakes yesterday was thus only the second run of the horse's life. The third will come in the St Simon Stakes at Newbury later this month, when Stoute expects further progress. 'He doesn't do very much at home but he's a lovely little horse,' he said.

Zinaad's record and breeding will encourage his owner, Maktoum Al Maktoum, to stand the colt as a stallion at season's end. However, this career diversion will not be on the advice of Stoute, who already has notable prizes in 1993 on his mind. 'I won't let them take him away,' he said.

(Photograph omitted)

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