Saratoga out to blunt Daggers thrust

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The Independent Online
The shortage of worthwhile form available to punters is a common complaint before the Flat season's first Classics, but in 1998 at least, life may be a little easier. A large helping of useful information should be available this evening, thanks to a field for the Champagne Stakes at Doncaster which takes the most important strands of this year's juvenile form and neatly plaits them together.

Just three horses are currently quoted at less than 20-1 for the 1998 2,000 Guineas, including Daggers Drawn, the probable favourite for today's race and no better than 6-1 for the Newmarket Classic. Next in the long- range lists is King Of Kings, whose trainer, Aidan O'Brien, helpfully sends Saratoga Springs, believed to be a few pounds inferior to King Of Kings, to Town Moor this afternoon. Saratoga Springs is himself a 20-1 chance for the Guineas after cantering away from a good field at the Ebor meeting, while the merits of Central Park, the 10-1 third-favourite for the Classic, will be represented by Docksider, runner-up to Paul Cole's colt in a Group Three at Goodwood.

The price against Daggers Drawn for the Guineas is ridiculous, but Henry Cecil's colt has certainly done nothing wrong in his two appearances to date. He seemed to be boxed in with two furlongs to run in the Richmond Stakes at Goodwood, but when a gap appeared he bolted through like a seasoned sprinter and quickly went clear.

However, the bare form does not make him the certainty today that the betting might suggest. In his own way, Saratoga Springs (next best 3.05) was just as exciting when fitted with a visor at York, and it is his reputation, and by association that of King Of Kings, which should be enhanced this afternoon.

Small but perfectly-formed fields are something of a theme at Doncaster today, with five runners in three of the televised events, but no shortage of competition. In the Troy Stakes, Busy Flight (2.35) will enjoy the fast ground and should follow up his victory last year, though Memorise will run him close, and Faithful Son (2.05) may just prevail half an hour earlier.

DANTESQUE (nap 3.35) is improving and stands every chance in the handicap, while the final event offers a reminder to punters of how misguided ante- post betting can be. Bahhare, winner of the Champagne Stakes 12 months ago and a short price for the Guineas as a result, runs for the first time since, with Revoque, his market rival throughout the winter, one of his two opponents. Both colts are now customers of the Last Chance Saloon.

n Tomba, third in last Friday's Haydock Park Sprint Cup won by Royal Applause, was moved up to second yesterday after an appeal to the Jockey Club. But Averti, fourth, keeps the same placing. Danetime, who finished second was demoted to third place.