Sprake confident he can handle pressure

RACING
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The Independent Online
Tim Sprake was only slightly offended yesterday was asked if he was in any way related to Gary Sprake, the error-prone former Wales and Leeds goalkeeper. ''Everyone asks me that,'' Tim responded. ''But the answer's no.''

Supporters of Baron Ferdinand will be relieved to know that fact when Sprake canters the five-year-old to the starting gate for today's most valuable event, the Rose Of Lancaster Stakes at Haydock. Punters will be jittery that the five-year-old's usual jockey Pat Eddery is currently serving a ban and has been replaced by a rather lesser known name.

They should not be unduly worried. Sprake is the chestnut's regular partner on the Beckhampton gallops. ''I ride him in nearly all his work,'' Sprake said. ''We're hopeful he performs well at Haydock, he's in good form and loves fast ground.''

The 28-year-old has ridden high-class horses successfully in the past, including the sprinter Elbio, and with 18 winners already this season looks certain to beat his previous best total of 22 winners three years ago.

Fahal, fourth in this year's Derby and the probable favourite today, ran poorly over 12 furlongs on this track a month ago but is expected by his stable to prove formidable over today's shorter trip.

But BARON FERDINAND (4.00, nap) looked to be returning to his best when winning another Group Three race at Kempton last time and should have too much pace for these rivals in the run for the line.

The Wilmslow stable of Francis Lee, a contemporary of Gary Sprake's, has been having a quiet spell in recent weeks but he runs two in the previous race, the Coral Handicap. Beau Venture and Allwight Then both look dangerous but most interest here will centre on Shadow Jury.

Connections of this five-year-old, who has won six handicaps already this year, aim to take that total to 10, which would be a 20th-century record for one season. His trainer, David Chapman, saddled Chaplins Club and Glencroft to share the the existing record with nine handicap wins.

''Like the other two, Shadow Jury has a sturdy constitution with a good engine - a strong heart and good lungs,'' Chapman said yesterday. ''Like them, too, he's a happy horse, bucking and kicking this morning as usual, and going for his daily roll in the sand pit. He's in great shape, but the handicapper has been harsh on him lately.''

In contrast, Lepine (3.30) looks well treated and has a favourable draw near the stands' rails. Bets in such a closely-knit contest, though, should be kept to a minimum.

No bets at all are needed for the Sweet Solera Stakes at Newmarket. Bint Salsabil (3.45) is already a 14-1 chance with Ladbrokes for next year's 1,000 Guineas, and 16-1 for the Oaks. The rest of us can simply watch and judge whether those backing this filly at such long range have been wise or witless.

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