Trading Bureau: Zonus very solid choice to bring the silver home.
THE best chance of a payout from the three priced-up handicaps today lies with Zonus in the Totesport Silver Bowl (2.30) at Haydock.
The Barry Hills-trained colt was desperately unlucky not to collect at Chester a couple of weeks ago when a strong-finishing second to one of today's rivals Oasis Star over a seven-and-a-half-furlong trip that looked on the short side for him.
The advantage this race has over the Coral Sprint at Newmarket and the Victoria Cup at Ascot is that there aren't too many to fancy. The three who stand out on this year's form are Zonus, Oasis Star and the midweek Goodwood winner Gatwick.
Of course, the downside is the shorter prices being offered, but 4-1 looks worth taking. A fair price even for a race that looks so competitive on paper may lie somewhere between that and the 3-1 being offered by Ladbrokes.
Having just the fourth run of his career and taken aback by the oddball course, it took some time for Zonus to get into his stride at Chester, and then he had to find a way through the traffic before catching Oasis Star with every stride.
Oasis Star may have showed that her 20-1 Newmarket success previously was no fluke, but it would be surprising if Zonus doesn't justifiably gain his revenge.
Fast-improving Gatwick is the biggest threat. He didn't seem to be going well in the early part of the Goodwood race but eventually responded to his jockey to win in quite impressive fashion.
The Haydock card gets underway with a very interesting sprint in which Raccoon looks like starting on the short side, for all the promise of his reappearance run at Thirsk last week. He arguably wasn't well drawn there and the still-unexposed gelding, who hails from a good yard, could easily prove ahead of the handicapper.
However, this is a competitive race with Maktavish setting a good standard on this year's form. Also worth considering is the only three-year-old in the race, Foursquare, who won very well over the course and distance the time before last. He went far too fast for his own good at Chester subsequently and is worth another chance.
The dark horse in the Totesport Victoria Cup (2.45) at Ascot is the French raider Maksad. He doesn't look an obvious type for this based purely on his form in minor races across the Channel but trainer John Hammond is very shrewd and would surely not be bothering to send him over unless he was confident of a big run.
Mine and El Coto, who both ran well behind Autumn Glory at York, have solid claims. Selective, who was runner-up in this last year, was disappointing on his return at Thirsk and, since that was his first run since he was injured in last year's Royal Hunt Cup, there is more of a doubt whether he'll run to his very best.
The Coral Sprint (3.25) at Newmarket is yet another very tough handicap. With so many unexposed three-year-olds in action, this is not a race to get too enthusiastic about. A tentative choice is Tim Easterby's Distant Times, representing last year's winning stable. It was only an uncompetitive classified stakes he won at Warwick the time before last and the soft ground casts further doubts about what he actually achieved.
However, the time looked good and the runner-up Muy Bien did the form no harm next time. Distant Times again ran well without getting the run of things at Ripon on his following start.
Foursquare (left): returns to scene of stylish Haydock win