Moderate trial sees Zafonic back in favour
THE much-hyped Zafonic zoomed back to the top of the 2,000 Guineas betting after the Craven Stakes at Newmarket which looked, to the naked eye, a very moderate trial with little over one length separating the first five home.
Sheikh Mohammed's Barathea, who is trained by Luca Cumani, was sent off the 10-11 favourite after a welter of Guineas support in the five days prior to Thursday's trial - but after looking the winner two furlongs out, the colt's run petered out and the best he could do was fourth.
John Gosden's Emperor Jones, very much Sheikh Mohammed's second string, battled hard under Ray Cochrane to snatch victory by a short head from Wharf, with lowly-rated outsider Veniquattrofogli flashing home down the stands rail to clinch third.
Zafonic, whose price blew out to 3-1 after his narrow defeat in heavy ground at Maisons-Laffitte, is now back as 4-5 favourite with Ladbrokes. Barathea drifted from 5-2 to 10-1 after his lack-lustre performance.
But Michael Roberts, now in position as first jockey to Sheikh Mohammed, was sticking with Barathea, despite having the options of Emperor Jones and others.
''I just didn't think Barathea was himself today. He was on his toes in the paddock, and he didn't seem at all happy. I am confident he will improve enough to beat any of those he met this time - but being a Saddler's Wells, he will probably want a little bit more cut in the ground than he got today.'' Wharf, trained by Henry Cecil, is owned, like Zafonic, by Prince Khalid Abdullah. The colt is unlikely to tackle the Guineas, although a firm decision is not expected to be taken by connections for at least a week.