(Published August 5, 2018) – The arrival of the Group 1 Haydock Sprint Cup – currently known as the 32Red Sprint Cup – signals the move into the autumn session of the Flat season. It’s a great race, run on the straight six furlongs at the famous Lancashire track and invariably won by a high-class performer. Last year, Harry Angel overcame fears over the heavy ground to win in imperious fashion, adding his name to a list that in the last two decades alone has included some outstanding performers; Invincible Spirit, African Rose, Dream Ahead, Twilight Son and Quiet Reflection among others.
The main pointers to this event come from races such as the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot, Newmarket’s July Cup, the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville, and even the Stewards’ Cup at Glorious Goodwood. In the last 50 years no horse has managed to win the Sprint Cup twice, the late Sir Peter O’Sullevan’s outstanding Be Friendly being the last to do the double when winning in both 1966 & 1967, a fact that may count against the current ante-post market leader.
Can Angel Wing To Victory Again?
Clive Cox’s high-class Harry Angel, currently a top priced 7/2 favourite with Boylesports, has to be the starting point when analyzing this race from an ante-post perspective having set the standard in no uncertain fashion when sluicing home to a four-length success in the race 12 months ago under regular partner Adam Kirby after winning the Group 1 July Cup at HQ on fast ground on his previous outing. His Haydock win was all the more impressive as the Dark Angel colt had previously been viewed as a top-of-the-ground horse, and his participation in last year’s race was in the balance right until the last minute due to heavy ground.
In the event, Cox let the Godolphin-owned star take his chance and he duly bolted up, slamming Tasleet by four lengths, with The Tin Man and Blue Point coming home third and fourth respectively. He went on to disappoint on his final start of last campaign in finishing just fourth behind Librisa Breeze in the Group 1 Qipco British Champions Sprint at Ascot in October, after rearing up at the start and giving away significant ground.
And it’s the start that has become the Achilles Heel for Harry Angel, the horse who is by some way the highest rated entry for the Sprint Cup, for having won in great fashion on his first run this season in the Grup 2 Duke of York Stakes on the Knavesmire in May, he fluffed his lines completely when red-hot favourite for the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot. Kirby’s mount became restless in the stalls and then contrived to trap his leg over the backboard just as the starter let them go, blowing his chance to smithereens and eventually trailing in 11th behind the now-retired Merchant Navy.
In view of this concern, together with the fact that no horse has defended this title in the last half-century. I believe there is better value to be had elsewhere in the ante-post betting for this race.
O’Brien Team Make Less Appeal Than Usual
US Navy Flag, successfully dropped back from a mile to win the July Cup last month at Newmarket, but according to media reports he is being trained to tackle the multi-million dollar Everest Stakes in Australia, so is an unlikely contender at Haydock. His Aidan O’Brien-trained stable companions Clemmie, Gustav Klimt, Fleet Review, Could It Be Love and Sioux Nation, for a variety of reasons don’t look up to the task, so for once we’re not going to dwell too long on the Ballydoyle battalion, although Washington DC looks overpriced at 40/1 with SportPesa having failed by just a head to beat Battassh at Haydock over five furlongs earlier in the term. He seemed to love the track – he hasn’t run particularly well since – and might be an interesting each-way longshot if allowed to take his chance.
Blue Point (7/1 with Bet365), owned like Harry Angel by Sheikh Mohammed’s Godolphin team, and trained by Charlie Appleby, is a tremendous sprinter in his own right as he showed when cutting down the brilliant Battaash at Royal Ascot to win the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes. The runner-up has gone on to blitz his rivals at Glorious Goodwood, while Blue Point let the side down when sent off favourite for the July Cup, eventually fading to finish seventh.
It’s not as if he doesn’t stay six furlongs – he beat Harry Angel fair and square last season over the trip in the Group 3 Pavilion Stakes at Ascot, and won the Group 3 Bengough Stakes over the same course and distance last October – it is just that away from his beloved Ascot he doesn’t seem quite the same horse and for that reason looks worth opposing at Haydock.
Haggas’ Tasleet Has Plenty Going For Him
TASLEET is a horse who has promised to win a big one and it is possible that he might come of age this time, especially if the blazing summer comes to an end and Haydock gets the rain it is so well noted for. William Haggas’ five-year-old – a 10/1 chance with Ladbrokes – has had just one start so far this term, finishing a creditable third to subsequent July Cup winner Merchant Navy in the Group 2 Greenlands Stakes at the Curragh in late-May, and he looks to have been trained specially for a crack at the Sprint Cup this time around, The very fast summer ground has probably been an extra incentive to wait for this race. Last term he comfortably won the Group 2 Duke of York Stakes before losing out to The Tin Man by just a neck in the Group 1 Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot, after meeting intefrence well inside the final furlong.
Not for the first time he ran poorly at Newmarket when well beaten in the July Cup, but then bounced back to finish second to Harry Angel in this race 12 months ago before finishing ahead of his old rival when runner-up to Librisa Breeze in the British Champions Sprint at Ascot in October.
Consistent (with the exception of Newmarket), and seemingly saved for this race, the 10/1 on offer looks solid each-way value for a horse who deserves his day in the sun.
Best Of The Rest
The Tin Man (12/1 with Paddy Power) is very much respected as he so rarely runs a bad race. James Fanshawe’s six-year-old found only Quiet Reflection too good for him in the 2016 renewal of this race and was a good third behind Harry Angel last year. He met trouble-in-running when staying on to be a closing fourth in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes in June and was a rock solid third in the Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville on August 5.
Another fine sprinter who more often than not is in the thick of the action in the top six furlong sprints is Kevin Ryan’s Brando (9/1 with Betway) who this term has been a model of consistency at the top level, beating Sir Dancealot in the Group 3 Abernant Stakes at Newmarket in April, finishing runner-up to Harry Angel in the Group 2 Duke of York Stakes, fourth to Merchant Navy in the Group 2 Greenlands Stakes at the Curragh, and runner-up to US Navy Flag in the Group 1 Darley July Cup at HQ, the second year in a row he has been placed in that top-notch contest. He ran below his best at Deauville this weekend however, but more often than not gives his running and could grab a place.
The three-year-olds Sands Of Mali, Eqtidaar, Invincible Army and Emblazoned are talented but need to improve on what they’ve done so far, and while Eqtidaar is the Group 1 winner among them having edged out Sands Of Mali in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, the suspicion is that they are all a few pound short of the required standard for this hotter race.
If there is give underfoot then the 2017 Group 1 British Champions Sprint winner Librisa Breeze cannot be ruled out of the argument having had just one run this term on unsuitably quick ground when down the field in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, but ran much better when fourth to Polydream at Deauville, close behind third-placed The Tin man. Dean Ivory’s grey is very talented when he has his ground and the 20/1 with Sky Bet looks a tempting each-way price if the rain finally arrives.
ADVICE: Tasleet (10/1 each-way with Ladbrokes)
Written by Paul Alster
Paul Alster has been part of the British and international racing media for more than three decades working as a race commentator, TV/radio presenter, journalist, betting correspondent, SP returner, and form analyst. He’s always sought out overpriced runners in handicap races, a quest that excites him as much now as it did at the start of his career.