Haydock Sprint Cup Preview And Tips
The 47th running of the Haydock Sprint Cup, a Group 1 over six furlongs, is the highlight of Saturday’s racing. Its roll of honour is packed with some of the great sprinters, including Nuclear Debate, Royal Applause, Sheikh Albadou, Dayjur and Danehill, most of which have gone on to be hugely successful stallions.
Winners tend to come from the top end of the market, unlike York’s Nunthorpe Stakes, the preceding British Group 1 sprint, in which four of this weekend’s field competed.
Indeed, just one winner – 25/1 Invincible Spirit on 2002 – has prevailed at bigger than 14/1 since 1988. That compares with three of the last four Nunthorpe winners being 20/1 or more.
Age has an even more telling bearing on the outcome, with just two winners aged older than five in the 46 renewal history of the contest. Perhaps materially (and perhaps not), both were this century: Nuclear Debate in 2001 and Markab three years ago. Six of the sixteen 48 hour declarations are aged six or above.
Although juveniles, with their massive weight for age allowance, won a couple early on, these days the Sprint Cup has seen a preponderance of three- to five-year-olds bag gold.
So, whilst we shouldn’t get too hung up on trends, it does seem fairly apparent that we want a reasonably fancied 3-5yo with which to go to war.
That gives us a shortlist of six: Lethal Force, Reckless Abandon, Gordon Lord Byron, Garswood, Slade Power, and Swiss Spirit.
Let’s start with Lethal Force, the favourite and winner of both the Diamond Jubilee Stakes and the July Cup, both six furlong Group 1’s, and both on good to firm. This four year old son of Dark Angel actually ran another belter last time when beating all bar Moonlight Cloud on good to soft at Deauville. And therein lies one of the keys to his chance: he must have it rattling fast.
His three Group wins have all been on good to firm. Moreover, apart from a Class 5 Bath maiden (ahem), he’s never won on any other ground. With the rain forecast to tumble down virtually without a break between Friday morning and post time, that’s a big worry.
But it gets worse for the ante-post favourite. He’s drawn in stall one, and likes to lead in his races, as he did when dominating in those two early summer sprints. This time, though, he’ll have the trailblazing Heeraat in stall three, and another early fizzer, Hamza, in stall seven. That has the hallmark of a speed duel, which would almost certainly compromise the chance of all three.
If those aren’t enough nails in Lethal Force’s Sprint Cup coffin, then you might be interested to know that no horse has won from stall one or two in the last twenty years, and only two have placed. Notable recent failures include 11/4 Bated Breath last year, and 11/8 Sakhee’s Secret in 2007.
Lethal Force is an excellent – and still progressive sprinter – but he has a lot of challenges to overcome here and his price of 9/4 is way too short, in my view.
Reckless Abandon is next in most lists and, though he’s yet to win in two starts this term, he’s shown signs of coming to hand. He opened his 2013 campaign in the Temple Stakes over five-sixths of today’s course and distance, and finished a half-length third, having been drawn unfavourably as it transpired.
The last day saw him again line up over five furlongs, this time in the Group 1 King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot. He finished fifth, beaten a couple of lengths. The interesting thing for me is that Reckless Abandon has been campaigned at five poles when his record at six reads 111, a sequence that comprises a Group 2 and two Group 1’s. It’s quite possible that this has been because trainer Clive Cox has another top-drawer six-furlonger… yes, the aforementioned Lethal Force.
They are scheduled to lock horns here, though it wouldn’t surprise me if the current jolly was withdrawn on account of the ground. Either way, I think his younger stablemate will best him – and the rest of them.
As well as a first class unblemished record at the distance, Reckless Abandon is far less beholden to fast ground, and has in fact won twice on good to soft. So, as long as it’s not a bog, he’ll cope with the turf just fine.
With a plum draw in trap six – middle to low – and all that early dash to his left and right, he ought to get slipstreamed into the sharp end at around the furlong pole, from whence he’ll be close enough if good enough. Top French jock Gerald Mosse will steer, and he’s been galloping to Gallic glory on plenty of Saturday nags over here in the last few weeks (Amazing Maria, Somewhat, and Royal Skies in the past month alone).
Gordon Lord Byron and Slade Power are the Irish axis, and both hold some appeal: the former will go on any ground and easily stays seven furlongs, so if it came up boggy, he could be the one; the latter has looked progressive and was third to Lethal Force in the July Cup. That said, I’d have expected a bit more from Slade Power by now, and he seems to have levelled off a tad, while Gordon Lord Byron has yet to win in Pattern company at such a short trip. He also has the dreaded two box.
Garswood is the main northern hope, trained by Richard Fahey. This fellow will definitely appreciate a bit of juice in the ground, but he’s another that has been winning over further and, despite a Listed five furlong win as a juvenile, I’d be surprised if he had the toe to go… well, toe to toe… with some of these. He’s drawn in ten too, away from where I suspect the early pace will be, which could be a further hindrance.
Swiss Spirit is stretching out here, having been raced over five furlongs for his last four runs. He’s not looked quick enough at that trip, and stamina doubts are implied by connections’ persistence at the minimum. He’s not for me.
Of the rest, Rex Imperator hacked up in the Stewards’ Cup and, back at six furlongs, he could bridge much of the gap between handicap and Group 1 grades. He’s shown most of his best form on a sound surface, however, so any significant rain would temper enthusiasm.
Haydock Sprint Cup Tips
I’m quite keen on Reckless Abandon and have backed him at 13/2 (Stan James). Reckless Abandon is a non-runner, due to going lame. Bets with Stan James have been refunded. In his absence, the next most likely pair for me are Garswood and Gordon Lord Byron.