He came off second best at York, thanks to a stunning performance from the magnificent mare Mecca’s Angel. Yet there’s no denying that the sprint King of 2016 has to be Oxfordshire trainer Henry Candy.
Having one ace in the pack has to be thrilling for the ‘glass half empty’ trainer. But to be blessed with two top level sprinters must leave someone as circumspect as Candy brimming with confidence. If he is, he certainly keeps it well hidden when interviewed, and though he will no longer be double-handed for the Haydock Sprint Cup, he remains in pole position thanks to arguably the best six-furlong runner in Europe.
Limato is at his best on a fast surface, possessing a stunning change of gear when asked. Yet should the ground remain on the sound side, and Haydock avoid the worst of the showery forecast, then Candy’s ace will surely take all the beating on Saturday.
Candy has twice captured this event in the past six years, and is having another cracking campaign with his sprinters. He lifted the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot with Twilight Son, and then saw Limato trounce a high-class field in the Darley July Cup. The same horse came close to winning the Nunthorpe, only losing out to the aforementioned magnificent mare.
So can the ‘Candy Man’ grab the spoils once again, further enhancing his dominance over the division?
As ever, much will depend on the weather. Forecasts vary, with Haydock’s three-day meeting opening yesterday on good ground. Times appeared to bear out the going description. If the North-West avoid a deluge, then it looks certain that the July Cup winner will take his spot on the start line.
As with all these showpiece sprints, the roll of honour is stacked with the great and even greater. If I had a pound for every time I’ve said Dayjur this year. Green Desert, Danehill and Invincible Spirit, always have their names on the list. In recent times, Dream Ahead and Gordon Lord Byron struck Gold. It’s fair to say that Limato would not be out of place among such an illustrious group.
However, he’s no ‘shoe-in’, especially if rain arrives and tips the balance toward the soft side of good. So just who can lower Candy’s colours?
The bookies would have us believe that a pair of three-year-old fillies are Limato’s toughest opponents. Quiet Reflection certainly has proven high-class form, often a prerequisite if a horse is to capture this particular sprint. Karl Burke’s Commonwealth Cup winner, came home third behind Candy’s star at Newmarket last time, when seemingly unable to cope with the acceleration at the winner’s disposal. Her Royal Ascot win came on softer ground, and there’s every chance she’ll be closer to Limato should conditions ease. As good as she is, and she’s very good, I just can’t see her beating Candy’s charge, and her odds of 5/1, though fair enough, make her impossible to back each-way.
Andrew Balding’s Dancing Star on the other hand, is totally unproven at this level. She’s followed a similar course through the handicaps as last year’s third Magical Memory, who also won the Stewards’ Cup en route to this. She was beaten by Mr Lupton in June, and that form looks light of what is required to win this. She was impressive when winning at Goodwood, but this is a huge step up the ladder, and her odds of 8/1 are pretty stingy. She’s undoubtedly a progressive and classy sort, but I’d be surprised if she wins. Actually I’d be stunned.
Paul Kealy ‘tips-up’ Suedois in this week’s Weekender. It looks a solid shout, for a horse that has proven himself at the highest level. He was second to Limato at Newmarket, and faded late on to fourth in the Maurice de Gheest at Deauville. This trip and track should prove perfect, and he has to be in with a great chance. With 14s still available, he is a serious each-way proposition. David O’Meara took this race in 2014 with G Force.
The aforementioned Magical Memory is another that ought to be thereabouts at the business end. He’s a consistent performer, who possibly lacks that touch of class required to win. I’d expect him to be ‘toughing it out’ late on, and possibly making the frame. Odds of 10/1 are probably fair, though I fancy he’ll find a few of these just a little too quick for him.
As a huge ‘Wizard of Oz’ fan, my heart is understandably drawn to The Tin Man. He was very impressive last time at Newbury, having flopped in top company at Royal Ascot. This track will likely suit him more than Ascot, but he has to prove he has ‘the heart’ for a battle at the highest level. He’ll be delivered as late as possible, but he’s not for me. He could prove me wrong, and I wouldn’t be gutted if he did.
Of the horses at bigger odds I really fancy Kachy. He’d been busy prior to a slightly disappointing run in the King George Stakes at Goodwood, and was duly given August off. His trainer Tom Dascombe, has campaigned him over five furlongs for much of the season, though he pushed Quiet Reflection all the way in the Commonwealth Cup at Ascot over six, despite hanging badly. He got the trip that day, on softish ground. Haydock should not be a problem. He’s a big framed colt, and I’m hopeful that he’ll strip fresher and stronger after his mini-break. His odds of 25/1 are simply too tempting.
It’s difficult to look past Limato should the ground stay sound. But I’ll have a little each-way on Kachy in the hope that he can shake-up the favourite.