Shaquille heads for Sprint Cup after perfect preparation

Connections of Shaquille feel the popular colt’s preparation could not have gone any better ahead of his bid for a third successive Group One victory in the Betfair Sprint Cup at Haydock.

Julie Camacho’s stable star has enjoyed a meteoric rise through the sprinting ranks, with a handicap win at Newmarket and a Listed success at Newbury followed by back-to-back wins at the highest level.

What makes the Shaquille story all the more intriguing is the fact that in both the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot and the July Cup at Newmarket he badly missed the break, only to stage two remarkable recoveries to reel in his rivals and in the end win comfortably.

With a recent session with starting stalls specialists Craig and Jake Witherford having gone smoothly, Camacho’s husband and assistant Steve Brown is hopeful he will jump off on terms on Merseyside.

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He said: “The build-up for him has been smooth and we obviously did some stalls work with him a couple of weeks ago with Craig and Jake, and James (Doyle, jockey) came along.

“He’s a very straightforward horse at home, he doesn’t cause us any problems and his work has been to its usual standard, I would say. It’s been what we expected really.

“He looks really fit and well and everything has gone to plan. We planned four good bits of work, which he’s done, and we haven’t missed a day with him – I don’t think we can have any gripes about his preparation at all.

“He seems adaptable on different tracks. I suppose the nearest thing to Haydock we’ve had so far is probably Newbury and everything there went according to plan, so we hope for the same on Saturday.”

Trainer Julie Camacho following Shaquille's July Cup success
Trainer Julie Camacho following Shaquille’s July Cup success (David Davies/The Jockey Club)

While Brown’s heart is likely to be racing after Shaquille is loaded into the stalls ahead of his latest attempt at top-level success, he is doing his best to keep cool in the meantime.

He added: “There’s plenty happening before Saturday and every horse is of the same importance and value, so you’ve just got to go about your business as normal and then when the time comes you just have to hope everything goes smoothly and he puts in a good performance, which we know he’s capable of.

“You’d rather we had a conventional situation, but we haven’t in his last two races. We’ve acknowledged that we had a problem, we’ve tried to do something about it, we’re pleased with what happened at home and we hope to see that on the track on the day.”

Karl Burke’s Spycatcher and the George Boughey-trained Believing have both been declared to carry the colours of Highclere Thoroughbred Racing, although the former is unlikely to run unless the rain arrives.

Having won two Listed races and a Group Three this season, Believing was supplemented at a cost of £20,000 on Monday, with her connections happy to roll the dice.

“She’s very versatile and she’s very quick. It looks like it’s going to be quick ground and she is fast,” said Highclere’s managing director Harry Herbert.

“We wouldn’t necessarily have considered this race at the first entry stage, but with the way she is now and the way she’s improving, we were keen to give it a go.

“It was a lot of money for the shareholders to shell out (to supplement), but she’s earned plenty of prize-money, her value is significant and we felt that with nothing else obvious to have a pop at, we should have a go.

“It will be very exciting to see how she gets on.”

Jamie Spencer and Khaadem after winning at Royal Ascot
Jamie Spencer and Khaadem after winning at Royal Ascot (John Walton/PA)

A competitive field also includes the first and second from the Queen Elizabeth II Jubilee Stakes in Khaadem and Sacred.

The Charlie Hills-trained Khaadem was a shock 80-1 winner at the Royal meeting and has since finished out of the places in the July Cup and the Nunthorpe at York, but Hills is looking forward to seeing him return to six furlongs on fast ground.

He said: “He looks tremendous and great in himself and with all those sprints you just need a bit of luck, but I think the ground will suit him really well.”

Other hopefuls include Archie Watson’s Wokingham winner Saint Lawrence, the Ralph Beckett-trained Lezoo, Henry Candy’s July Cup runner-up Run To Freedom and Regional from Ed Bethell’s yard.

Regional (centre) has already won at Haydock twice
Regional (centre) has already won at Haydock twice (Nigel French/PA)

The latter came up a little short when fifth in the Nunthorpe last month, but is two from two at Haydock and his trainer is excited to be stepping back up in trip from five to six furlongs.

He said: “We’re looking forward to having a crack at it. It’s a full field and a wide-open race.

“It’ll be a tough race and any one of them could win it. If Shaquille turns up, I’d say we’re all playing for a place, but outside of him we’re all there with a big chance of finishing in the money.”

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