The sprinters continue to take centre-stage on Saturday, with the Group 3 Bet365 Hackwood Stakes from Newbury the main event.
It looks a tasty renewal, with around a dozen contenders battling it out over six furlongs, in an event that has produced some outstanding winners over the years.
Lake Coniston took the race in 1994 and went on to win the July Cup a year later. Invincible Spirit is one of the great names of Flat racing, thanks as much to his career as a stallion, as that on the racetrack. He took this event as a four-year-old in 2001. Somnus was another terrific sprinter to capture this prize. He won the race as a three-year-old and went on to take the Haydock Sprint Cup a couple of months later. He was just as successful at four, winning a pair of Group 1s in France.
The Hughie Morrison trained Pastoral Pursuits is another familiar name for sprint lovers. He won this as a three-year-old in 2004 and won the July Cup 12 months later. He too has had a sparkling career at stud. High Standing, Regal Parade and Deacon Blues are other high class speedsters to have captured this popular prize.
Three-year-olds have a strong record in the race, though have been less successful in recent years, with just one win in the last 10. That was last season, thanks to Charlie Hills’ Strath Burn. Three-year-old colts receive a valuable 5lbs from their elders, whilst fillies of the same age have 8lbs to play with. That age group accounts for more than half of Saturday’s field.
It’s four-year-olds that have done best in recent renewals, winning half of the last 10. The odds are stacked against that trend continuing, with just a pair of four-year-olds taking on the challenge this time round. Having said that, those two are at the head of the market.
The favourite is the James Fanshawe trained The Tin Man. Impressive on seasonal debut at Windsor, he then disappointed somewhat at the highest level when eighth of nine in the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot. He beat Watchable at Windsor, and the pair re-oppose tomorrow. There’s no reason why the placings should be reversed, and though The Tin Man looks just shy of top class, he may well be good enough to take this.
Second in the market is Charming Thought, trained by Charlie Appleby for the all-conquering Godolphin team. He was an outstanding juvenile back in 2014, but failed to get on the racecourse as a three-year-old due to niggling health issues. His come-back appearance was at Salisbury, when fourth to Don’t Touch; finishing a place behind Watchable. It was a pleasing return, and he ought to improve plenty for the run. By top sprint sire Oasis Dream, he looks a leading contender.
Godolphin also have Buratino looking to get his campaign back on track, after a few mediocre performances. He’s thought to need fast ground, and may well get that tomorrow. His best run this season came in the Group 2 Sandy Lane at Haydock, when fourth to Quiet Reflection. He shouldn’t need to improve much on that to be competitive here. You couldn’t back him with any amount of confidence, but should the ground ride quick, 10/1 could be a tempting price.
Charlie Hills gave a big mention to Ibn Malik in his Weekender column, and the gelding by Raven’s Pass should go close on his debut among the sprinting fraternity. He was fourth in the Jersey Stakes when last seen, and this will be his first attempt at a trip below seven furlongs. Breeding suggests the trip may be a little on the sharp side, but his running style has suggested a step back in trip should be ideal. He looked pretty ‘nifty’ when winning the European Free Handicap at Newmarket in April. This will be far tougher, but he’s clearly classy.
Mr Lupton is another progressive three-year-old who looks capable of going close. He was slightly disappointing on the all-weather at Newcastle last time, though had previously ran huge races, giving lumps of weight away in handicaps. I have a feeling he’s not quite good enough to win this, and fancy a few will have a little too much class.
One I do fancy to go close, is Richard Hannon’s filly Illuminate. She ran well in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot when the ground would have been plenty soft enough for her. By Zoffany out of a Green Desert mare, I’m hopeful that track, trip and ground will all prove ideal. She was one of the leading fillies during a dazzling juvenile campaign.
In a competitive renewal, I’ll be having a bit on both Charming Thought and Illuminate. I fear Buratino should the ground stay quick, but I’ll resist backing a horse I cannot trust.