Haydock hold the prestigious Sprint Cup on Saturday, and though a classy field is assembled, the weather is set to impact on the eventual line-up.
It’s a race that has been won by sprinting goliaths since its inception in 1966. Green Desert took this in 1986, along with the July Cup. He then became one of the most influential sprint stallions of the modern era, with offspring including Invincible Spirit and Oasis Dream.
Danehill was another terrific sprinter to capture the Haydock showpiece, before becoming an exceptional stallion. The list of high-class thoroughbreds sired by Danehill is endless, but includes; Danehill Dancer, Dylan Thomas, Duke of Marmalade, George Washington and Rock of Gibraltar.
A year after Danehill’s success, Haydock was treated to the devastating talent of Dayjur. The year was 1990, and Sheikh Hamdan Al Maktoum’s diminutive colt was simply irresistible. He won every sprint worth winning, including the Prix de l’Abbaye at Longchamp. Dayjur is viewed by many as the greatest sprinter of them all.
Dream Ahead was arguably one of the most outstanding recent winners of the Sprint Cup. Trained by David Simcock, the son of Diktat had a liking for testing conditions, and when he got his ground he was incredibly tough to beat. He defeated Bated Breath to win the July Cup at Newmarket, and defeated the same adversary in a thriller at Haydock. He then put in arguably his best performance to take the Prix de la Foret at Longchamp, defeating the mighty Goldikova in the process.
This year’s Sprint Cup market is headed by the July Cup victor Harry Angel. Clive Cox appears adamant that rain will not dent the chances of his classy three-year-old. Speaking at a media gathering earlier this week, the trainer said: “He won on good to soft ground when he won the Mill Reef at Newbury last year. I wouldn't say there is doubt in him running as he has performed on a softer surface, I just obviously realised how potent he was on a drier surface.”
Cox added: “I think being by Dark Angel and with any sprinter, maturity means the potential is there for more improvement. He has grown up and even watching him this morning, he is enjoying the attention. I believe there is still more to come from the horse. It won't be up to me if he races next year, but I am just really enjoying this year. I think potentially he could get stronger.”
Rain may not deter Cox and Team Godolphin, but there’s no doubting that July Cup runner-up Limato would dodge a rematch if the rains come. “In an ideal world, he’d run on Saturday and then go on to the Foret,” said his trainer Henry Candy. He went on: “It would need to be genuine top of the ground for him to run.”
The Tin Man disappointed at Newmarket, but had previously run an absolute cracker to win the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot. James Fanshawe sounded hopeful rather than confident of a decent performance when saying: “At Newmarket he didn’t run so well, but he’s had a nice break since. He was second in this last year on very soft ground and we’re looking forward to taking him back.”
Money has come for Hamdan Al Maktoum’s Tasleet, who put in arguably a season’s best performance on soft ground at York, when winning the Group Two Duke Of York back in May. He appears to struggle on Newmarket’s undulations, and should be more suited to Haydock. A strong gallop would also aid his chances.
Brando was an impressive winner at Deauville last time, and Kevin Ryan’s five-year-old is second best in the betting behind Harry Angel. He has form on soft ground, though burst a blood vessel when disappointing at York behind Tasleet in May. Nevertheless, Ryan’s assistant and son Adam, sounded bullish earlier in the week when saying: “It sounds a bit daft but even though he's a five-year-old he's still improving. He hasn't had that many runs and he's quite a raw horse, and still on the upgrade. He's come out of the French race great and we couldn't be happier with him.”
He added: “It's a Group One and it's far from a two-horse race. But if Brando puts up the same sort of performance as he did in France he should be there or thereabouts.”
Ballydoyle’s Caravaggio was all the rage earlier in the campaign, but has disappointed since his stunning success in the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot. Though he holds an entry at Haydock, O’Brien has confirmed that he is more than likely heading to the Curragh the following day.