There is Group 1 action amongst the eight races offered up by ITV this weekend with the Sprint Cup at Haydock taking centre stage.
It is also a rarity in that we have a decent ground Sprint Cup meeting to preview. Usually, the heavens open on Merseyside and this race is run on soft ground or gruelling conditions, but not this year which gives the solid favourite Starman an added bonus to already solid credentials. More on the feature later.
The Group 3 Superior Mile pits a couple of horses with proven pattern form against a trio stepping up from handicaps.
LORD GLITTERS deserves to get his head back in front for the first time since Group 1 gains on Super Saturday at Meydan in March. This is his first race since without a penalty for that victory which included trying to give Real World 7lb last time out at York. He was only beaten by a length and a half there to put alongside other solid efforts such as a fourth in the Queen Anne Stakes and the same position in the Lockinge.
The shoe is on the other hoof in this contest as it his main market rival My Oberon who carries a 3lb penalty for winning a substandard G3 Earl of Sefton at the Craven meeting in April. He was just a neck behind the excellent Skalleti in France the following month and fourth behind Love (form not really working out) at Royal Ascot. He also has two and a half lengths to make up on LORD GLITTERS and is 7lb worse off for that recent York run.
WINGS OF WAR almost did us a favour at York when narrowly denied in the big sales race and I am sticking with him here. His Nottingham maiden success worked out well and he was well clear of the fourth at York.
He hung across to the far side to join the other protagonists which may have cost him the half length by which he was defeated. Hector Crouch was on board for his Maiden success and a fair draw in five on an all-weather debut should see him go close.
A competitive three-year-old staying handicap with a pair of hat-trick seekers.
Valley Forge won the Melrose at York two weeks ago and is up 7lb for Andrew Balding, who has won two of the last five renewals. He only just got up at Ffos Las at 4/11 the time before but is clearly a rapid improver, as is Vino Victrix, who followed up a Sandown success with a win on the AW at Kempton over two miles. He got a big weight for age allowance in that contest but looked far too good anyway and off just 4lb higher, is a major player.
Tynwald was too bad to be true at Windsor last time in his hat-trick bid and could run a good race at an each way price, while Roseabad tops the weights after a win last time out for Mark Johnston.
A pair of these met at Sandown thirteen days ago where Oceanline had PRAIANO back in fourth, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. PRAIANO was sent off favourite and took an eternity to get a clear run before powering home and was never nearer than at the line with Oceanline having the run of the race off the front end. Oceanline is now 3lbs worse off and I fancy PRAIANO to get the victory and kickstart a good day for Roger Varian.
No Enable in this year's September Stakes but it looks the turn of Hukum to potentially put the final touches to an Arc preparation.
After a solid fifth in the St Leger last year, he has built on it this campaign with three wins and a Hardwicke Stakes third marking him out as a very progressive middle distance 4yo. He was very impressive in winning a G3 at Newbury three weeks back for the second successive year but he has a 3lb penalty for that and not as much in hand of the quartet of opposition as prices suggest.
Prince Of Arran was seven lengths behind Enable in last year’s running and will be prepped for another globetrotting campaign having earned over £2m in prize money to date while Hamish is coming off the back of a long layoff and was a late withdrawal in the Ebor. He makes his all-weather debut this afternoon and while his form is progressive, the long break tempers enthusiasm in a tough contest.
Fox Tal is consistent but struggles to win so I’m taking a chance on OUTBOX. He looks to be the only front runner in the field and although he looked last time like a busy season was catching up with him, I’m prepared to forgive him as Goodwood’s track may not have suited.
He has won on the all-weather and two starts ago was just under two lengths behind Hukum at York and is now 3lb better off. Luke Morris will need to get the fractions right but at around 8/1, I will chance a couple quid he can.
A smaller field than usual for the Old Borough Cup but by no means an easier puzzle to solve.
Global Storm never got in a blow in the Ebor and is better than that. He was consistent prior to that York effort including a victory at Newmarket in May but must give weight all around over the 1m 6f trip and is 10lb higher than that success. William Buick will ride Global Storm and he will know where he stands with Noble Masquerade as he has ridden him to two victories in his last three starts and receives a massive 22lb from the top weight. Hollie Doyle will be doing the steering and for a progressive runner off just 8-2, he has to enter calculations.
Rajinsky wasn’t given the best of rides in this race last year and arrives 1lb lower with top track jockey Richard Kingscote aboard. He ran a cracker to be second at York last time for the second successive year and I expect he will be much closer to troubling the judge this year.
Ian Williams has won two of the last three renewals and saddles habitual runner-up Autumn War and the frustrating and very well treated Indianapolis. Both have claims but one horse who is solid in these staying handicaps is ISLAND BRAVE. He has returned place money in the Northumberland Plate, the Shergar Cup and at York a fortnight ago. Heather Main’s horses are in decent form and ISLAND BRAVE has been dropped 1lb despite running his race on his last three starts. He isn’t hiding anything from the handicapper but rates a solid each way play at a double figure price.
Roger Varian has won the last two renewals of the Lavezza Stakes and in a smaller field than usual, ALFAADHEL is taken to bring up his hat-trick.
After landing his maiden at Chester May meeting, he followed up at Lingfield under a penalty and was strongly fancied at Royal Ascot but blotted his copybook on soft ground. He bounced back to be second at Goodwood and the step up in trip this afternoon can see him give weight all around and make it three wins from six starts.
Likely market leader Wahraan lost nothing in defeat when a fair fourth against older horses at York in his hat-trick attempt and is the mount of Ryan Moore while Chalk Stream’s latest win at Ripon was advertised when the second won easily at Beverley last Saturday. He is up another 8lb but is progressive for William Haggas and Her Majesty The Queen.
And now for the feature race. Like I said at the top of the piece a rare decent ground renewal and that places more confidence behind favourite STARMAN.
Ed Walker’s star sprinter has only tasted defeat twice and on both occasions the ground had ‘soft’ in the going description, but it was his performance in the July Cup when he had Creative Force and Art Power behind that marks him up as the Champion sprinter elect. Not a lot went right in the race itself but his turn of gear when the gap opened was breathtaking and he powered home for a first Group 1 success. He can be excused his third in France where the extra half furlong and tacky ground saw him just weaken in the final fifty yards, but even that was a good effort with some top draw sprinters behind when connections knew conditions were not ideal.
Creative Force stayed on strongly to be fifth in that July Cup and was a similar story at Goodwood in the G2 Lennox Stakes over seven furlongs. He won the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot over that trip and a fast run flat six furlongs may just catch him out. He will no doubt be staying on strongly but may lack the pace of a genuine sprinter.
Art Power is the slight fly in the ointment. He was a remarkable fourth at Newmarket as he ran all on his own on the far side and did incredibly well to have a hand in the finish. A slightly easier six furlongs should suit and can be forgiven a poor run at Goodwood when he was taken off his feet and was isolated in the middle of the track over the minimum trip. He will appreciate this test a whole lot more.
Emaraaty Ana ran an incredible race to be second in the Nunthorpe and is another each way consideration, while Glen Shiel needs to get back to the form of last year to have a say. He has had a disappointing campaign after winning the Champions Sprint last October and would prefer some cut in the ground to be at his best.
For me the likes of Chil Chil, Happy Romance and Summerghand, while admirable types in their own right, fall short of Group 1 standard, while I’ll be watching Supremacy with interest. He tried to run along with Art Power in the July Cup and after briefly threatening two out, weakened tamely. It was the second successive poor run from last year’s Middle Park winner and while it is too soon to write him off, a watching brief is advised here.
Another straight course handicap at Ascot with just 11 runners lining up.
Documenting won this race last year beating fifteen rivals and is back to the exact same mark he won off. The 8yo showed signs of his turn being near again when third at Doncaster three weeks ago and has no doubt been aimed at winning this decent prize again. Via Serendipity also has a decent straight course record here at Ascot and got a first win for a new yard when scoring at Windsor recently. Hayley Turner gets on very well with him, but he was well held in this race last year off the same mark and is 7lb higher than when winning at the Shergar Cup last year.
Baashir is on a career high mark after wins at Doncaster and York this season but was well held on the Knavesmire recently, while Cliffs Of Capri and Ripp Orf are two other regulars in these Ascot seven furlong contests. The former was a good fourth in the International Stakes and is 1lb lower on his return while Ripp Orf made his comeback from a near two year absence at Sandown a fortnight ago and with young Jonny Peate’s 7lb claim is very well treated on some course form from 2019 which involved a second in this race off a 7lb higher mark.
Maxi Boy is another constant type who should run his race for Michael Bell but I’m sticking with the frustrating but well handicapped ORBAAN. Although his form figures are uninspiring, he wasn’t beaten far in much better races at Goodwood and York recently and Jamie Spencer retains the faith on board. He has been dropped a further 3lbs for his latest effort and is 6lb lower than when fourth at this meeting last year. He has some solid form in pattern company in France and is too well handicapped to ignore this afternoon.