Harry Angel on Saturday attempts to become only the second horse to win the Group 1 Sprint Cup at Haydock twice, battling back from an injury sustained at Royal Ascot to line up for the British Champions Series test.
The Clive Cox-trained four-year-old won the 2017 renewal by four lengths over Tasleet, who re-opposes this Saturday, and remains 5/4 favourite in 2018 Sprint Cup betting, but can he really maintain his 100% course record?
The Sprint Cup is the first of two Group 1 6f contests for horses aged three or older set to be run in Britain this autumn. It’s worth £300,000 and is part of the British Champions Series, leading up to British Champions Day at Ascot in October.
Harry Angel is favourite with all online horse racing betting sites, but few horses attempt back-to-back wins in the Sprint Cup, and only the race’s first ever winner, Be Friendly, managed to win the race twice - taking the Haydock trophy in 1966 and 1967 as a two-year-old and three-year-old.
Harry Angel is attempting to become the second horse to win the Sprint Cup twice, and while he started his campaign with a convincing odds-on success over this trip on good-to-firm going at York in May, he injured himself coming out of the stalls in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot.
He beat just one rival home that day, having finished fourth over course and distance in the Group 1 British Champions Sprint Stakes less than a year previously.
Unlike the other big sprints in Britain, the Classic generation- three-year-old horses - have a good record in this contest with victories in the race eight times since 2003, including Somnus’ victory of that year and the last four renewals.
The shortest price of this year’s three-year-old’s is James Garfield, his odds no bigger than the 8/1 offered by 888 Sport. He was supplemented for this race on Monday after showing promise when runner-up in the prestigious Prix Maurice De Gheest over an extended 6f at Deauville a month ago.
That marked a career-best effort for trainer George Scott’s Group 2 winner, and while he was held by a couple of his peers on earlier form, a repeat of that would see him involved in the finished.
Eqtidaar, the winner of the early season highlight for sprinters of his age group, the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot, proved a disappointment when he could finish only ninth in the July Cup at Newmarket in July, but he was slowly away that day and, with a clean start here, should prove more effective following a break.
His trainer Sir Michael Stoute is better known for his exploits with middle-distance performers, but did win this in 1986 with Green Desert and in 1987 with Ajdal.
Runner-up in the Commonwealth Cup was Sands Of Mali, who has struggled in both subsequent starts, including when behind Eqtidaar at Newmarket. Following that, trainer Richard Fahey took his four-time winner to France, where he finished well beaten in a Group 1 over an extended 6f at Deauville just over a month ago.
In Sands Of Mali’s favour though is his good course form having won a Group 2 against his own age group over this course and distance on good ground in May.
Tasleet is not without claims. Hamdan Al Maktoum’s five-year-old is a Group 2 winner who finished second in the British Champions Sprint Stakes last October, and in this race last year.
He showed effectiveness on softer ground in those races, and when winning his Group 2, but he was also second to The Tin Man at Royal Ascot on good to firm. At 9/1 to win with 10Bet, he isn’t a bad option, but there are better bets.
In front of Harry Angel at Royal Ascot was The Tin Man, a horse who has made the frame in the last two renewals of this race, having followed up a second in 2016 with a third in 2017.
Markab was the last proper old campaigner to win the Sprint Cup, landing the prize at the age of seven back in 2010, when trained by prolific sprint trainer Henry Candy. Markab was a massively improved handicapper, who caused a bit of a shock in the race when winning at odds of 12/1.
The Tin Man is altogether more proven at this level; he’s a dual Group 1 winner, with versatility in terms of ground. He looks to be the best bet towards the head of the market, available at a top price of 8/1 to win the Sprint Cup with BetVictor.
Further down the market, Gustav Klimt boasts strong form at a mile this season, placing in Group 1 company at Royal Ascot. He disappointed dropping to 7f last time out, but trainer Aidan O’Brien had several entries in this race and has opted to only run Gustav Klimt.
Although he hasn’t tried 6f since his debut in May last year, he has won three out of four runs over 7f. Ryan Moore is booked to ride again, and he holds real claims of gaining that elusive first Group 1 victory. .
With an official rating of 117, he’s 1lb off James Garfield and 7lb off superstar Harry Angel, both short prices. If you can give him another chance, Gustav Klimt represents value for his quality at a top price of 25/1 to win with William Hill - he has never been sent off at bigger than 8/1