It’s raining over Haydock Park as I write and there is a lot more of the wet stuff scheduled to fall before the start of the Betfred Sprint Cup – that isn’t good news for supporters of favourite Lethal Force and it’s no surprise that this year’s champion sprinter is on the drift (now out to 11/4 with several bookmakers).
The grey has won the Diamond Jubilee Stakes and the Darley July Cup this summer and made a bold attempt to make all over a longer trip in the Prix Maurice De Gheest at Deauville last month when recent Leopardstown winner Gordon Lord Byron (6/1 with Boylesports and Paddy Power) was third. He handles good to soft going but is at his best on a good to firm surface and genuine soft ground would be a real concern and could open the door for Tom Hogan‘s mud-lover to turn the tables. He did come out on top when the pair met on heavy going at Longchamp a year ago.
The pair have been drawn alongside each other but a problem for both is a starting position towards the far side. On easy ground, the fastest part of the sprint course is generally down the middle or even under the stands’ rail so I’m going to oppose the market leaders on this occasion, even though they boast the best form, and seek value elsewhere.
Clive Cox, trainer of Lethal Force, also saddles Reckless Abandon with Gerald Mosse in the saddle. He may handle the going better than his stablemate and won a Group 1 over 6f as a juvenile. He’s only had two runs this year but wasn’t disgraced in either against top-class opposition. Currently 7/1 with sportingbet, it would be no surprise to see him go close but his tendency to hang left when coming under pressure could be a hindrance again. Garswood (8/1 with Boylesports and Ladbrokes) is another three-year-old with decent claims as he stays further, as he’s shown at Newmarket and Goodwood this year. Proven on soft ground, he shouldn’t be far away if able to lay up with the early pace.
Hamza (a general 25/1) is very speedy but may not last home if taken on for the lead, which seems likely, while Kavanagh was very disappointing on his first run in the UK though should strip fitter for the outing. He’s a smart performer in his native South Africa and is a 33/1 chance with sportingbet while Slade Power (11/1 with sportingbet) is better than he showed in the Nunthorpe at York.
This may be a little out of left-field but I fancy REX IMPERATOR to run a really big race at the general 16/1. On the face of it, his form in handicaps wouldn’t normally be good enough to win a Group 1 but I think the going will be a major factor at Haydock and Willie Haggas‘ four-year-old positively revels on soft ground. It was to his credit, therefore, that he was able to quicken clear of a strong field in the Stewards’ Cup at Goodwood last month on good ground. He would probably have won again over an extra furlong at York two weeks ago had he not been continually hampered by a loose horse and looks in top form at present.