The stage is set at Haydock tomorrow for a truly mouth-watering renewal of the Betfred Sprint Cup, race six in the QIPCO British Champions Series Sprint division, as top-class speed merchants like Ortensia, Bated Breath and Society Rock have all stood their ground for the six-furlong contest.
Australian raider Ortensia came from near last to win the Nunthorpe Stakes over five-furlongs at York last month and the mare is rightly favourite at 5/2 with Coral for the £225,000 Group One prize. She was completing a Group race double at York having won the King George Stakes at Goodwood three weeks earlier.
However, I think there are enough reasons to take Paul Messara’s speedball on at that price. Connections acknowledged the daughter of Testa Rossa had a ‘hard race at York’ and, although Ortensia has plenty of form over further, I still prefer her as a five-furlong horse. She is the most likely winner but any value has long gone and I’ll be giving her a swerve.
Bated Breath has long threatened to be a top sprinter and he will not get a better chance than on Saturday. Roger Charlton’s charge is three from four at Haydock and his sole defeat here came in this race last year when he missed out by a nose from Dream Ahead.
The poor summer weather has meant we’ve been racing on softish ground for most of the season and Bated Breath is best over a firm surface. He should get that tomorrow but the fact he has been beaten in eight attempts at Group One level, six times at 11/2 or shorter, means he is becoming frustrating and expensive to follow.
Many punters watched Strong Suit’s latest defeat in the Hungerford Stakes in disgust at the ride Ryan Moore supposedly gave Richard Hannon’s horse. I agree the jockey got him going too late but that race was over seven furlongs and I don’t think Strong Suit, who hasn’t won at tomorrow’s trip since his juvenile days, will have the pace to go with some of the others. The Rahy colt has also drawn a blank in six previous attempts at the highest level.
Others I have ruled out because of the ground are Irish raider Gordon Lord Byron, Society Rock, who is better at Ascot anyway, and Wizz Kid. The French filly has bundles of talent but is another who has something to find on the ratings.
That leaves my selection, DANDY BOY, to spring a surprise. The David Marnane-trained six-year-old won the tremendously competitive Wokingham handicap at Royal Ascot carrying a big weight. It’s easy to forgive his two subsequent starts when he would have hated the heavy ground in the July Cup and then a first attempt at the minimum trip in the Nunthorpe. However, Dandy Boy was staying on really well that day and returning to six-furlongs with the ground spot on for him, a nice central draw and Jamie Spencer on board, he looks a cracking each-way bet at 16/1.
Elsewhere, on a hugely competitive day’s racing TROPICAL BEAT was staying on really well last time out and the step-up in trip makes John Gosden’s gelding a good bet to at least hit the frame in the Old Borough Cup.
Ascot’s 4.15pm is a contest full of progressive sorts and Gospel Choir from the in-form Sir Michael Stoute yard hasn’t gone unnoticed in the market. But BLUE SURF may have slipped under the radar and Amanda Perrett’s inmate could have more to give at a mile-and-a-half. The 12/1 available is more than fair.
Looking further ahead, the superstar that is Frankel is likely to make his final ever appearance at Ascot on QIPCO British Champions’ Day, so make sure you get your tickets now by calling 0844 3463000 or visiting www.britishchampionsseries.com.
You can follow me on Twitter @BillEsdaile for all my racing views.
DANDY BOY e/w 3.25pm Haydock
TROPICAL BEAT e/w 4.00pm Haydock
BLUE SURF e/w 4.15pm Ascot