By Andy Stephens
The best horses act on any ground, so they say, and while you probably have your own ideas about that theory I reckon Harry Angel rates a decent bet at 9-4 to win the 32Red Sprint Cup at Haydock on Saturday.
At the start of the week the exciting three-year-old was a general 5-4 to follow up his decisive Darley July Cup win at the Lancashire venue but doubts about his ability to cope with soft going - coupled with the effectiveness of several of his rivals on such a surface - have led to his price doubling.
The formbook tell us that Harry Angel is very effective on a quick surface, as illustrated by him lowering Haydock’s 6f track record in May, but by the same token there is nothing in his record or pedigree to suggest testing conditions will blunt his brilliance.
The son of Dark Angel handled good to soft ground fine when winning the Mill Reef Stakes in emphatic style a year ago and he is now much more the finished article.
You can argue he got the run of things at Newmarket but the manner in which he settled near the head of affairs indicates he is maturing all the time and, having had only six starts, there could be even more to come.
Brando rates the main danger although those adamant he will relish the conditions seem happy to ignore that he burst a blood vessel and trailed in well beaten the last time he ran on a soft top.
Tasleet and The Tin Man are better than their July Cup efforts imply but the pair look vulnerable to the younger legs of Harry Angel, who can become the fourth successive three-year-old to win this prize.
The former looks head and shoulders above her rivals in the Coolmore Fastnet Rock Matron Stakes (5.35) and has the scope to start much shorter than the general 10-11 on offer but I’m not convinced Churchill merits being 11-10 for the QIPCO Irish Champion Stakes after successive defeats at Royal Ascot and York, plus an abortive trip to Goodwood in between.
At the prices, I’m much happier to risk a few quid on Poet’s Word at a general 8-1. Sir Michael Stoute’s charge has looked a work in progress for much of his career and there was plenty to like about the way he won the Glorious Stakes on soft ground at Goodwood last time.
He has much more on his plate but has been building up to something bigger and this may be the day he produces it.
Poet’s Word was also engaged in the Group Three toteplacepot September Stakes at Kempton (2.05) at the five-day stage and, had he stood his ground for that contest, would have been something of a banker.
In his absence, Chemical Charge looks a worthy favourite but the 14-1 available about Wild Hacked is much too big to resist.
Wild Hacked has failed to make much impression on his past three starts (probably failed to stay in the Ebor last time) but the return to the all-weather may well galvanise him because he seems more effective on artificial surfaces.
He impressed when winning a handicap at Newcastle in April off a mark of 101 - the last time he ran on the polytrack - and I also like the fact that he usually races close to the pace because, with no obvious front-runner in the six-runner contest, it could be a muddling affair where those held up will be at a disadvantage.
Marco Botti, the trainer of Wild Hacked, can also strike with Dark Acclaim, chalked up at 4-1 for the 32Red Casino Ascendant Stakes (1.50) at Haydock.
By the same sire of Harry Angel, Dark Acclaim seemed to relish soft ground when winning in fine style at Doncaster last time and the pair who chased him home have franked the form with subsequent victories.
Finally, Morando rates a fair punt at a general 5-1 for the 32Red Mile (3.35). He was making it four wins from six starts when landing a Listed prize at Windsor on his return - subsequent Sussex Stakes winner Here Comes When was back in third - and he should be excused his reverse at Leopardstown last time because he was poorly placed when the tempo increased in a steadily-run affair.
This promises to be run at a more earnest gallop with front-runners Rusumaat and Kaspersky in the line-up, plus he relished soft ground when encountering it last year.
How to Bet £20 on Saturday:
1.50 Haydock: Dark Acclaim £4 win at a general 4-1
2.25 Haydock: Harry Angel £6 win at a general 9-4
3.35 Haydock: Morando £4 at a general 5-1
6.45 Leopardstown: Poet’s Word £3 win at a general 8-1
60p Win Super Yankee and 40p win accumulator on the below (general odds in brackets)
1.50 Haydock: Dark Acclaim (4-1)
2.05 Kempton: Wild Hacked (14-1)
2.25 Haydock: Harry Angel (9-4)
3.35 Haydock: Morando (5-1)
6.45 Leopardstown: Poet’s Word (8-1)
Plus £4 win on 2.25 Haydock: Harry Angel at a general 9-4
OPTION THREE: 2.25 Haydock: Harry Angel - £20 win at a general 9-4