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Betfred Sprint Cup preview

Another Group One sprint contest and finally the market has worked out just how good she is. That doesn't guarantee she'll win, nor does it guarantee she is any value. What does Gary Savage, @chesneywold, have to say about it?

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Betfred Sprint Cup

Of all the Group One sprints in Britain this year the least likely to be run on fast ground was surely the Betfred Sprint at Haydock Park, and yet barring another short-range forecasting rick, that’s going to be the case tomorrow in the North West.

The most important thing to say about the forecast top-of-the-ground conditions is that they will suit those at the head of the market, as both Ortensia and Bated Breath have run below par on more than one occasion this year with give underfoot.

Of the two, Ortensia looks to hold the more solid claims as she has once again proved that Australian sprinters in form, are a class above their British counterparts. After floundering somewhat at Ascot and Newmarket in alien soft ground, she has really picked up in her two most recent starts taking the King George Stakes at Goodwood comfortably before snatching the Nunthorpe in taking fashion last time out.

That come-from-behind win seemed to confirm that six furlongs over here would prove no barrier to her, and that she may relish the step up in trip, and he Australian form only confirms that view. She has won over seven furlongs, albeit in lesser company and has run plenty of top races over six furlongs.

Some judges are worried about a relatively quick turnaround of races with Goodwood five weeks ago and York just over two, but these Aussie horses are used to backing up quickly and Ortensia has won three times when reappearing after a win only two weeks earlier. If her connections think she is ready to do herself justice then she will be very hard to beat and 5-2 seems like a reasonable price.

Bated Breath on the other hand is surely underpriced at around 7-2 strictly on form. Sure there have been issues with the ground for much of the year, but race times on Friday indicate that Haydock is not lightning fast, and he was well beaten by Ortensia last time in the Nunthorpe.

Bated Breath’s performance in this race last year, when just touched off by Dream Ahead, was a tremendous run, and a repeat of that would ensure a prominent position, but it is hard to see why he should overturn the form with Ortensia and at only a point bigger he represents no value.

Strong Suit is the one bringing totally different form lines to the table as most of his runs have been over further. Everyone is getting very excited by his fast-closing second to Lethal Force in the Hungerford Stakes last time but is that really enough to justify the confidence in him?

Second in a Group Two over seven isn’t the best preparation for a six-furlong Group One, and it actually took him a while to get going there. Although Haydock is a pretty tough six furlongs, I think the race will be over by the time Strong Suit gets into top gear and 6-1 is very skinny for a horse that has put in one good performance in his last four.

The roll of honour of this race does include the likes of Dayjur, Danehill and Dream Ahead, but it also ranks among its recent winners a lot of lesser lights, (Goodricke anyone?). So with that in mind, and the lottery-like outcomes of many recent British Group One sprints there is barely any contender who can be ruled out.

One best-of-the-season performance can put any horse rated over a 100 in the mix at Group One level as Genki has shown in the last two runnings of this race when finishing third and fourth. Roger Charlton’s second string has been in no sort of form at all this term though so seems unlikely to pop up here; but similar types in Hawkeyethenoo and Hitchens have stronger claims.

Jim Goldie’s Hawkeyethenoo will have the invaluable assistance of the flat season’s unlikeliest new sensation, Graham Lee. The six-year-old has put up two decent performances in handicaps since a good fifth in the rain-soaked July Cup. He retains his form tremendously well and it isn’t inconceivable that he could take this contest as he is another who will relish the faster surface.

A more obvious chance can be given to David Barron’s Hitchens who is another that hardly ever runs a poor race. He ran well in Meydan Graded races in the early part of the year and won last time out at Newmarket in the Listed Hopeful Stakes. Like Hawkeyethenoo however Hitchens is by no means overpriced for this contest at 14-1, and under similar conditions last year he got no nearer than ninth.

It seems unlikely that at the age of seven Hitchens will take his first Group One, (though Markab did just that two years ago), but at a similar price, French raider Wizz Kid surely has improvement enough in her at the age of four.

Robert Collet’s filly does not need to find a great deal on what she has already shown and, as the trainer himself said, he would not be bringing her over if he didn’t think she had a good chance.

After fifth-placed finishes in both the Nunthorpe and the Abbaye last year Wizz Kid put up her best performance to date over Ascot’s six furlongs when runner-up to Deacon Blues in the inaugural Champion Sprint Stakes.

Those were excellent performances for a three-year-old and Wizz Kid has carried her form over to this season. She has already won a Group Two when very impressive at Chantilly on her first run of the year and was not disgraced when having a rough race in the King’s Stand.

But it was her last race that showed her to be a filly of some talent when finishing a clear second in the Prix Maurice De Gheest. She was unable to keep tabs on Moonlight Cloud who ran away with the race for the second year running, but the way Wizz Kid came clear of a the rest of the field, including July Cup runner-up The Cheka and King’s Stand third Restiadargent, was impressive.

Considering the low levels of participation, French horses have done well in this race since it became a Group One in 1988, taking it four times in twenty years (with Marchand D’or also second in 2009), and in Wizz Kid they have another challenger who could take this prize at a tasty 12-1 (Stan James).

(Ed - note that Wizz Kid is the Pricewise tip so the price is likely to move overnight but possibly spring back closer to racetime)

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