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Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes (Group One)
It clearly takes a top-class sprinter to win this six-furlong sprint but with over £340,000 to the winner that should come as no great surprise. Household names such as Slade Power, Gordon Lord Byron, and most recently The Tin Man have all been engraved on the trophy, and with only two of the last eleven winners starting at a double figure price, it appears the punters may well have an edge over the bookmakers as well. This year’s renewal seems sure to be as hot as ever, read on for our ante-post race preview for the British Champion Sprint this October.
Looking at the long list of early entries (forty-one as things stand), and the stand out form horse just has to be the Clive Cox trained Harry Angel, a Godolphin owned colt who announced his true abilities to the World when winning the Group One July Cup at Newmarket when beating Limato and Brando by a length and a quarter and half a length, with the odds-on Caravaggio back in fourth. The son of Dark Angel has now won four of his seven starts and finished second in the other three and has any amount of room for further improvement. The latest of those came in the Haydock Sprint Cup, where he showed that heavy ground is no issue to him. With soft ground often the order of the day in the autumn, that is a potential concern from mid-summer now crossed off the list. Three-year-olds have a decent enough record in this contest with five of the last eleven winners thanks to their weight concession from their elders, and he looks to be fully deserving of his place at the head of the market, looking very much the horse they all have to beat.
James Fanshawe is one of our more popular trainers, mainly because he says things as they are, without too much hyperbole and if The Tin Man is still at his peak then he has an each way chance of repeating last season’s victory in 2017. When the race falls his way he is difficult to beat and he did beat Tasleet a neck over course and distance in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at the Royal meeting in June, and with a track record that reads 14811 from his five starts he clearly saves his best for this track. He does have five lengths to make up with Harry Angel on Newmarket form but is five pounds better off with his conqueror now and is hard to write off back at this track today.
Taking that race as the latest top-class form to work with and Brando comes in to the equation having finished third that day for trainer Kevin Ryan. Now aged five he ought to be reaching his peak in sprinting terms and he did prove that run was no fluke when winning the Group One Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville in early August (Caravaggio back in sixth), and unlike some he doesn’t mind plenty of cut in the ground which is more than possible in October. He will need to become just the second of his age group to win this in twelve years but statistics are there to be disproved and at his best, he is another with a decent chance here.
Aidan O’Brien’s Caravaggio is one of the hardest to judge and has gone from being described as the best sprinter of the last twenty years to a has been in the space of two races. After winning his first six races the Ballydoyle marketing machine went in to overdrive with “he’s the fastest we have ever had” type quotes being bandied about left right and centre, but he only finished a length and three quarter fourth to Harry Angel, Limato, and Brando at Newmarket and failed to bounce back as expected when a four and a half-length sixth to Brando at Deauville. He got himself back on track to a certain extent when landing the Group 2 Flying Five Stakes last time out. While that performance was still a fair way short of his best, it was if nothing else a step back in the right direction.
Looking at the betting and it appears that the participation of Battaash is open to question with wildly differing odds being quoted for the Charlie Hills colt at the time of writing from 6/1 all the way up to 20/1. He is a super-fast sort who impressed at Sandown (twice) and Goodwood before a five and a quarter length fourth to Marsha at York last time out. All of those wins were over five furlongs and he did fail on his only attempt at this six furlong trip at Doncaster but that was as a juvenile and he is entitled to be stronger now with another winter behind him. His last run did make him look a bit one pace and it may even be that he is not yet up to Group One standard, but if he can win on the stiff five at Sandown then he has every chance of getting this trip and it could even bring about the necessary improvement.
One last one for now and Godolphin have a decent enough reserve for Harry Angel in the shape of Blue Point who has always been held in high regard at the Charlie Appleby yard and could yet be a big priced each way alternative. He did beat Harry Angel by a length and a half here at Ascot over course and distance on his seasonal return before finishing third to Caravaggio and Harry Angel at Royal Ascot in the Commonwealth Cup. Je was behind Harry Angel in the Haydock Sprint Cup so clearly has ground to make up, but he enjoys his racing at this track so a return here could help him.