It is eight years since the word “soft” failed to appear in the going description at Haydock on Sprint Cup day, so the connections of Starman may feel that Saturday’s Group One is payback for having missed out at Royal Ascot when the heavens opened mid-meeting back in June.
Ed Walker’s four-year-old is unbeaten on good ground or faster, and while he travelled well enough on good-to-soft at Deauville last month, the finishing kick that saw off the field in the July Cup was missing.
That Newmarket form gives Starman (3.35) the beating of several of Saturday’s rivals including Creative Force, the second-favourite, Art Power and Glen Shiel. Assuming that a freak storm does not blow through Lancashire overnight, any price around even money – which was available with at least one firm on Friday – is worth taking.
Haydock Park 1.45 The evergreen Lord Glitters is favoured by the weights but less so by a five-runner field with little competition for the lead, given his preference for closing off a strong pace. That could leave an opening for Maydanny, with Joe Fanning likely to deliver one of his impeccably-judged front-running rides.
Kempton Park 2.05 A wide-open renewal of this juvenile Group Three, with five of the eight runners priced up at 4-1 o 5-1 in the early betting. Of those, Scot’s Grace is the eye-catcher after a successful debut over course and distance in a strong time in early July.
Haydock Park 2.20 Valley Forge has been raised 7lb for a half-length success in the Melrose at York, but the way he cruised into contention before doing just enough suggested there was plenty left in the tank if required.
Kempton Park 2.40 Like the opener on ITV, a five-runner field and only one obvious pace-setter in Outbox. Hot favourite Hukum should have the class to chase him down, but there are better bets at bigger prices elsewhere on the afternoon’s card.
Haydock Park 2.55 Rhythmic Intent finished fourth in last year’s Old Borough Cup off a 1lb higher mark and appeared to be coming back to the boil at York last month. Stuart Williams may well have been working towards a return to Haydock all year and his five-year-old looks the pick of the prices at around 8-1.
Ascot 3.10 Alfaadhel has done little wrong in five starts this year and posted an excellent time when second at Goodwood in July. He races off the same mark here and the step up to 12 furlongs could see further improvement.
Ascot 3.45 Cliffs Of Capri saves his best form for this track and trip, including when finishing a close fourth behind Danyah in the International Handicap in July. At around 6-1, it could pay to forgive a below-par run at York last month.