Saturday sees the 52nd running of the Sprint Cup being run at Haydock Park, a race that features some of the fastest horses in Europe.
Be Friendly won the initial running of the race in 1966 and there is a statue in his memory right next to the paddock at the Merseyside track. Be Friendly registered back-to-back victories in 1966 and 1967 and is the only horse ever to do so thus far.
The Sprint Cup is steeped in history with Champions including classic sprinters such as the late Sir Peter O’Sullevan’s Be Friendly, Danehill and G-Force, and three times winning jockeys Lester Piggott, Pat Eddery and Willie Carson.
Here we take a look at the trends and statistics of the race, not over the past fifty-two years, but over a much more manageable ten year period.
Only two horses aged over five have been victorious in the past thirty years. That is quite an ominous sign for Brando and The Tin Man.
Fillies and mares are not to be dismissed lightly in this race. Since 2004 they have won three times and placed three times.
7/10 winners had finished in the first three places in a Group One race in their past two runs.
8/10 winners had won at least one sprint race that season prior to running in this race.
9/10 winners had won over 6f or 7f in their careers.
5/10 winners had at least one previous run at Haydock.
One of the most influential owners in the world, Sheikh Mohammed has an unenviable record in the race over the years.
He recorded four winners in his traditional maroon and white colours and he has registered two more victories under the auspices of Godolphin. Harry Angel would hand him a seventh success should he win on Saturday.
Seven out of the last ten winners came from a double-figure stall number.
The weather also appears to have a slight bearing on the draw. The two most recent high drawn winners won on ground the easy side of good, whilst the low drawn winners won when the going was firm.
Given that the going on Saturday is predicted to be softening up due to rain being forecast in the area then it may pay to side with a higher drawn horse.
Five of the last ten winners have been priced between 9/1 and 14/1.
Favourites have won four times in the last ten years.
Other Key Trends
Rating: 7/10 winners had a rating of 111 or higher.
Group Wins: 8/10 winners had at least one win in a Group race.
Season Form: 9/10 winners had at least three runs that season, 9/10 winners had at least one previous win that season.
The four-year-old made mincemeat of the opposition in the 2017 renewal, scoring by four-lengths from Tasleet and ending the year as the highest-rated sprinter in the world with a rating of 125 in the Longines World's Best Racehorse Rankings.
Harry Angel made a winning return in the Duke Of York Stakes at York in May, but has not raced since injuring himself in the stalls at Royal Ascot on June 23rd.
Tasleet is having his first start since finishing third in the Greenlands Stakes at the Curragh in May.
The supplemented pair of James Garfield and Sir Dancealot come into the race on the back of career-best performances.
James Garfield was agonisingly worn down near the line in the Prix Maurice de Gheest over six and a half furlongs at Deauville on August 5th , while Sir Dancealot didn’t let a penalty curtail him winning the seven-furlong Hungerford Stakes at Newbury on August 18th.
The Tin Man boasts a great record in the Sprint Cup, having finished second in 2016 and third 12 months ago. The six-year-old will be ridden by in-form jockey Oisin Murphy and the weather is certainly a positive for his chances.
The Richard Fahey-trained Sands Of Mali took the Sandy Lane Stakes over course and distance in May, a feat also achieved by the past two winners of the Sprint Cup which is a good omen for connections.
Sir Michael Stoute is represented by three-year-old Eqtidaar, who had Sands Of Mali just in behind him when landing the Commonwealth Cup at Royal Ascot.
The Aidan O'Brien-trained Gustav Klimt and Speak In Colours, trained by his son Joseph O'Brien, are the two Irish contenders for Saturday's Sprint Cup.
Gustav Klimt was last seen finishing fifth in the Hungerford Stakes at Newbury three while Speak In Colours was victorious in the Phoenix Sprint Stakes at the Curragh in mid-August.
Brando finished ninth behind Harry Angel last year, but part owner Peter Tingey believes the six-year-old should be shorter in the betting despite finishing unplaced when in the Prix Maurice de Gheest on his latest start. He has pointed out that at one time or another Brando has finished in front of most of his rivals in this race.
Brando’s trainer, Kevin Ryan, also saddles Hey Jonesy who looks to be totally up against it.
Andrew Balding’s Donjuan Triumphant won the re-scheduled “Ayr Gold Cup” here over course and distance last season and will relish underfoot conditions should the forecast showers arrive.
Whether he will be good enough in this grade remains to be seen but the British weather can be one hell of a leveller sometimes.
According to reports Clive Cox has left no stone unturned in this quest to have Harry Angel fully tuned up and fit for the defence of his crown, so obviously he will be a tough nut to crack.
However, I’m not overly keen on taking 5/4 about any horse returning from injury so I will be siding with the brave Prix Maurice de Gheest runner-up, James Garfield, to kick-on again from his Deauville exertions.
888sport suggests: James Garfield (e/w).
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*