What are the best bets for the Champions Sprint Stakes?
The Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes at Ascot on Saturday (due off 1.20pm) comes under the scrutiny of our resident tipster.
After clearly not staying a mile in the French 2000 Guineas, Muhaarar has rattled off three consecutive victories over 6f at the highest level, thus becoming the first British Sprinter since Dayjur in 1990 to land three Group 1s in the same season. Given a break since the latest of those, the Prix Maurice de Greet at Deauville in August, he is reported to be in great shape by his trainer Charlie Hills, who will have had this race in mind since his course and distance success at the royal meeting. He’ll be hoping the weather forecast is right as his charge is definitely better on ground no slower than good – currently “good to soft” with no rain forecast.
Who else is fancied?
He will have to be at or near to his best, mind, as he faces some seriously fast rivals, possibly headed by Henry Candy’s Twilight Son, who kept his unbeaten record (5-5) intact when landing the Group 1 Sprint Cup at Haydock last time. He will have to settle a bit better over this stiff 6f, though, as he appeared to be running on empty close home and only just held on from the re-opposing Strath Burn, who has reportedly thrived since.
The Tin Man is the only other runner at a single-figure price – due to the fact Muhaarar is taking a large chunk out other market – and it’s easy to see why. Always highly regarded, he made mincemeat of his rivals in a competitive handicap over track and trip a couple of weeks ago and he wouldn’t be the first horse to make a successful transition from handicaps to Group company in this division. His half-brother Deacon Blues won this very race in 2011 and connections clearly think he can emulate that horse, having forked out £40,000 to supplement him.
Any decent outsiders?
Last year’s winner Gordon Lord Byron is back for more, but he doesn’t arrive in such good form and this year’s renewal looks tougher. Danzeno pulled too hard when sixth in the Sprint Cup and has since won a small conditions race at Musselburgh, so he might do better here. The rest are much harder to fancy and I just hope that the likely big field (which includes several no-hopers) doesn’t result in too many hard luck stories as the hold-up horses will need the gaps to come at the right time.
Who’s going to win then?
Muhaarar has proved himself to be the best sprinter around and he will win if running up to his best and granted some luck in running. However, bookmakers are hardly giving him away at just 2/1 and with some niggling doubts – ground won’t be as fast as he likes, no obvious pacemaker in the race to bring his stamina into play – I’ve got to take him on. Step forward his stablemate STRATH BURN ran an absolute cracker at Haydock last time and his trainer is sounding quite bullish about his chances, saying: “He’s absolutely thrived since then and I don’t think I could have got a horse better for a race – I couldn’t be more pleased with the way he looks and he did a great piece of work last week.” At 12/1 with Ladbrokes, he’ll do for me!