Baccarat is thrown in at the deep end in the Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock this afternoon.
Richard Fahey’s five-year-old does not have many miles on the clock for one his age and after hitting the crossbar on his first couple of starts of the season, he ran away with the Wokingham off a mark of 105.
He has not been seen since Royal Ascot and takes a massive step up to Group One company, but trainer Fahey thinks he is ready to take on the big boys.
“He’s in good form. We’re happy with him. He has 6lb to find (on top-rated Sole Power), but we’ll see what happens,” said the Malton handler.
“It was a good performance in the Wokingham and if he’s in that sort of form he’ll have a chance.”
Sole Power is arguably the best five-furlong speedster in the world and landed his second Nunthorpe on Knavesmire last month to add to his two King’s Stands.
Handler Eddie Lynam said: “The ground seems okay. He’s drawn in the middle (nine), which doesn’t seem a bad draw, and he’s in good form. We’re hopeful of the best. He needs to settle and you wouldn’t need to be too bright to realise he’s probably better over five, but I believe he’ll get six and we’re going to let him take his chance as he seems in very good form. It’s the last Group One sprint over in England, so we’re having a shot at it.”
Gordon Lord Byron bids to become only the second horse to win the Sprint Cup twice following the exploits of Be Friendly, who won the first two runnings in 1966 and 1967.
Trainer Tom Hogan reports the globe-trotting six-year-old to be 100 per cent again after being under-par in the summer. “He suffered a bit of a back injury at Royal Ascot which he had to be medicated for, and he also had some issues with his feet, but they are all sorted now,” he said.
“He is ready for a winter campaign in some far-flung places and Saturday is his first task. He has loads of international invites but we will take a decision about where he goes after Saturday – he should just be reaching his peak now at the age of six.
“In terms of the ground, the only thing he can’t manage is heavy. He floats on fast ground and he ran one of the best races of his life on firm when he was second in this race two years ago in an extremely fast time, despite being drawn on the wrong side where there was no pace.
“He has also twice run well in Hong Kong on very fast ground, which he loved, so firm ground is not an issue.
“They tell me that the only horse to win this race twice was Be Friendly many years ago and I remember him racing for Sir Peter O’Sullevan. Last year I was told that he was the first Irish winner for 40 years so he is used to making history and, hopefully, we can make a bit more on Saturday.
“It has been a wonderful experience to have a horse capable of taking me to so many different places and performing at the highest level. He is pretty unique as he is effective over six furlongs, seven furlongs and a mile.
“It has been the stuff of dreams and, hopefully, there are plenty more chapters to be written. We will certainly be a while looking for another one like him when he’s gone.”
Also at Haydock, Lincoln hero Ocean Tempest aims for his first Group-race success in the Superior Mile.
The grey reappears just seven days after a gutsy handicap success at Chester, and trainer John Ryan said: “Ideally, he’d want it a bit softer. It’s not going to impede him from running, but if it was a bit softer it puts the race more in our favour. Adam Kirby, who rides him, has walked the course and he said it’s safe.”