TOP trainer Richard Fahey hopes his gamble with the weather pays off and that his highly-rated Garswood can come of age at Group One level and land Haydock’s Betfred Sprint Cup.
Even though he declared his stable star on Thursday when the going was lightning quick, the North Yorkshire trainer hopes that the forecast rain will fall in sufficient quantities to soften conditions before this afternoon’s feature.
He is not alone. Roger Charlton was another hoping for a cloud burst to enhance horse of the year Al Kazeem’s chances of landing a fourth Group One winner this summer in the prestigious Red Mills Irish Champion Stakes at Leopardstown after finding the York ground too quick last month.
In total contrast, connections of Yorkshire Oaks heroine The Fugue – owned and bred by composer Andrew Lloyd-Webber and his wife Madeleine – were hoping that the Irish course dodged the anticipated rain.
The uncertain outlook begins a pivotal week in the Flat racing calendar that will culminate a week today with the Ladbrokes St Leger, the last of the 2013 Classics, being run at Doncaster.
It was not just climatic considerations which influenced Fahey’s thinking; he believes that this top-class performer, owned by David Armstrong and the Cheveley Park Stud, will be suited by the shorter trip of six furlongs.
A winner of Newmarket’s European Free Handicap in April, he was a disappointing seventh to Dawn Approach in the 2000 Guineas over a mile before finally justifying Fahey’s faith by taking the Group Two Lennox Stakes at Glorious Goodwood over seven furlongs on his last outing.
Like then, Garswood will be ridden today by former champion jockey Ryan Moore and the trainer expects to know his fate at daybreak today.
“With the rain due to arrive, I just had to put Garswood in the Betfred Sprint Cup at Haydock,” said Fahey.
“Frankly, I’m just hoping they get what they are saying they might get and a little bit more besides. It’s not so much that he needs soft ground, although he does appreciate some give, but the drop back to six furlongs that would be the worry if the rain doesn’t come.
“To be honest, it once again illustrates the folly of 48-hour declarations. Look at the Ebor meeting at York and the horses that were taken out at the final stage who would have run if those thunderstorms had come earlier on Thursday.
“It’s a case of once bitten twice shy for me and I couldn’t stand the idea of leaving him out and watching a lot of rain arrive on Friday, so he’s running as things stand although as I say we’ll need to see what the weather does.
“He’s been in absolutely tip-top shape since Goodwood. There’s not a doubt in my mind that he’s good enough to win if everything falls right for him.”
One rival that Fahey will not have to worry about is Reckless Abandon after Clive Cox reported last year’s top juvenile to be lame.
Cox, whose Berkshire stables are owned by legendary jump jockey John Francome, still has the favourite in Lethal Force, winner of the Diamond Jubilee Stakes and July Cup this summer before playing second fiddle to Midnight Cloud in France last time out.
“He came back very well indeed from his run in France. He’s very full of himself,” said the Lambourn trainer.
Skipton-born William Haggas believes his two runners Heeraat and Rex Imperator go there with each-way claims.
Both have recorded notable successes this season with Heeraat taking the Group Three Hackwood Stakes at Newbury and Rex Imperator the Stewards’ Cup at Glorious Goodwood. His owners include Guiseley FC owner Steve Parkin, the entrepreneur behind Clipper Logistics.
“They are both well and I’m happy with them. I gather it’s rained there so I think it will suit Heeraat well,” said Haggas, son-in-law to Lester Piggott.
This race was first run in 1966 when Be Friendly carried the colours of Piggott’s great friend, BBC commentator Sir Peter O’Sullevan, to victory before the sprinter repeated the success the following year.
One of the most dramatic renewals came two years ago when William Buick had to survive a long stewards’ inquiry before Dream Ahead’s triumph was confirmed following a three-way tussle.
Yet it is ironic that Buick is among those praying for the weather to stay dry before The Fugue races in Ireland tonight.
She was the beneficiary of lightning quick ground at York – the four-year-old would not have been so effective 24 hours later after an unexpected overnight storm softened the going significantly.
Her task is a formidable one against the likes of Declaration Of War, Trading Leather and Al Kazeem, the first three home in York’s Juddmonte International last month.
“It was great to see her back to her best at York. It was a great performance from her and I was very pleased for the filly and all her connections,” said Buick.
“It’s going to be a tough race, taking on the colts, but hopefully the ground will be in her favour and I can’t see the track being a problem either. When they turn in at Leopardstown, you have to have that bit of speed and she has that. It’s a hard task, but she goes there in good form. She’s held in high regard by everybody. Let’s hope we can get lucky.”