Sportsman Racing: Bated Breath at Haydock

Welcome to our latest column from Scott Armstrong of The Sportsman tipster service.

Each Friday, Scott will be provide us with a rundown of all the best weekend racing action – all the key  horses to follow and those to oppose. You can also find a recap from him each Monday on the SBC Blog with his reaction to the weekend’s events. Thorough, frank and not afraid to take a contrary view Scott Armstrong is a racing man whose opinion you can’t afford to be without.

Flush from his 12/1 winner Mehdi last Saturday, This week Scott has turned his attention to the Sprint Cup at Haydock, where he picks apart each of the main contenders and highlights a 7/1 shot he fancies as value to claim the title of ‘King of the Sprinters’.

Saturday host’s a fine array of racing with the Heritage Handicap at Ascot worth a pot of £150,000 and Scotland enjoying the Betfair Champions Day at Musselburgh. One horse I like the look of is Eton Rifles in the Class 2 Ascot handicap at 3.15. The six-year-old gelding comfortably landed a handicap of the same class at Goodwood last week and looks set to put up another bold performance. The biggest betting extravaganza on Saturday though is the Group 1, Class 1 Sprint Cup the 3.35 on Haydock’s card and that’s the race I’m focusing on.

The Haydock Sprint cup will decide the King of the sprinters with the 6 furlong dash paying host to a very competitive line up. The withdrawal of ante-post favourite Deacon Blues during the week has led to a tight betting market with two horses – Dream Ahead and Hoof It currently tied for favouritism at 9-2.

David Simcock’s Dream Ahead is highest rated among the sixteen runner field on both BHA and Timeform ratings. The three-year-old colt romped home in the July Cup, his third Group 1 success, proving he’s a class act. Inconsistency however is part of his make-up as shown in his most recent outing where he could finish only seventh in the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville. Simcock could offer no explanation for that lacklustre performance simply saying “We hope it was a bad day at the office”. There are a couple of other negatives surrounding Dream Ahead – the fact he has never ran at Haydock and potentially drying ground won’t be to his favour.

Hoof It has been one of the most memorable horses of the flat season after a brilliant handicap performance in the Stewards Cup at Goodwood under top weight when winning comfortably by two and a half lengths. Graham Gibbons replaces Kieran Fallon aboard Hoof It and Mick Easterby’s charge will find this a tough test with the Group 1 opposition he must face. Gibbons is a decent jock who knows Hoof It well having won three times on him but the experienced Fallon would have been the preferred rider. The step back in trip will suit Hoof It and he should be thereabouts but 9-2 looks tight enough.

Bated Breath Should Go Well

Bated Breath is a horse I like who holds every chance of landing his first Group 1 win. The Met Office’s prediction of dry weather will suit Roger Charlton’s four-year-old colt to a tee as any chance he held in the Nunthorpe at York was negated by the sticky surface and an inadequate 5 furlongs. If the Met office calls this one right (what’s the odds on that?) this horse has massive claims after being unlucky to come up against Dream Ahead on top form in the July Cup. Roger Charlton is quietly confident following a nice preparation for the race and Bated Breath holds two wins from two runs at Haydock, a flat track which suits his style of running. He should run a bold race.

The withdrawal of Deacon Blues has left stable mate Society Rock to fight the corner for handler James Fanshawe. Versatile on a variety of surfaces Society Rock is a proven Group 1 performer, having both won and finished second in the last two Golden Jubilees. Coming into the race with a clean bill of health after missing the July Cup with a foot problem he merits respect though on the ratings may just fall a little short on Saturday.

Godolphin’s Delegator has another opportunity to prove he belongs to the top table but I couldn’t back him with confidence following his flop in the Lennox Stakes.

It’s notable that nine of the last ten winners have been 14-1 or less and those runners at longer odds do look to be up against it.

Sole Power is entitled to be in this company, he likes the track and his preference is for good going. Doubts linger over the six furlongs trip though having never won at the distance with 5 furlongs his preference.

Elzaam, handled by Roger Varian received midweek support but is a moody sort. He has progressed as a three-year-old winning a listed race very comfortably and then finishing fourth in the Golden Jubilee – a fine effort given he looked to be on the wrong side of the track. Undoubtedly talented but a risky betting proposition given his below par effort and questionable application in the July Cup.

Richard Fahey’s three-year-old colt Wootton Bassett will only run if the ground is suitably decent. A Group 1 winner in France last season his last run when fifth at Deauville suggested a return to form may be imminent. He drops back to 6 furlongs, his first sprint race this term and that may offer hope to his backers, but it’s a risk putting your money on him returning to his best.

Masamah Kevin Ryan’s Masamah has had decent season and has the assistance of Jamie Spencer in the saddle but like Sole Power would prefer 5 furlongs.

Bewitched is the sole filly in the race and has been attracting some midweek support but would need to find significant improvement to get involved.

In conclusion a tricky race from a betting angle in a very competitive renewal. Provided the ground doesn’t cut up Bated Breath looks sure to run a solid performance and he can be backed each-way at 7-1 with Ladbrokes, William Hill and Victor Chandler.

Scott Armstrong


Scott’s service is one of the many racing and sporting tipsters that we monitor and recommend at the Smart Betting Club.