Al has Champion look
Channel 4 commentator Simon Holt previews a busy Saturday of racing in Britain and Ireland.
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It's a hugely busy Saturday of racing in Britain and Ireland with Haydock's Group One Betfred Sprint Cup highlighting the action east of the Irish Sea.
The draw looks fascinating here as LETHAL FORCE, the season's leading sprinter, has drawn stall one on the far side where he will have big rival Gordon Lord Byron (second to Society Rock in this race last year) for likely company.
- 1.5pts Goodwood Mirage at best morning price in 1530 Ascot - his form is working out well and expected to appreciate the step up in trip
- 1.5pts Lethal Force at best morning price in 1550 Haydock - the season's leading sprinter holds a favourite's chance
- 1pt Kenhope at best morning price in 1745 Leopardstown - proven performer at this level who won't be inconvenienced by any rain
- 2pts win Al Kazeem at best morning price in 1850 Leopardstown - the form pick on his early season victories and has conditions to suit
Connections of the Diamond Jubilee and July Cup winner feel that the grey wasn't quite at his best subsequently in the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville when outpaced by the top class Moonlight Cloud (Gordon Lord Byron just under a length back in third) but the winner's subsequent victory in the Prix Jacques le Marois proves it was still a good run.
Lethal Force must have a favourite's chance on any one of his previous three outings but the one concern is that trainer Clive Cox reports that he wouldn't like it too soft.
The speedy Heeraat (drawn three) could well press for the early lead and his narrow defeat by Nunthorpe Stakes winner Jwala at York and decisive win from Hamza at Newbury most recently were the efforts of a progressive speedster.
At double-figure odds and with form on good-to-soft ground, he looks a possible each-way bet though six furlongs on the likely going might just stretch him.
If there is a draw bias - and it favours stand side runners - then Slade Power (from stall 14) - could be a threat to all.
Edward Lynam's colt also beat Hamza at The Curragh two outings ago and then got upset in the stalls before running below-form in the Nunthorpe over five furlongs. This trip looks his ideal and a draw advantage could easily see him close the gap on Lethal Force who beat him into third in the July Cup.
Garswood, a strong-finishing winner of the seven-furlong Lennox Stakes at Glorious Goodwood, is another interesting runner dropping back in distance and with the forecasted rain likely to fall in his favour.
So much seems to hinge on the weather but, if the ground remains good or just a smidgin softer, then Lethal Force could be an unstoppable force once again.
At Ascot, GOODWOOD MIRAGE looks an interesting contender for the Ladbrokes Mobile Handicap stepping up to a mile and a half for the first time.
William Knight's big, handsome colt has run really solidly in all starts this season; he won going away at Goodwood (10f) in June before running-on into fourth behind the classy Maputo at Newmarket (10f) and then staying on well again behind the beautifully-bred and impressive Retirement Plan back at Goodwood over 11 furlongs.
It could be that Goodwood Mirage was taking on something special on that latest assignment and the form has been quite well boosted since. Although this looks a highly competitive event - trainer Mark Johnston holds a particularly strong hand with Royal Skies and Special Meaning - I am expecting a big run.
At Leopardstown, weather - and consequently - ground conditions may also have a heavy influence on the Group One Red Mills Champion Stakes.
If the rain comes in sufficient amounts, it seems likely that Roger Charlton will give AL KAZEEM the green light to run and, with give underfoot, this super-tough five-year-old is fancied to turn the tables on Declaration Of War and Trading Leather for their running in last month's Juddmonte International at York.
Al Kazeem wouldn't let himself down on the fast ground that day but looks the form pick on his earlier victories in the Prince Of Wales's Stakes (The Fugue third) and the Coral-Eclipse in which he beat Declaration Of War by a decisive two lengths.
Declaration Of War is a credit to Aidan O'Brien and this will be his seventh Group One appearance of the season. Should Al Kazeem be withdrawn, he would again be the one to beat and, far from feeling his races, he seems to be getting better.
The Fugue returned to her best with a classy win in the Yorkshire Oaks but, unlike Al Kazeem, she relished the prevailing ground at the Ebor meeting and the forecasted rain would diminish her chances here. And this has to be tougher taking on the boys.
One-time classic favourite Kingsbarns is a fascinating second runner for O'Brien making a belated return to racing after a series of muscular problems.
Unbeaten in two starts as a juvenile, the form of his Racing Post Trophy win last autumn has not really worked out but, beyond question, he looked a talented horse at Doncaster.
Earlier, the Group One Coolmore Fusaichi Pegasus Matron Stakes has attracted a sub-standard field in which the French challenger KENHOPE looks the one to beat.
Second to Sky Lantern in the Coronation Stakes at Royal Ascot and third behind Elusive Kate at Deauville subsequently, the daughter of Kendargent has proven herself well up to this level (unlike most of the opposition) and will not be inconvenienced by a drop of rain.
Just Pretending is also a solid Group One performer having been placed in both Irish fillies classics this season and appears the obvious danger. But she will need to be ridden very positively on this return to a mile.