Reverence 'in top form' for Sprint Cup challenge
ERIC ALSTON believes Reverence is in top form as the seven-year-old bids to become only the second horse to win the Betfred Sprint Cup twice.
The only dual scorer is Be Friendly, who took the first two runnings of Haydock Park's showpiece in 1966 and 1967.
Reverence took the prize in 2006, just nine days after he won the Nunthorpe Stakes, but was unable to defend his crown last September having met with a setback.
He has yet to relive those heady days - though he did win over Haydock's straight 6f earlier in the season.
"He's in great order, the best we've had him all year, but he'll need to be," said the trainer.
Although Reverence revels in the mud, Alston is worried about the amount of rain that has already fallen, and what may have arrived by Saturday.
"The weather is dreadful. We're 25 miles from Haydock and we've had horrendous rain," he added.
"We've had terrible weather on Thursday morning. Friday is supposed to be the worst day, I just hope they've got the days wrong.
"You don't know what the ground's going to be like with it being covered up.
"He's drawn high which normally, would be a good draw. You just wouldn't know, but we're very hopeful."
While Reverence is proven on heavy ground, Corrybrough is not - which is of concern to his trainer Henry Candy.
"They all have to be worried about the ground as it will be atrocious after the next 36 hours - and that is if it even takes place," he said.
"If it does go ahead, it will be more like a seven-furlong race which wouldn't suit him, but I've no idea how he'd go on the ground.
"If it was a Group 3, I wouldn't bother running him but as it's a Group 1, we'll have a go."
Jeremy Noseda has declared Strike The Deal - despite thinking along similar lines.
"We have declared him and will keep a close watch on the weather over the next 48 hours," said Noseda.
"It is not going to be a strongly contested Group 1 sprint and as he has performed well on soft before, we thought we'd let him take his chance," the Newmarket trainer told his official website, www.jeremynoseda.com.
The track is still raceable, although clerk of the course Kirkland Tellwright reports conditions to be very testing.
Much of the home straight is currently covered with waterproof covers and this is a move which is working well, according to Tellwright.
"The covers appear to be doing their bit and as we are racing on fresh ground in the back straight, the ground was always going to be in a better state there than it is in the home straight," he said.
"Our frost covers are not waterproof so they would not be a lot of good in this situation and the covers we have are actually hired from a company that have a contract with the FA to cover football pitches.
"We took the covers off on Tuesday to mow the grass but they have been on since then and with it being quote warm under there, the grass is growing rapidly.
"The plan now is to leave the covers on as we will not abandon because the grass is too long.
"The rest of the course is obviously heavy and the forecast is not bad today, not good tomorrow and showers on Saturday," Tellwright told At The Races.
"We are being realistic and the message is one of cautious optimism."
A maximum field of 17 has been declared including French raider African Rose and three from Aidan O'Brien's stable - US Ranger, Astronomer Royal and Abraham Lincoln.
There is one reserve, the 2003 winner Somnus, who will only get the chance to run in the race for the sixth successive year if any of the original 17 are withdrawn by 10.30am on Friday.