All you need to know as hot-headed Harry bids to put Ascot nightmare behind him
32Red Sprint Cup (Group 1) | 6f | 3yo+ | ITV/RUK
Harry Angel proved an almighty presence on the track last year but didn't live up to his name in the stalls at Royal Ascot, betraying an impatience that will be put under the microscope yet again when he bids to reassert his status as Europe's top sprinter.
Not for the first time at Ascot he got worked up before the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, losing his composure at the start by kicking out in the stalls and getting his left hind leg caught on the running board.
He still had the leg raised when the stalls opened and as a result lost vital ground that cost him all hope of having a say in the first big sprint of the summer and caused physical damage that put him on the sidelines.
Although a small mark remains visible from the puncture wound Harry Angel sustained at Ascot, trainer Clive Cox hopes the experience has left no mental scars and is confident the best horse he has trained is in the best possible physical shape.
Harry Angel's five defeats have all been at Ascot. Elsewhere, including on two visits to Haydock, he is unbeaten.
"We have a bit of confidence there'll be no repeat," said Cox. "It really was a nightmare situation at Ascot and we've done as much as possible to work on his confidence in the stalls.
"The stalls have always been an area he's had an issue with. He's a typical sprinter who likes to get on with things and he managed to get away with it until Ascot. After getting his leg up it was impossible for him to jump off level with the field.
"We've done as much as possible to rectify that and we've worked very closely with the starters – I hope that'll become clear."
Harry Angel returns to Haydock on a mission to clinch a feat achieved only once in the history of the Sprint Cup. Underlining the size of the task the only horse to win the race back to back was Be Friendly in 1966 and 1967.
Heavy ground at Haydock nearly put paid to Harry Angel running a year ago, but he took his place and went on to win by four lengths.
Rain has again come to Haydock in greater quantities than expected and Cox said: "Last year we travelled up there with a lot of trepidation. I'm hopeful the track is in good enough nick as it has not been raced on since early August. My travelling head lad walked it on Thursday and felt we'd be fine."
He added: "Harry Angel is in great form. I'd have preferred to have run in the July Cup but the upside is that he's going into Saturday as a fresh horse. I guess every cloud has a silver lining.
"He holds the course record at Haydock on very fast ground. He's the best horse I've had anything to do with and the performance he put up in this race last year was scintillating."
Dettori flying in to ride James Garfield
Harry Angel is a heavy favourite but as you have to go back to Red Clubs in 2007 to find the last successful four-year-old, the statistics suggest the winner may come from the three-year-old contingent.
The younger brigade have claimed six of the last ten Sprint Cups and leading three-year-old James Garfield, who was supplemented this week, will have the significant assistance of Frankie Dettori, who is so integral to the horse that connections have arranged for him to be flown from Kempton after he has ridden Enable in the September Stakes.
James Garfield was denied a first Group 1 triumph when caught late by Polydream in the 6½f Prix Maurice de Gheest, but his young trainer George Scott believes the half-furlong shorter trip will be to his advantage.
"I've been delighted with his preparation," said Scott. "Frankie rode him on Tuesday and was really pleased with where the horse is at mentally.
"We'd be hoping they don't get too much rain but he has shown form with cut in the ground. He broke the Newbury track record over six furlongs and in the Maurice de Gheest he just faded in the last 150 yards.
"He's been an absolute warrior so far and it'd be awesome to win. We're a young team and it would be reward for the hard work of everyone involved with the yard."
Good time to attack
Sir Dancealot is the other challenger who was supplemented for the race after a golden summer in which he has landed the Criterion, Lennox and Hungerford Stakes as well as finishing fourth in the July Cup.
His trainer David Elsworth said: "The rain wouldn't worry him. I didn't want it firm, good would've been fine. It's gone a bit softer than that but he should cope.
"He seems to be in a rich vein of form and it's always a good time to attack a race when you're running as well as ever."
Murphy in for Man ride
The Tin Man, last year's Diamond Jubilee Stakes winner who finished third in the Sprint Cup, has a new jockey aboard for this assignment with Oisin Murphy replacing regular jockey Tom Queally.
He has finished fourth in the Diamond Jubilee and third in the Prix Maurice de Gheest this season, in both races running on in the final stages without able to trouble the principals.
Trainer James Fanshawe said: "He appears in good form and looks great. Hopefully the fresh ground on the sprint track will not be as testing as the course they've been racing on earlier this week.
"Ascot suits him down to the ground because it helps horses who finish well. He's run well in the Sprint Cup twice before, but both times it's been very soft ground. He has a nice turn of foot and it's just a case of having a bit of luck."
Eqtidaar has been available at twice the odds of Tasleet but Hamdan Al Maktoum's first jockey Jim Crowley has still opted to ride the Commonwealth Cup winner.
Eqtidaar finished ninth last time out, beaten under six lengths, in the July Cup. Tasleet, who finished runner-up to Harry Angel in last year's Sprint Cup, makes only his second appearance of 2018 since a third behind Merchant Navy in the Group 2 Greenlands Stakes.
Richard Hills, Sheikh Hamdan's assistant racing manager, said: "It was a hard decision for Jim but he took it on the basis that Eqtidaar has won a Group 1 and remains a horse for the future.
"Tasleet's form is good but he hasn't won a Group 1 race yet. If Harry Angel turns up he's going to be hard to beat. We couldn't beat him last year and there's no reason to say we can beat him this year."
Brando 'should be shorter'
Brando, whose trainer Kevin Ryan also saddles Hey Jonesy, came closest to toppling US Navy Flag in the July Cup, finishing second, but did not back it up in the Maurice de Gheest, the race he won a year earlier.
As a result his owner Peter Tingey believes he has been overlooked for the Sprint Cup, part of the Qipco British Champions Series.
"He should be a shorter price,” Tingey said. “He’s more or less finished in front of everything in the race at one time or another.
“We thought he ran a great race at Deauville last time, given his draw. He was first home on his side, but unfortunately he was drawn on the wrong part of the track."
New trip for Gustav
US Navy Flag sits out the Sprint Cup and instead his trainer Aidan O'Brien relies on Gustav Klimt, who has been contesting top mile events this year and faces only his second start at six furlongs.
"We've been playing with the idea of bringing Gustav Klimt back to six furlongs," said the trainer. "He's by Galileo and is out of a very fast mare [Massara, a 6f Listed winner]. He worked on Tuesday and we're very happy with him."
O'Brien: Colours still improving
Speak In Colours won the Group 3 Phoenix Sprint last time on his first start since finishing down the field in the Commonwealth Cup.
Trainer Joseph O'Brien, who has had only one winner from 23 runners in Britain this year, said: "Speak In Colours has been in good form and Haydock has always been the plan.
"He likes decent ground, but I think he'll handle softer conditions, so that might help him. He's improving all the time and has progressed with each run.
"He had one blip at Royal Ascot where he didn't get the best run through the race, but he's a lovely three-year-old colt and we're hopeful there is more improvement to come."
Hanagan back on Sands
Sands Of Mali beat James Garfield in the Sandy Lane at Haydock in May, was narrowly beaten in the Commonwealth Cup, was on the wrong side of the course in the July Cup and did not run his race in the Maurice de Gheest, when first-choice jockey Paul Hanagan was unavailable.
Hanagan is back on board here and trainer Richard Fahey said: "Nothing went right for him in his last two starts but he's been working really well at home and we know the track and any rain will suit."
Ground comes for Don
Donjuan Triumphant is also equipped to handle soft ground having won at the track on good to soft and heavy last year.
Trainer Andrew Balding said: "He hasn't run much this year because he doesn't want fast ground, but he ran a cracker when beaten half a length by Sir Dancealot in the Lennox Stakes. Things didn't go to plan in the City of York next time as he blew the bend and then got in a tussle for the lead."
Harry Angel's starting strife
July 2016 Irish Thoroughbred Marketing EBF Stallions Maiden, Goodwood
With one run under his belt Harry Angel is withdrawn at the start of this valuable maiden after becoming unruly in the stalls.
October 2017 Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes, Ascot
Taken early to post, he failed to get away cleanly when rearing as the gates opened and then pulled strongly through the first part of the race, which seemed to take its toll as he was beaten into fourth
May 2018 Duke of York Stakes, York
Became a little fired up in the stalls but, despite darting left, he was smartly away and was pushed out to win on his return to action.
June 2018 Diamond Jubilee Stakes, Ascot
Agitated when mounted, his mood had not improved by the time he got to the start. He became restless in the stalls, kicked out just before the gates opened and got his left hind leg caught on the running board preventing him from breaking on terms. He finished 11th of 12.
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