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Sunday, 16 December, 2018

Sandy Lane Stakes: key questions in a Commonwealth Cup trial that has it all

Heartache (Adam Kirby) winning the Queen Mary at Royal Ascot last year
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3.25 Haydock
Armstrong Aggregates Sandy Lane Stakes | Group 2 | 6f | 3yo| ITV4/RUK

Can Heartache continue Cox's good record?

Clive Cox unleashed subsequent July and Haydock Sprint Cup winner Harry Angel in this race last year, and he is back with another potential star in the shape of the speedy filly Heartache, who ran away with last year's Queen Mary at Royal Ascot.

However, Friday's rain was concerning Cox, who said: "I hope Haydock doesn’t get too much and I'll keep an eye on the ground as soft wouldn’t be her surface.

Harry Angel: won this race for Clive Cox last year

"She's done really well over the winter and has been training well. Martin [Harley] has had a sit on her at home as Adam [Kirby] can’t do the weight.

"It’s her first step up to six furlongs but I’m happy to do that and looking forward to getting her started."

Can James Garfield adjust to sprinting?

There is no doubt in George Scott's mind that sprinting is James Garfield's forte after his Classic adventure, which was born on the back of success in the Greenham.

The trainer said: "He ran with huge credit in the Guineas and has been in fantastic form since. We always felt he was a sprinter but after his Greenham win, we thought it was worth the roll of the dice.

James Garfield (left) wins the Greenham under Frankie Dettori at Newbury in April

"The plan has always been to come back to six furlong and use this as a prep for the Commonwealth Cup. What a trial it looks to be, it’s great to be involved."

Scott added: "He’s very versatile ground-wise, but I wouldn’t mind rain to take the raw speed out of the race. Silvestre [De Sousa] knows him well having galloped him plenty last year."

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Is there more to come from Mali?

Gimcrack winner Sands Of Mali warmed up with a narrow win in a Group 3 in France, with connections working back from the Commonwealth Cup next month, like most of this field.   

Sands Of Mali: made a winning reappearance in France

Trainer Richard Fahey said: "It's a great race and I'm very happy with him, he's in great form.

"I felt he needed a run, which is why he went to France, and the race has done him good. The ground will not be an issue as he goes on any."

Can Invincible Army reverse the form?

Invincible Army has not lived up to his name as both James Garfield and Sands Of Mali have got the better of him, but he started his three-year-old career with an impressive win at Ascot which led to his Commonwealth Cup price being cut to single figures, jumping ahead of his two-year-old conquerors.

Trainer James Tate said: "We always thought he was going to improve from two to three and he put in a very polished display at Ascot.

"I don't think the calibre of opposition is like what we're facing here as it's a very strong race, but I wouldn't be swapping him for anything.

"He's a good horse that goes on any ground and, with Ryan [Moore] on duty at the Curragh, we've booked James [Doyle], who rode Hey Gaman well to finish second for us in the French Guineas."

Is Barraquero the forgotten horse?

Barraquero could be the dark horse on the back of an absence since his Richmond Stakes win at a rain-swept Glorious Goodwood last August.

His only defeat came on debut behind Expert Eye and such is the esteem in which trainer Brian Meehan holds the colt, he ended his season early after he recovered from sore shins brought on by his Goodwood run.

"The sore shins was going to keep him out for six weeks and we decided to keep him for this year," explained Meehan. "I'm a little disappointed we didn't get an earlier start having pencilled him in for the Greenham.

Barraquero winning the Group 2 Richmond Stakes at Goodwood on his most recent start in August last year

"I'm really happy with him and to be back sprinting again, and he'll be a busier horse in the autumn.

"William [Buick] said after winning on him at Goodwood he'd be a better horse on better ground. He doesn't need soft but handled it better than the others at Goodwood."

What the rest say

Karl Burke, trainer of Unfortunately
He's in great order. It's his first start of the season but he's done plenty. Naturally he'll come on for it and any rain would be a positive, but it's a good race and looks a tough ask first up.

John Gosden, trainer of Emblazoned
He's way off most of these on ratings but did it nicely at Yarmouth and we thought we'd take a chance. He's a good-actioned horse and will like the ground if it stays fast.

Aidan O'Brien, trainer of Actress
She's in good form and is a filly with lots of speed. The ground and  trip will suit her.

Read exclusive previews of the big races at the Curragh, Haydock and Goodwood from 6pm tonight on


The plan has always been to come back to six furlong and use this as a prep for the Commonwealth Cup and what a trial it looks to be
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