David Cleary sifts through the form book in search of a value option against hot favourite Starman in Saturday's big race...
"Gustavus Weston has the most obvious claims of the four. He's been better than ever on his last three starts, winning twice at the Curragh, a Group 2 and a Group 3, both over six furlongs. Carrying a penalty in the latter, he made short work of some useful rivals."
Fourteen stand their ground at the latest declaration stage for the Betfair Sprint Cup at Haydock on Saturday. With Dragon Symbol not among the number, the July Cup winner Starman has strong claims for lifting a second Group 1 prize. After all, he beat nine of his possible rivals in that very race at Newmarket, also beating four of those in the Duke of York's Stakes in May for good measure.
That Starman can be backed at odds against - he's 2.3811/8 with the Betfair Sportsbook - is down to his defeat in the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville early in August. Starman could finish no better than third that day, clearly a fair way below form, with going on the soft side the obvious excuse. With no rain in the forecast, conditions look set to be good or firmer at the weekend (barring overwatering), which ought to be ideal for Starman to return to the sort of form he showed at Newmarket.
Glen Shiel up to being placed again
The next trio in the market were all in Starrman's wake in the July Cup, Art Power, Creative Force and Glen Shiel finishing fourth, fifth and sixth. Art Power has since run well below form in the King George Stakes at Goodwood, once again failing to fire at five furlongs. He bounced back from a poor run in the Nunthorpe last year to finish fourth in the Sprint Cup two weeks later and clearly could well do so again. He's made the frame in Group 1 sprints on four of his last six outings and evidently such a finish is on the cards again. Why he should beat Starman is harder to argue.
Glen Shiel is another who needs to bounce back, having been well beaten in the Maurice de Gheest. His record at Group 1 level over the last year is otherwise a cracking one - he was runner-up in this in 2020, then won the Champions Sprint and he was second in the Diamond Jubilee at Royal Ascot. He's been such a reliable sort for his current yard that a return to his best seems more likely than not. However, it's worth pointing out that he's run just once on firmer than good since coming from France in 2019.
In contrast to that pair, Creative Force has run creditably since the July Cup, finishing runner-up in the Lennox Stakes at Goodwood. Although he has three wins at six furlongs this year, he was a bit short of pace at a crucial stage in the July Cup and it's possible a flat six under potentially quick conditions will catch him out. He also holds an entry over seven in the Park Stakes at Doncaster the following week, which could be a better option.
Supremacy most interesting of July Cup also-rans
The next three home in the July Cup were Brando, Garrus and Chil Chil, who all hold entries on Saturday. Brando has since finished just a head behind Starman at Deauville, though that was more an indication of how far below form Starman was, Brando having been beaten a fair bit further at both York and Newmarket. Garrus (winner of the Prix du Meautry) and Chil Chil (fifth in the Nunthorpe) have also run with credit since, but frankly none of the trio ought to be good enough.
The same is true of Emaraaty Ana, eleventh in the July Cup, and Summerghand, seventeenth, though both have run as well as they ever have since, Emaraaty Ana seen to maximum effect when runner-up in the Nunthorpe, Summerghand a clear-cut winner at listed level on the Saturday just gone. That both have also been entered in a listed event at York on Sunday suggests the level of connections' ambitions.
Which leaves Supremacy of the July Cup 10. He's had a season to forget so far, last of eight when odds on for the Pavilion Stakes at Ascot in May, withdrawn from the Commonwealth Cup due to the soft ground and beating just four home in the July Cup. Supremacy was a good two-year-old, winning the Middle Park, and his stable, that of Clive Cox, is in the best form it's been in all year. But Supremacy was sent off at 40/1 at Newmarket, so makes limited appeal at just a fifth of those odds for the Sprint Cup.
If one of those beaten in the July Cup is to win on Saturday, then either they need to step up a fair bit or they need Starman to run below form. None of them looks a win bet at the odds available. In any case, it's often a good ploy to look for different form lines when so many bring essentially the same form with them. Which brings us to the quartet that didn't contest the July Cup.
Gustavus form puts him firmly in the frame
Gustavus Weston has the most obvious claims of the four. He's been better than ever on his last three starts, winning twice at the Curragh, a Group 2 and a Group 3, both over six furlongs. Carrying a penalty in the latter, he made short work of some useful rivals and even if the form wasn't the deepest it showed his well-being, running to a level making him good enough to challenge for the places at least.
Gustavus Weston made all last time, and although he doesn't always lead, he's likely to sit handy, which is likely to be ideal under the expected conditions.
Happy Romance and Vadream are a pair that are much more patiently ridden as a rule, Vadream regularly shaping as if she has a better performance in her, either set too much to do or finding trouble, though this level is likely to be beyond her. Happy Romance is a splendid filly, who comes here after winning the Group 3 Hackwood Stakes at Newbury. She's likely to run as well as she's able, but it's hard to see that being sufficient.
Nando Parrado: return to six a plus
The wild card is Nando Parrado, though it would require a considerable leap of faith to back him for Saturday. He's been in the wilderness for a year, with his dismal efforts this term seeing him start at progressively longer odds. He did hint at a revival in the Hungerford at Newbury last time, when he was lit up in blinkers first time. He got loose on the lead that day, whether he can perform in similar fashion over a furlong shorter against proven Group 1 sprinters is the question.
It should be pointed out, however, that Nando Parrado's two best runs, the only ones that give him even a squeak, came at six furlongs, when winning the Coventry and runner-up in the Prix Morny, and he hasn't run over the trip since. He's another with an entry at York on Sunday, and with his stable also having Supremacy in this, the sensible option would be to wait and back him when he turns up at York.
It is, then, hard to get away from Starman, but he is priced accordingly. Each way thievery might make Glen Shiel tempting each way. However, the best, possible only, option for a bet in the win market at this stage looks to be Gustavus Weston, available at 10.09/1 with the Betfair Sportsbook.
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