Mark Milligan picks out three to side with on Saturday, including one at a handsome price on the Betfair card at Haydock...
"Stepped up in trip at Sandown last time, nothing went right for Praiano, who shaped much better than the bare result having been short of room early in the straight before finishing to good effect from a long way back."
There's a cracking day of action on Saturday, highlighted by Haydock's Group 1 Betfair Sprint Cup at 15:30. The card at Haydock also features a couple of interesting stakes races, while fans of competitive handicaps are equally well catered for. Elsewhere in the country, there are also strong offerings at Ascot, Kempton and Thirsk on what promises to be a fast and furious day of racing.
Starman is undoubtedly the headline act in the Sprint Cup, and he'll be looking to bounce back from a slightly below-par effort in the Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville last time, where he could finish only third to the winning machine Marianafoot, who was registering an eighth success in row there.
Given Starman was encountering ground softer than good for only the second time in his career (well beaten on an easy surface as a juvenile), and the extra half-furlong probably stretched him a little, that effort wasn't too bad, though obviously it was some way below the level he hit when winning the July Cup.
For all that Starman is rightly favourite, he won't have it all his own way and faces stiff opposition in the shape of Godolphin's Creative Force. Charlie Appleby's charge has flourished this term, completing a four-timer in the Jersey Stakes at Royal Ascot in June.
He was perhaps just found wanting for a bit of know-how when fifth to Starman in the July Cup before finishing runner-up in Goodwood's Lennox Stakes last time.
I'd expect Creative Force to get closer to the favourite this time than he did at Newmarket.
Art Power and Glen Shiel are others with chances, the latter posting a rare poor effort last time, though he's the type to bounce back quickly, while the former wasn't suited by the drop back to 5f on his most recent outing, but will be a big player if back to the level of his July Cup fourth.
In summary, this isn't necessarily a race to get involved with from a betting perspective, though it's absolutely a must-watch event. Starman should go close to justifying favouritism, but it's unlikely to be completely straightforward, and a cracking race is in store.
Elsewhere on the Haydock card, the likeable veteran Lord Glitters will aim to supplement his two Meydan wins from earlier in the year when he takes on four rivals in the Group 3 Betfair Daily Double Rewards Superior Mile Stakes at 13:45. David O'Meara's grey gelding has been campaigned mainly at the top level this season and likely bumped into a Group 1 performer when second to Real World at York last time. Simply repeating that effort should see him bag a third win of the season, though he hasn't been missed in the market.
Praiano to make amends for unlucky run
Despite only attracting eight runners, the "My Odds Boost" On Betfair Handicap at 14:20 looks a belting contest. The obvious starting point is the Melrose winner Valley Forge, who travelled really well at York before finding plenty for pressure in a race that nearly always proves strong form. Andrew Balding has won this contest twice in the recent past and Valley Forge looks sure to go close to providing him with a third success.
However, the lightly-raced Praiano still has plenty of potential and I'm going to chance him against the favourite.
A £500k son of Dubawi, Roger Varian's charge took a few runs to get off the mark but did so in taking fashion over a mile and a half at Leicester on his penultimate start.
Stepped up in trip at Sandown last time, nothing went right for Praiano, who shaped much better than the bare result having been short of room early in the straight before finishing to good effect from a long way back. I'm a big fan of Andrea Atzeni, but I reckon if he could have that ride again he'd do things a little differently, and he gets a good chance to make amends here.
Hukum was well talked up in this column before his easy win at Newbury last time, while Hamish was our Ebor selection before being pulled out of that prestigious handicap at the eleventh hour due to unsuitable ground.
The pair clash at Kempton in an intriguing renewal of the https://www.betfair.com/exchange/plus/horse-racing/market/1.187165899?nodeId=30861272, where Hukum's race fitness should be the difference between the pair. The others all need to step up a little to challenge the front pair in a race that should be dominated by the market leaders.
Expensive purchase to strike on handicap debut
Over at Thirsk, the Personal Touches 20th Anniversary EBF Handicap at 16:00 features some progressive three-year-olds in action but the race could well have a handicap blot in the shape of Noble Dynasty.
Godolphin's son of Dubawi cost a whopping £3.6m as a yearling but has clearly been a bit difficult to train having only made three starts to date. His win in a novice contest at Kempton in October is proving strong form, the runner-up there now boasting a Timeform rating of 113, while Noble Dynasty himself bumped into the 2000 Guineas seventh Mutasaabeq on his seasonal reappearance. He does have to defy another layoff here but an opening mark of 93 is surely workable for a horse who the Appleby stable would have held high hopes for at the start of the season.
Sunrise Valley to back up impressive win
There can't have been many easier winners than the fifteen-length success of Sunrise Valley last time and Sir Michael Stoute's daughter of Karakontie looks to have been let in lightly on handicap debut in the Iron Stand British EBF Fillies' Handicap at Ascot at 16:20. I'm not reading too much into the fact that Ryan Moore is on the stable's other runner in this as he's retained by the owners of that one, while Cieren Fallon is a more than able deputy. I'll be disappointed if Sunrise Valley can't make light work of an opening mark of 85.
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