It has been a reassuringly quiet week in politics. Jeremy Corbyn hasn’t managed to alienate the entire Jewish community, Donald Trump hasn’t started World War III and, crucially, Theresa May hasn’t been videoed dancing like a drunk aunt at a wedding.
As political weeks go, it’s been a positive one.
All of which means we can turn our attention to a cracking little racecard at Haydock Park on Friday.
The headline race is the Sprint Cup, a Group 1 affair that will test the merits of the best sprinters from across this fine land. There’s plenty more besides, including a competitive heat of the Superior Mile.
And TV remotes will be bashed up and down the country as the action switches to Kempton Park for the September Stakes, which should – barring any late withdrawals – serve up the mouth-watering prospect of a clash between Enable and Crystal Ocean.
So there’s lots for viewers and punters to enjoy as the flat racing season enters its final throes, with all roads leading to the St Leger Festival next week
The 32Red Sprint Cup
This renewal will help to coronate the best sprinter in the UK and Ireland, and all of the signs suggest that Harry Angel is flat racing royalty in the making.
The Godolphin colt won this very race 12 months ago with a comfortable victory over Tasleet and The Tin Man, and since then he has kicked on with a win in the Duke of York Stakes.
But there are nagging doubts about the four-year-old. There was some rather naughty behaviour in the stalls ahead of the Diamond Jubilee Stakes last time out, and the 5/2 favourite ended up finishing 11th out of 12 runners following a derisory performance.
And that had followed a poor turn in the British Champion Stakes, when beaten by Librisa Breeze, and so confidence amongst the betting public is at a low even if Harry Angel has been installed as the 5/4 favourite.
The question is, can anybody in this field beat him?
James Garfield has been installed as the rather bizarre choice of second favourite. Without a win in four starts, the three-year-old’s best performance recently have come on French soil, and there has been little to cheer in 2018 for connections.
A step down in trip to 6f may help the former Reef Stakes winner, but in reality this is not a horse I’d be backing in a hurry (famous last words!).
Only once in the past 15 years has a horse aged six or older won the Sprint Cup; this really is a young man’s game. As such, The Tin Man doesn’t really get the juices flowing either.
This is a Diamond Jubilee Stakes winner we’re talking about, though, and trainer James Fanshawe does have a Sprint Cup title to his name courtesy of Society Rock in 2012. At 8/1, there is a touch of each way value to be enjoyed.
Brando is another name being thrown into the frame, but how excited we can get about a horse who doesn’t enjoy soft ground and who has lost three times to Harry Angel is anybody’s guess.
It’s with trepidation, admittedly, but Harry Angel is worth a try at an odds-against price here.
The 188Bet September Stakes
This has been billed as a direct clash between Enable and Crystal Ocean, and why not: these are amongst the finest 11f exponents in the land.
Enable comes into this race on the back of a year-long injury lay-off, and that will whet the appetite of punters happy to take on odds-on fancies in such circumstances. Mind you, as a multi-time Group 1 winner, she must not be disregarded all together.
Crystal Ocean has produced some fine work this season, however, with victory in the Hardwicke Stakes and a narrow loss to Poet’s Word in the King George by a neck.
He will give away around 8lb to Enable in the weights, but I’d be inclined to suggest that that mark isn’t insurmountable for a horse with a penchant for softer ground. At 7/4, he’s worth a second look.
There isn’t much else to get excited about. Game Starter is trained by Saeed bin Suroor, who has guided three of the last nine winners of the race, but he is completely underexposed at elite level.
And then there is Weekender, from the John Gosden yard, who will be making a step down in trip to 11f. Could that be the magic charm for this willing runner?