Keeping the big sprinting prizes at home this season has proven difficult for British runners as Equiano proved by taking the King’s Stand Stakes home to Spain before Marchand D’Or brought the July Cup back to his native France.
The latter has proven himself the best sprinter in Europe this season and all of the year’s top speed horses have form which ties in with Freddie Head’s superstar.
African Rose and Utmost Respect are both confirmed mud-lovers and their recent clash behind Marchand d’Or in the Group 1 Prix Maurice de Gheest at Deauville is one of the keys to unlock this sprinting puzzle.
The Criquette Head trained African Rose was denied success by the typically well delivered late surge of Marchand D’Or while Utmost Respect ran on stoutly back in fourth.
In receipt of eight pounds from Utmost Respect that day, Rose came out on top to the tune of three and a quarter lengths. Though marginally favoured in the betting for today’s race, Utmost Respect is just one pound better off now and it’d be wrong to be too dogmatic about his chances of turning the form around.
Richard Fahey’s gelding was denied a clear run at Deauville but ran on to good effect when eventually negotiating a safe path.
While he never really looked like winning the Deauville race, African Rose made a concerted effort to go and win her race and came out of the contest with plenty of credit. The upward curve she appears to be on should continue and perhaps the step back from six and a half furlongs to the bare six may promote further improvement.
A number of today’s rivals were also in behind on that occasion and would appear to have something to do to reverse form with the runner-up. Fifth placed US Ranger has oodles of talent but continues to frustrate and cannot be considered a punting prospect while Astronomer Royal and Balthazar’s Gift need to find a little extra to be competitive.
Equiano, now under the care of Barry Hills, has solid looking form in testing conditions and he proved his second placing behind Marchand D’Or at Chantilly to be no fluke by taking the King’s Stand Stakes. The ground is of no concern to him and he looks certain to be involved.
An interesting contender at a much bigger price is Peter Chapple-Hyam’s Al Qasi. The gelding hasn’t won since beating Evening Time in a Group 3 at the Curragh 13 months ago but he appeared to revel in the mud that day.
The form of the stable is a major concern but he’s run better this season than his form figures would suggest and could be worth a small each-way saver at a big price.
One who appeals as the type to improve exponentially on what he has already achieved is Henry Candy’s Corrybrough. The trainer has voiced concerns about truly demanding underfoot conditions for his unexposed chestnut colt, worrying that the race may ride like an unsuitably long seven-furlong contest.
Candy has been slow to move his charge up the ladder but clearly feels his powerfully built colt is now ready to make his first venture into Group 1 Company.
Somewhat disappointing when second behind Intrepid Jack in a Group 3 on good ground at Newbury two runs ago, he was ridden prominently that day and had little left to give as the winner sped past.
Normally held up well off the pace, those tactics were exaggerated in a five-furlong Listed contest at Deauville last time where his trademark finishing kick was delivered all too late.
A fast-finishing fifth behind Inxile on that occasion, today’s six-furlong trip on testing ground should, actually, be perfect for the improving colt and he has a real chance to announce his arrival at the top level.
The biggest impediment to the colt’s chances would be a lack of early pace in the race. It’s an unlikely scenario in a Group 1 sprint but Corrybrough really excels coming from off a strong gallop and, provided that’s in place, he could be the one to upset the well-backed favourites.