The Betfred Sprint Cup (3.25pm Haydock) has a field of 13 and most of them are either out of form or arguably not up to the usual standard required to land a Group 1 race.
The top sprints this year have been disappointing in terms of quality, but Ortensia helped rescue that situation by winning York’s Nunthorpe Stakes Stakes last time out.
That last-to-first victory by the Aussie mare, on a busman’s holiday for the UK summer, captured the public imagination.
She is a worthy favourite to put this sub-standard bunch of European sprinters to the sword once again, but at best betting odds of around 7/2 she is beginning to look a little skinny. If Ortensia fails to fire then the race could be wide open, such is the lack of strength in depth.
Let’s take a look at the main contenders:
Ortensia: Decent horses win when things go their way. Really good horses are the ones that manage to triumph, even when things go wrong.
When the rain descended before the Nunthorpe at York’s Ebor meeting, this mare’s Australian connections were convinced that her chances of winning had gone down the drain too.
Trained by Paul Messara down under, she lined up with the rest of them anyway but got hit by the hood discarded by Eddie Ahern on board Confessional as they left the stalls. She spooked and took a while to get into her stride on ground that was not to her liking.
She found herself behind as the field chased Hamish McGonagall who had bolted out of the stalls, setting a blistering pace. Jockey William Buick admitted that he thought that there was no way they were going to come anywhere after that. Buick sat quietly to let her find her action until two furlongs from home before asking Ortensia for an effort, more in hope than expectation. Somehow she managed to pick up from what looked like a hopeless position and took the lead from trainer Robert Cowell’s Spirit Quartz (Frankie Dettori) just before the line to win by a neck.
Both her connections and her jockey were more than slightly surprised that she managed to win. On her previous run in the King George Stakes at Goodwood on 3 August, she also won beating the same Spirit Quartz by a length and a quarter. She starts the race as a worthy favourite and once again has the benefit of Buick on board before he helicopters to Ireland for his ride on Nathaniel in the Irish Champion Stakes.
There is no doubting Ortensia’s genuine Group 1 credentials. Remember she also won the Al Quoz sprint in Dubai, something most of this field could only do in their dreams.
Bated Breath: Trained by Roger Charlton, the five year old Bated Breath is the 7/2 joint-favourite. If you believe in horses for courses, Bated Breath has to have an even better chance than his rating of 118 suggests at this track (Ortensia is rated 115).
His record at Haydock is exceptional and he seems to be a horse with distinct views on different courses. It was no surprise that he did not bring his ‘A’ game to his latest race in the Nunthorpe at York, finishing sixth of the 19 runners. His only other run at the Knavesmire was disappointing a year ago too.
In his previous run at Royal Ascot in June he came a creditable second to foreign raider, Little Bridge in the King’s Stand Stakes.
Bated Breath has run at Haydock four times and has only been beaten once, in this race last year when he was touched off by the shortest of margins by the magnificent Dream Ahead (who would destroy this field).
More recently Bated Breath won the Group 2 Betfred Temple Stakes on firm ground at Haydock, beating Edward Lynam’s Sole Power by a neck in May this year. He has been campaigned over six furlongs for the majority of his career, clocking up five victories from 13 runs. His followers can reasonably expect a much better performance at Haydock than they witnessed in the Nunthorpe at York. As usual, he has the excellent James Doyle on board to help him in his quest for victory.
Wizz Kid: If you are looking for a decent each-way shot in the Betfred Sprint Cup, then this four-year-old filly may be the one.
French trainer Robert Collet should be ignored at your peril. This daughter of Whipper bombed out in her most recent run across the channel when coming tenth in the King’s Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot in June. That was the aforementioned race won by Little Bridge.
Wizz Kid finished three quarters of a length behind the ninth-placed Ortensia. They started as 9/2 joint favourites that day. Ortensia’s performance was easily explained by the need to acclimatise to the UK. Wizz Kid’s form suggests that she does not have the same aversion to give in the surface but simply did not run to form. The atmosphere at Royal Ascot does not suit every equestrian athlete.
Last year she staged a more promising raid in the Group 2 Qipco British Champions Sprint Stakes at Ascot in October. She finished second, beaten one and half lengths to the favourite, James Fanshawe’s top class Deacon Blues, in the six furlong contest on good ground. That form would be good enough to go very close to winning this race.
Common sense tells us that Collet would not travel this filly unless he thought that she was in with a big chance. In her most recent run she was runner-up at Deauville on very soft ground to Moonlight Cloud, the horse that nearly nabbed the over-hyped Black Caviar at Royal Ascot in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, finishing just a head behind her.
Certainly the pick of Wizz Kid’s form gives her a big chance in this and she does look the value bet of the race at 14/1.
Strong Suit: Used to have the form to win this but has disappointed this term. There was a big hint at a revival at Newbury last time and this multiple Group 2 winner is officially rated the best horse in this race at 120. That is 5lb higher than Ortensia and 2lb higher than Bated Breath. It would be no surprise to see the two Richards – Hannon and Hughes – win this at around 6/1.
The other class horse that needs a mention is Society Rock (official rating 117). He completely missed the break in Black Caviar’s Diamond Jubilee Stakes. If it were not for that he may have been the one to lower her jaded colours that day. He won that race the previous year, so is at least a rare Group 1 winner in this field. He has yet to hit top gear this term but can’t be ruled out at 10/1.
Betfred Sprint Cup Betting Tips Conclusion
Ortensia will have a huge band of followers and it remains to be seen if the bookies will hold the 7/2. It would be no surprise to see her go off shorter. She is in form and the class horse in a field that has little of that. This is a gift-wrapped opportunity to return to Australia covered in glory.
Expect a creditable run from Bated Breath, but he seems slightly off the boil judged by recent performances. We know he loves Haydock but is that enough?
While it may be folly to field against the favourite, she does not represent any sort of betting value at the prices while 14/1 shot and French raider Wizz Kid does.
That’s why Wizz Kid is our wild card. Her best form was in defeat to the very high-class but now injured Deacon Blues at Ascot last year. That was also the last time she ran over this 6f trip. This Kid is worth a healthy each-way wager, especially if you prefer a longer priced selection.
Our predicted result: 1 Wizz Kid; 2 Ortensia; 3 Bated Breath.