The British Champion Sprint Stakes (2.20pm BST, Ascot, Saturday) gives the top sprinters the chance to test their mettle on Champions Day at Ascot.
However, this year’s renewal will be run on soft going, so the winner will need both tactical speed and the stamina to get home over the testing 6-furlong course.
At the time of writing, the two horses disputing favouritism are James Fanshawe’s five-year-old Society Rock (3/1) and Robert Collet’s four-year-old Wizz Kid (10/3).
Society Rock is twice a Group 1 winner over 6f, including on soft ground, and the form of his latest win, in the Sprint Cup at Haydock six weeks ago, has been franked by the runner-up, Gordon Lord Byron. Although only 12th of 16 behind Deacon Blues in this race last year, he looks sure to run well.
Wizz Kid has 4¾ lengths to find with Society Rock on Sprint Cup running and, although she won the Prix de l’Abbaye, over 5f, at Longchamp two weeks ago, she has never won over 6f. Wizz Kid will undoubtedly be suited by the ground and did manage to finish second in this race last year, but she doesn’t appear to be any great value at the odds on offer.
Edward Lynham’s three-year-old Slade Power (8/1) is an interesting contender. He’s already won three times this season, including over a testing 6f, on soft ground, at Fairyhouse in June. A line through the fourth horse that day, Gordon Lord Byron, suggests that there’s little to choose between Slade Power and Society Rock, so he deserves to take his chance in a race like this. On the downside, he has an absence of 97 days to overcome and has never contested, never mind won, a Group race.
One horse who has won two Group 3 races this season, but has yet to race in Group 2 or Group 1 company, is David Peter Nagle’s five-year-old Maarek (8/1). The son of Pivotal has proved admirably consistent all season, winning the Lotto Chipchase at Newcastle in June and the Renaissance Stakes at the Curragh in September before finishing third, under a weight of 10st, in the Ayr Gold Cup.
Maarek doesn’t have much to find with the best of these on official BHA ratings and his trainer has stated that he’s a different horse when conditions are really testing. Jamie Spencer, who won on him two starts ago, takes the ride.
With stable jockey Richard Hughes riding on the crest of a wave at present, it would be folly to dismiss Richard Hannon’s four-year-old Libranno (20/1), despite his less than stellar performance in the Challenge Stakes, over 7f, at Newmarket last week.
Libranno has won twice at Group 2 level over 6f and, although he appears to prefer top of the ground, he also has winning form on good to soft. Presumably, Richard Hannon wouldn’t be turning him out so quickly unless he thought he’d handle the underfoot conditions.
Champion Sprint Betting Tips Verdict
With Society Rock (currently best at 3/1 with Bet365, SkyBet, Blue Square) a potential fly in the ointment, back MAAREK each-way in the British Champion Sprint Stakes at biggest odds of 8/1 with Betfred, Ladbrokes or Coral. The course, distance, heavy going and likely pace of the race look certain to play to his strengths and he can upset some better-fancied rivals.